Grosseries by Julius Olofsson
With a shopping basket in his hand, he stands there.
He took the bus.
Others around him came riding upon genetically engineered Great Danes and probably spit spit upon people like him—spit stemming from stem cells they’ve bought and splurge around at the cost of sums he won’t speak aloud.
So fuck 'em—metaphorically. That’s all he can do.
Others copulate, reproduce, and a pair of shits next to the bananas are kissing.
His basket is empty as others are buying nutmeg.
They have polo shirts and merino wool pullovers, and he wears what he wore yesterday, the day before, and the day he came out of the womb.
He’s been here before. He never leaves, not really; everyone’s mind is always at the supermarket contemplating that new brand of mayonnaise or what to cook for your brother and his wife as they “swing by” on a Saturday—they’re allergic to seafood—that’s how they met: at the hospital.
But in front of him is a guy. The “guy” that already has a full basket and sports a tight polo shirt that highlights his hours at the gym.
There’s no stress within him, within this “guy."
As the guy is done, he drops his shopping list on the floor—and leaves.
Before he can reach it, someone steps on it—schmutz is nothing—he picks it up, and all he has to do is follow as the list leads.
There are scribbly letters and handwriting that doesn’t aim to abide by others’ perceptions—another font from someone else. These two typographically synced humans made small notes, so it said “orange juice” and not just “juice,” or else that human could bring forth something with apples and who the fuck drinks apple juice for breakfast?
The list fuses with his palm.
Juice and milk and pasta and cream and shrimp and chili and chive and Parmigiano Reggiano.
He picks up each item with a certain grace. A smile manages to slip out that he forgets somewhere in the aisle where they have tea that isn’t for drinking—it’s life, a universe of identities, each bag gently filled with enough salvation, just let it marinate the perfectly boiled water, and all will be good.
At home, he Googles and finds a recipe that resembles the memories of a probably forgotten dinner that maybe already has been shat out, made with the ingredients that now rest upon his kitchen counter.
He sets two plates and pours the juice into adult glasses.
The next day he bides his time and awaits the guy, who finally emerges from his success and gladness that he blesses others with. He takes a photo of the guy, follows him, copying the guy’s basket.
Afterward, he heads for the barber and H&M, shows the photo, insisting that this is who he should be now.
He becomes a "guy,” and the next day, he buys two more fridges, and the cost alone is staggering—the utility bill will become an insurmountable peak where all the Gretas of the world stand screaming at him for hurting the planet.
His days are spent lurking for shopping lists. He’s a scud missile skulking at supermarkets, rummaging through baskets and carts, and once or twice or fucking maybe twenty times—he has, for real, asked people if he could have their list as they’re done with it.
Some say “no” but most give it to him as he tries to look harmless—a dove, cooing the words.
He calls the items on the lists “grosseries” and sometimes laughs so that lobster particles eject his mouth without a countdown. Because not everything he cooks is good, a lot is inedible. But he turns on that mill that is his mind and chews the dishes lacking his now-forgotten preferred taste into obliviousness where it once was food but instead becomes mesh and goo. Like a masochist, he sits there, pulpifying.
His fridges are packed with everything from yogurt and caviar to rib eye and vegan sausages—the doors are wallpapered with lists. His life is about finding solutions for every cooled item in there—understanding what people were thinking and what they had planned.
Sometimes it becomes evident that guests were invited, and he sets the table for maybe six and eats all of their food too.
Drinks their wine, beer, or maybe Jagermeister if that was on the list. Days later, he wakes up and heads for the supermarket again.
He has stolen some lists too and seen confusion spread across their bodies, retracing their steps, maybe calling someone who can’t remember either, and then, and only then, he can feel superior, walking past them—precisely the stuff in his basket that they were there to buy, hinting, dropping the notion of a future out of reach.
This is at least something.
At last this is something.
This is the way of the lemming, a safe path already trodden, and he trods as others trod through life, filling the vacuum of their lives with meandering tasks that drain whatever all of them ever harbored inside every single day and every single second.
There are videos online where the girl tells him what to do.
He joins groups on Facebook with tips on activities and joins in.
There are guides on everything from how often one should shower to appropriate ways to celebrate holidays.
He makes his life ever-efficient.
He cosplays life.
He eats, knowing he fits in and that he’s the smart one.
A hunter and a gatherer. He hunts lists and gathers what he needs. No more pointless choices or time spent mulling options. He has finally understood the road to sustenance-like enlightenment, where life becomes streamlined beyond banality.
What is loneliness when you have superiority? Who could even measure up to him? Who would be a good fit to have opposite of him, eating something and drinking something else?
He now buys nutmeg.
Born in Sweden, Julius writes anything from flash fiction and books to games and screenplays. He’s been longlisted in The Bath Short Story Award, The Bath Flash Fiction Award and The Aurora Prize for Writing. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Flash Fiction Magazine, Roi Fainéant Press, Isele Magazine, Lavender Bones Magazine, The Airgonaut, Sage Cigarettes, The Heimat Review, Hidden Peak Press and elsewhere.
His debut chapbook Moebler (Anxiety Press, 2023), came out in May.
He’s found on Twitter as @PaperBlurt and at www.juliusolofsson.com