This was a LiveJournal post that I made all the way back in 2010. But I wanted to link to it from a post I’m about to make to this blog – and really, who uses LJ these days? – so here it is, for your edification &c. I promise you that my father doesn’t pay my bills any more [grin]
“Excuse me, ma’am”, says a cheery voice in a navy blue uniform, “but do you have a Tesco Clubcard?”
“Yes,” I reply, trying not to break my stride. “I do.” I’m distinctly relieved that for once they’re touting something I can truthfully say I already use.
“Do you use Clubcard Vouchers to pay your gas and electric bills?”
Reluctantly, I give in and stop walking. “I don’t, no.”
“I don’t pay the gas and electric.” This is also true, but I know as soon as I say it that I should have gone with ‘I don’t spend enough in Tesco to cover them’ instead. Which is no less true, and would have ended the conversation faster.
“Who does?”, he asks. “Your husband?”
“My father”, I tell him. This too is a mistake. I’ve shared a personal detail. There’s no going back now: we’re in this for the long haul.
“Yes”, I agree, hurriedly. I fear I am in for a jovial ‘youth of today’ rant. “I’m a student.” This detail usually ameliorates some of the embarrassment of the previous revelation. Everybody knows students are broke.
“Oh! What are you studying?”
“English Literature and Creative Writing”, I reply. I know what’s coming next.
“Are you a writer, then?”
“Well – I write, yes.”
“How many have you got published?”
“Er. None. Yet.”
“Oh. You’re not very good, then?”
I stammer something nonsensical with a lot of ‘um, er, ah’-ing.
“I’m only joking with you!”, he laughs. “What sort of novels?”
He looks shocked. “What, like” – and here his voice drops to a whisper. “Dirty books?”
“No, no”, I smile. “Magic. Time travel. That sort of thing.”
“Oh!” He looks a little disappointed. “Like Harry Potter?”
“Er. Um. A little bit like that, I suppose. But for grown-ups.” I avoid the word ‘adult’. That way madness lies.
“You look a bit Harry Potterish.”
I smile again, feigning ignorance of his point.
“I knew a gothic once. He had a coffin instead of a bed. I thought, that’s a bit weird, innit? Isn’t that a bit weird?”
“I have a normal bed”, I assure him, and instantly wish I hadn’t.
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
“Yes”, I reply, with ringing certainty. It’s the first out-and-out lie I’ve told him, but I refuse to break the golden rule of women conversing with strange men. When that question comes – which it inevitably does – always, always say ‘yes’.
“Alright, alright!” He throws his hands up in mock surrender. “I weren’t offering.” There is an awkward pause.
“I really must be going,” I say. “I need to find the baked beans.”
“Black ones?”, he asks, grinning broadly. I don’t get it for a second. “Is everything you eat black?”
My basket is full of brightly-coloured fruits and vegetables. “Um. No, I just eat…you know. Normal food.”
“Why do you draw your eyebrows on like that?”
“I like the way it looks.”
“Why not just pluck them really thin?”
“Er. Um. I like them like this.”
“Do you need help finding the baked beans?”
“Oh, er, no, thank you. I know where they are. Thank you.”
And then comes Inevitable Question #2: “What’s all them scars on your arms?”
I look down with an expression of surprise, as though I’d forgotten they were there. Which I do, most of the time. “Oh, those”, I say. “It’s a very long story, and it involves a porcupine and a banana.” He looks at me as though I’ve gone utterly barmy. “Trust me”, I continue in darkly confidential tones. “Porcupines really don’t like bananas. They’re slightly radioactive, you know. The bananas, not the porcupines. Not unless they’ve been eating bananas. And then…” I gesture to my forearms with my eyebrows raised ruefully.
In the ensuing confusion I smile apologetically and take my leave, to spend the rest of my time in the supermarket carefully taking circuitous routes through aisles so as to stay out of his line of sight.