A Bottle of Pepsi

I don’t usually go to K-Mart. Most of them are like slightly glorified dollar stores, but this time, I didn’t care. I just needed to get in, buy a tube of toothpaste and a loaf of bread, and leave. I dashed down the aisles, and stepped in line, behind a couple of girls with a disposition for heavy eyeliner, colorful spiked hair, and tight, black clothing.

I made quick, friendly eye contact and then immediately shifted my eyes away, studying the shelves of cheap, check out aisle candy. They continued their conversation, ignoring my presence.

“Did you talk with Jeff?”

“Yeah, we’re gonna go out next weekend – I can’t wait!”

“You got Pepsi?”

“Yeah, I don’t need it, but I…”

Another girl stepped up in line behind me, dressed in harsh contrast to the girls in front of me. Her appearance presented a young professional: pressed and arranged for the corporate business culture. I offered friendly, courteous eye contact, and was quickly ignored. Suddenly, the girl noticed the goth-punk girls standing in front of me in line, and raised her voice.

“Monica!”

One of the goth-punk girls turned, surprised.

“Elizabeth!”

“How are you? I haven’t seen you since High School!”

Elizabeth reached for a hug, completely ignoring Monica’s aggressive appearance.

“I’m doing well! This is my friend, Sarah, by the way.”

They exchanged formalities and quickly stepped from “How are you?” to questioning each other about life details.

“I’d love to catch up sometime, what are you doing this weekend?” Elizabeth asked.

“Oh, well, we’re actually going to a music festival in Virginia this weekend.”

“Really?” Elizabeth asked, curious. “Which one?”

“It’s called Mayhem Fest.”

“Wow. That sounds exciting.” Elizabeth countered, unfazed by the abrupt, concise answers. “You’ll have to let me know how it is.”

Monica glanced at Sarah, then back. “Yeah. I will. How have you been?” She asked, tactfully shifting the subject.

“Ugh. Crazy. I’ve been working with Novocen for a year now, but I just got, um, laid off today, so, that’s a little crazy! So I’m thinking about moving back home. A lot of my friends here are moving back to Durham, and it’s been a little empty here.”

The line shifted forward, and the Mayhem Fest girls pushed their groceries onto the belt. The cashier swiped them, quickly, and the bagger, a large, plump girl stuffed them into plastic bags.

“Hm.” Monica said, grabbing the grocery bags and sliding her card through the machine, rapidly tapping her pin. “That sounds wild. Well, I hope it works out for you. We’ll have to catch up some time.”

Sarah grabbed the rest of the bags and started for the door.

“Yeah!” Elizabeth said, enthusiastically. “We could hang out tonight, if you’re free?”

The line shifted forward, and I put my loaf of bread and tube of toothpaste onto the belt. The Mayhem Fest girls had already stepped out of hearing distance, and didn’t hear their friend’s invitation. The overweight girl bagging groceries held up a bottle of Pepsi and looked at me.

“This yours?”

I shook my head.

“I think it’s theirs.” I pointed.

“It is!” Elizabeth chimed in.

I took out my card and paid for my things, watching the large girl shuffle away to carry the Pepsi out to Sarah and Monica before they escaped.

I stepped away from the checkout aisle, shoving the receipt in my pocket. As I walked away, I heard her ask the cashier:

“Do you carry cigarettes here? Yeah. Any kind.”

The large girl who bagged the groceries grabbed the bottle of Pepsi and bobbed past me, out into the parking lot, trying far too hard to run as fast as she could without shaking the carbonated drink. She yelled across the lot to the Mayhem Fest Girls as I reached my car.

“Wait! You forgot something!”

I unlocked my car. I looked over as the large girl lumbered to a halt and reached the Mayhem Fest girls. I thought, for just a moment, that she might tell them that they forgot something that they needed: a friend, or, if not a friend, at least a lonely girl that they knew in high school.

But she didn’t.

She handed them their bottle of Pepsi, and went back inside.