The Strange Loneliness of a Sainsbury’s Local Ten Minutes Before 11 p.m.

“You’re too Scot for me,” a too Scottish girl says to a faux roguish-looking man near the ATM outside the Sainsbury’s. Sainsbury’s Local, that is. It is the shop open the latest in Edinburgh–a whopping 11 p.m. Practically 3 a.m. by European standards. Eden had some last minute needs to attend to. Needs that would prevent her from having to leave the house for the entirety of the following day. If she didn’t stock up on at least three to five packs of frozen food, she was fucked. So she skidded in, almost on instinct. Edinburgh wasn’t her town, she was in from Manchester for a week on business. But if you’d been to one non-London city in the UK, you’d been to them all, she reckoned. There was still that jolly yet desperate way about all of the Queen’s subjects. And anyway, Eden had grown accustomed to the shut-in life required by English weather. She had no desire to paint the town red, black or any other color that might obfuscate its grayness.

From the sound of the conversation between these freshly encountered Scots, they didn’t really want to either. They were just going through the motions required of their age bracket to “have a good time.” But something in the girl’s mocking tour of the street, quipping, “And here to your left you have Sainsbury’s…” inferred to Eden that they would prefer to simply stay indoors as well–were it not for the pent up energies and free-flowing hormones of youth.

***

Eden felt only vaguely pathetic as she slapped her items–pouring out of her overcrowded arms–onto the counter. Luckily it was no matter to the facially pock-marked, glazed over half-boy, half-cyborg manning the counter. Though he did manage to ask in grunts if she wanted a bag. Yes, fucking obviously she wanted more than a bag–she had just bought out the entire freezer section, or what was left of it in its picked over, end of the day state.

Sighing as she realized that the Airbnb/grocery combo wasn’t that much cheaper than the hotel/living on restaurant food combo, she restrained herself from berating the oblivious employee. And why had she tried to spare expenses anyway? This was all on the company’s dime. To that end, she decided to call an Uber. There was no way she could walk all the way back to her Holyrood territory with these sacks weighing her down.

As she teetered out of the store with her so-called bounty, she espied the aforementioned soon-to-be lovers. As well as the same homeless man who didn’t really look all that homeless perched in the same spot, just praying to appeal to someone’s sense of morality. The sight of these falsely bedraggled people enhanced the tableau of wasted existence that seemed to coagulate outside of this very shop just ten minutes before eleven. Like it was a magnet for dregs, droogs trying to “get up to something,” knowing full well there was nothing. Save for perhaps the Rat Pack Piano Bar. And Eden had a hunch it wasn’t exactly a “hotbed” of happening activity. At least not of the sort these two were looking for. No, their night seemed to be doomed to sex in a cemetery among their many discarded beer bottles. Actually a bit more debauched than most of the nightly outcomes that might occur in London. Oh Christ, Eden bemoaned, as she continued waiting for her likely never to show up Uber. Why couldn’t her work have just sent her to London? She wasn’t a nature person, nor did she fancy whisky. What joy could she find in Edinburgh? Other than the dull thrills sought by the same lost children meandering outside the Sainsbury’s at 10:50 p.m. on a Thursday.

She looked down at her phone upon hearing it sound with some notification of ill portent. For nothing one’s phone has to say is ever good. Rather, it bears unwanted news on a variety of different platforms. In this case, it was that the driver had cancelled. Maybe she had a bad rating. Employed the app one too many times while pissed. She debated: should she request another and endure the interminable wait among the loneliness of the riffraff or soldier on a ways for lack of anything better to do? For she had no grand obligation to be anywhere hurriedly as she knew not a soul in town. She decided upon the latter, trudging down Shandwick Place for but a few steps before one of the handles on the bag busted. She could hear the homeless man tittering at her from afar. Maybe if she had spared some change before, he would have helped her. But it was too late to collect on any good will now–it would be hollow if she tried to offer him a few pence in the wake of this embarrassing snafu as well.

Suddenly wishing she wasn’t human, ergo required sustenance to fuel herself, Eden proceeded to pick up the fallen groceries and divide them out between the other bags, placing some of the items in her purse as well. Hearing the sniggers of the passersby, she wondered where everyone was getting their information about Scots being friendly. Then again, the friendly ones probably only came out in the day, were old codgers who wanted to tell you inane and endless stories in exchange for their purported nicety. She would never be socially starved enough to handle that. Would rather spend a hundred years alone than consort with this “pleasant,” “affable” ilk. Likely only “pleasant” and “affable” because of their pensions. The ones her generation would never know the luxury of.

Scuttling to Princes Street, she prayed the bags would not break again. She merely needed to change corners–change corners, change your life/Uber fortune. She found her stopping point outside of the Tesco Express. It, too, closed at eleven. Yet there was not a jarring clientele outside of it. Just errant tourists and residents rushing to get out of the center. Rushing to get anywhere that would mar their potential interactions with the strange loneliness of a Sainsbury’s ten minutes before 11 p.m.

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