So you're standing in the beverage section of some horrible megastore when you notice it.

You'd been feeling a bit strange ever since that giant orange soda you drank as a kindness to the weirdo at McDonald's who bought it for you (what else could you do? She had been going on and on about some scribbles you had done on your napkin, mentioning everyone from Picasso to Jhonen Vasquez and even asking for your autograph before you said you had to leave), but now the sick-to-your-stomach feeling is escalating into dangerously 'not right' territory.

And maybe you mention it to the new friend you made over in the Asian food section (the one who seems to have an opinion on every anime ever, even the ones you made up) and he'll say "Jeez, man, you think you'll be alright?" but as an American you are required by law to say "Yeah, no, I'm fine." So you continue on, trying not to notice how much more saliva is in your mouth than normal, or how your stomach feels like a rubber-band ball when you move. It's when you're over by the laundry detergent that you suddenly notice just how much everything around you smells and wonder why you didn't notice it before.  In the back of your head, you know it's coming.  Some ominous pop music begins to play.

You put your hand to your nose and ignore it, taking your shit up to the self-service lane in your rush to get things over and done with so you can go home.  In the lane to your left, a tall redhead is ignoring you blatantly.

 

"Welcome! To begin, please press the green button."

”Welcome valued customer. Please scan your first item.”

"Please scan your first item."

"Thank you. Please scan your first item."

“Please scan your first item.”

“Thank you. Please scan your first item.”

"Scan your first item, bitch."

 

 Of course the wretched thing malfunctions. You stand there, furiously placing items into bags (fuck, you've only got five or six things anyway, it shouldn't be this complicated) and trying not to recognize the horrible thing that's about to happen to you. Your mouth gets completely dry and, panicking, you abandon your shit and take off flying to find a restroom because Lord knows you don't want to be the fucking creepy trenchcoat/mohawk guy who up and vomits on the floor like some goddamn toddler.  And yet, by some cruel twist of fate, you end up wandering through the produce section, feeling worse by the second and wondering vaguely if this is all a dream.  At the customer resource desk, not a single person exists, but you don't have the time to work out how you should feel about this.  Heavily, you lean on the counter and, unable to put it off any further, you heave, blasting puke from your mouth and splashing the giant cardboard pig ("EAT BACON SNACKS") with electric orange vomit. Because of the angle your head's at, maybe on the third or fourth heave the stuff gets in your nasal pharynx and now not only is the stuff shooting from your mouth but pouring out your nose as well and it's getting on your boots and on your jeans and still, thank god, there's nobody here.

 You finish, slowly shrugging off your jacket and wiping at the sweat on your forehead.  A forty-ish woman appears in front of you, possibly the manager, shorter than you but still inexplicably with her arm around your shoulders as she leads you gently away from the scene.  Behind you, somebody is pouring that weird blue powder on the sick, making it turn a rather nasty green.  You apologize.  She'll have none of it.  In the men's room, at the sink, washing up, she hands you a bottle of water, free of charge.  You apologize.  She'll have none of it. Someone comes in, throws your purchases on the ground (along with a small paper bag, just in case) and leaves with a disgusted look.


The blonde manager woman asks you if you're okay and suddenly, without reason, without warning, you are struck with an intense want to have this woman, this woman you barely know, that you met maybe thirty seconds ago, you suddenly want her to just stroke your gelled-up hair.  Just run her fingers through it, or maybe offer you some toast.

"I know you don't feel very well," she'd say, and call you by a pet name.  "I know it hurts." The whole time stroking your hair.

 What are you, four? As if the day isn't bad enough. You berate yourself for the very thought, and in the back of your mind you, horrified, recognize this as one of those moments.  You will look back at this in the future, unassuming you will remember this day, remember this train of thought and cringe. This is a day that will live on in infamy.  As a man, as an American, you say "No, thank you, I think I'll be alright."  Quietly, she smiles.

You take a shower, you wash your clothes, but you just can't clean the back of your nose. 

For days, you drink nothing but water.  

For days, everything smells like vomit.

 

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