Saturday, May 11, 2013

Retail Therapy

It was close to dusk when hubby and I arrived at the Liberty Center. It took us an hour's drive to reach the supermarket from his apartment in New Manila. Blame the traffic along Shaw, and the unscheduled detour at the bank.

Holding my hand before leaving the car, he reminded me of the list. I smiled and planted a kiss on his forehead. He then stepped on the gas to look for a parking space nearby. My partner will just catch up as I move around the aisles. It is the end of the month, and as men of our houses, we are in charge of procuring supplies.

Cheesy, the passage reads. But it was how my head sketches scenes of me doing groceries. The ones I did don't count, because shopping was done, mostly, to replenish my supplies.

It was when the Lesbian Driver left, that the real possibility of doing groceries for home leaped beyond imagination. It was her, the helper and my mom doing the rounds every month. I only join when their supermarket trip falls on my rest day, or when the doting grandmother tags Baby Lenin along.

Insight made room for adjustment the last time, and as the Lesbian Driver's final act, she drove my mom to Puregold Araneta. I followed not to add my provisions - and become a freeloader - but to create my own list and observe how they gather the consumables.

After the bags were counted, and the items stacked in the overhead cabinet, the shopping list was done. Collected in a Microsoft spreadsheet, it is the closest recreation of the needs I will have to get once the succession smack me right at the heart of the monthly restitution.

A month has passed, and it is time to return to the supermarket. Without a car to shuttle the entourage, I was able to convince my mom to let me do the grocery with the helper. Realizing her limitations, she puts her trust and gave me the money. Fourteen P500 bills, I counted after withdrawing them from the machine. I added another two - from my own reserves - in case I spend beyond the budget.

"Tide Original, meron ba?" I asked the attendant. "Yung 1750 grams, wala?"

"Palitan natin ng Hot and Spicy yung sampung Century Tuna." The list dictates the 155 grams tin cans. "Ako lang naman kumakain niyan."

What normally takes a quick round of getting the items took almost two hours of circling the aisles. It was part because we shopped at a smaller supermarket where I could use my SM Advantage Card. I also didn't print the shopping list, and instead browsed my phone to keep track the items I still need to get. When we have run through the checklist, we learned that two items were not available. These will be procured by the helper when he returns to Puregold.

For all the cranial make-believe, reality stripped the romantic notions I had with grocery shopping. It was a rushed act; a chore squeezed before the start of my work week. Rather than savor the bliss - of having to ruminate between milk brands and sardines; or glide the shopping trolley between the display racks, my right hand held the phone above my chest while occasionally nudging the wallet under my boxers.

It's no fun when your family's money is latched to your skin.

And when it was time to carry the bags home, only the kindness of a trike driver spared us from the scorching heat of a high noon sun. The cabs passing by were already occupied and rival commuters wait up-street. So much for a glamorous parade of wealth. We came off as pedestrian as third-world shoppers leave the wet market.

Still, much is to be said about the first time I went grocery shopping. The list provided the blueprint of the essentials at home. I came to appreciate the value of setting a budget and sticking to it. And lastly, I was able to experiment and get items that are superior in taste and quality. Stuff hardly seen at home for they are seen as something pricey.

I would tell my mom later on that rather settle for something bland and cheap - like 555 Karne Norte, might as well stick with brands preferred by our tastebuds - like Purefoods. After all, I saw my sister cooking one when she didn't like the food on the table.

There's no harm in following one's indulgence.

You may call the experience a dry run; a household duty that would occupy my rest days in the months and years to come. The scenes may not be flowery - like the one I had in mind, but it was drawn from a familiar narrative: of me becoming a domesticated guy who only wants the best for his loved ones. I won't be surprised if in the near future, a familiar sketch would put a faint smile on my face. I was told visions come to precede the acts, and from what my heart whispers, the universe already conspires in my favor: that my happiness is just waiting to be unboxed.

Spam appears on the shopping cart. The first in history.

"Stay beside lola while I get the car." Baby Lenin tilts his head behind the matriarch's wheelchair. He was looking at the brightly lit KFC across the street. Apparently, two hours of shopping has made the little tyke hungry.

"Gutom pa ikaw? We'll just go drive through na lang para may pasalubong din sina nanay."

"Gusto ko chicken nuggets." Baby Lenin said in his squeaky voice.

"Chicken nuggets is your baon for school." I told him. "It's for you and Baby Diego."

After all these years plotting my life's direction, I would emerge from the winding and uncertain passage by putting the brothers to school.

The college where I attended my kindergarten.

Walking towards the parking lot, I caught glimpse of the skyline. Makati shimmers in the distance. Remembering the journey, and how, for the longest time I refused to see the road ahead, I breathe a sigh of relief knowing those detours and baby steps landed me on the same spot. Albeit a little late than what I've set.

"It's the faith that truly matters." I remember how I used to have daydreams of this moment.

It's all according to plan.

"See you in an hour, hon." I sent a text message on my touch-screen phone. "I'd be happy if you can join us next time," I didn't wait for him to reply.

Switching on the car's engine, I closed the door and shifted the gear to reverse. I still have to pick my loved ones waiting at the curb.

1 comment:

citybuoy said...

First time ko yata dito. Thank you for such a lovely glimpse into your life.

For me, grocery shopping is one of life's simplest yet strongest pleasures. Nakakaaliw yung feeling na there are others out there who enjoy it as much as i do. :)