At the Target store, Annie had made sweeping declarations, dismissing entire departments of the store for selling stuff that was “depressing and cheap.” She didn’t want to buy a microwave or a TV at Best Buy and was adamantly opposed to any IKEA furniture. The light fixtures at Lamps Plus were “too ornamental,” and the waste baskets at Bed Bath & Beyond were “too corporate hotel lobby.” She didn’t want to buy a case for her new iPhone because scratches were just a part of life. “Do you want me to get Botox for my face too?” she’d asked Mark. “Can you not handle the aging process?”
Mark was quiet when he was overwhelmed, which was how he often felt around Annie. Her judgmental attitude towards Los Angeles, which she’d not-hilariously termed “Los Blandulous,” had made him a bit testy, to say the least. She seemed to want the relationship to implode but couldn’t wire the explosives correctly, so it would only cave in, and then he’d repair the missing pieces in time for her to flip the switch again.
Mark had wanted a juicer but Annie was convinced that juices spike blood sugar levels. “They go right through the roof,” she’d told Mark. So they settled on a blender because the pulp in a smoothie was fibrous enough to not cause artery problems. “Annie, you’re 27 and you don’t have diabetes” Mark had explained. “You’re not going to end up at the hospital from a smoothie.”
“Well, you’re trying to be healthy so I just thought I’d share that little tidbit with you,” Annie had said.
“Unwarranted,” Mark had replied.
It had been only their second full shopping day. They’d had great luck at Jewish funded thrift stores, especially Jewish women funded thrift stores, but today all they’d done were the big box retailers, which Annie had decried just as soon as she’d suggested them. On the 405, stuck bumper-to-bumper with a Grilled Cheese food truck, Annie had finally broken down.
“I can’t do this anymore!” she’d wailed. “I just can’t be around you any longer!”
“Annie, this is a stressful time for both of us,” he’d said. “I promise things will settle down soon enough.”
“No they won’t! This is our life now, scuttling from Target to WalMart, arguing about worker’s rights, breathing in pollution. I can’t have it! I won’t have it anymore!”
And then she’d opened the door of the car and stepped out, grapevined between the idling cars before running towards a thin strip of greenery on the freeway’s edge. She’d flicked Mark off before disappearing behind the foliage, never to be seen again.