I Need to Know How Many

It’s the middle of 2020 and I’m writing a grocery list for my husband. He has been shopping for our groceries since the day we all realized how people sneeze all over carts then abandon it for the next set of gullible hands.

Sometimes I save our grocery lists and I mix them in with my piles of essays. I pick it up and it tells me a whole story.

I write the grocery list in black ink based on memory, sometimes opening and closing the fridge to count how many eggs or to throw away some browning cauliflower that I forgot about, and then I hand him the grocery list, and he hands the list right back to me. “I need quantities.” So, I grab a pink pen this time and I add quantities that are as random as me picking out numbers written on tiny folded pieces of paper, shuffled up inside a magician’s hat.

Looking at the past lists also reveals my energy levels for that week. For instance, if I have used the step stool to reach the cookbooks above the stove, then this means that I’m feeling hopeful that I’ll have plenty of energy to cook these homemade meals. My grocery list will, therefore, contain very precise quantities on specific ingredients.

If I’m feeling adventurous, I will pick out new recipes and then I will definitely get a call from my husband about what or where to find orzo and shallots and jarred pepperoncini.

I mostly enjoy his phone calls from the store because I feel like I’m living a life where I can shop. I can hear the loudspeaker announce that avocados are on sale (how exciting!) and I can hear my husband say, “No problem, go ahead!” when someone needs to grab spaghetti sauce. I have nearly forgotten what it’s like to talk to strangers in that way that feels awkward but reminds you you’re a human who can take up space and be helpful when someone has no idea that they dropped their wallet in the parking lot.

But also, he calls because he wants me to have answers and I don’t always have the answers. I would love to have the answers, especially about quantities, and particularly about the quantities related to how many more days I will be stuck at home writing grocery lists.

“I need quantities,” I shout to the sky, but all I hear is silence.

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