2007-01-27: Everyone Is Crackers Here


Desiree_icon.gif Benjamin_icon.gif

Summary: Our friend Benjamin has another slightly offbeat random encounter, this time with a woman named Desiree, and they find they have some unusual things in common.

Date It Happened: January 27th, 2007

Everyone Is Crackers Here

A Grocery Store, New York

It's a bright, chilly afternoon in New York City, and busy as always. Zoom in on a little grocery store in the heart of it all. It's like the populous is preparing for a nuclear holocaust in there, when in reality, it's because there's been meteorological warnings of a snow storm. One of the customers who hasn't yet braved the long lines yet is a woman in the snack aisle - one among a few, but she stands out. Tall, looking to be in her late thirties, and wearing a salmon-coloured wrap dress with a long, olive green knit coat overtop, is Desiree, with her back to the potato chips. She's absolutely unmoving except for the finger that spins methodically around a few stray dark curls; otherwise, she's a virtual statue, staring at the floor where a box of Triscuits have spilled. She looks *very focused*.

Benjamin would prefer to be holed up at his house with a cup of hot coffee and the newspaper. But no. His mother called. Snow was moving in. She needed milk, bread and batteries. Why she wants those items, he'll never know. He could have just said no, but he's horrid at making up stories and had no valid excuse to not run an errand for his dear sweet fragile mother. So here he is. Battling the insane crowds, and women staring down at spilled boxes of crackers as if they were sales mannequins. With his basket of goods in hand, he turns down the snack food aisle. He's here, he may as well pick up some of the healthier junk food.. if that even exists!

The woman in front of the aisle spill /ever/-so-slowly bites her lip, as if concentrating deeply but getting nowhere in her understanding. Whatever the mental block is she's facing, she's sure trying hard to overcome it. Desiree's eyes narrow, and she stops twirling her hair to tap at her face cheek. Tap… tap… "Oh, shoot. I'm so /sorry/." A surprised, apologetic Southern voice comes out of nowhere as Desiree suddenly snaps her attention to the newest customer to head toward her: Benjamin. "Look at me, standin' here some crazy person, I'm probably blocking your route to the Baked Lays. I'll just, uh…" She steps over the mess of crackers in her high-heeled suede boots, flashing Benjamin an embarrassed smile. "Didn't mean to be in anybody's way, always am, though," she adds; it's so quiet, though, that she was probably talking to herself.

Benjamin blinks and was about to try and sidle on past without disturbing whatever it is the woman was so preoccupied with. "No, no, that's okay. I was about to be in your way.. Uhm.. what was so fascinating about the crackers? I didn't think they were /that/ good." He does reach a hand past Desiree to pluck up a bag of Baked Lays, however. "You weren't in my way," he kind of half mumbles to the woman. "And… I didn't think you looked /that/ crazy," he offers with a slight smile.

"Nothin'," Desiree answers, casual and even slightly upbeat about it. She looks down at the Triscuit tragedy and pokes one of the broken crackers with the toe of her boot. "…Nope. Nothin'," she reaffirms with a little shake of her head and a smile. An 'I'm not crazy, I swear' smile, although the way she glances away from Benjamin as she offers it makes it less convincing. "Well for the record, thanks - sometimes I wonder, y'know?" She gives the New Yorker a strange look, fleetingly confused (moreso, as she's looked a certain measure of confused this entire time). "I don't know why I'm tellin' you that." She shuffles away further to give him yet more shopping space.

"Nothing what?" Benjamin asks, curious about what the woman was expecting from inanimate foodstuffs. "It's alright.. I think we all question our sanity now and again.. Some of us more than others. Or so my therapist tells me," Benjamin lets the bit about the therapist slip and looks a bit embarrassed by that. "Dunno why I told you that," he says as he picks up a bag of rice cakes and looks over the package.

Desiree says no more of the crackers, though she does eye them somewhat nervously from time to time. "How's it go… 'insanity's only doin' the same thing over and over again and expectin' different things to happen'?" Of course, Einstein may have had slightly better grammar when he was quoted. After the words are out of her mouth, she snaps her gaze /away/ from the crackers and bites her lower lip again - nervously, this time. Watching Benjamin browse jars her memory and she remembers why she's here - not to stare at the floor like a crazy person, but to get snacks. She reaches past Benjamin for some rice crackers too, of the caramel-flavoured variety instead. "These aren't terrible, you want somethin' tastes like kinda like real food."

Benjamin laughs, sounding just a little nervous as he does so. "That's the.. yeah. That's the quote in a nutshell." When the caramel flavored rice cakes are pointed out, he blinks as if it had never occurred to him to get something with more flavor. "But doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose of eating rice cakes? You lose the whole idea that you're eating styrofoam if you get them with flavor."

"Ain't the idea that you're eating Styrofoam that makes 'em sell, it's the idea that they got…" Desiree holds up the package in front of her face and squints, "…zero fat. What kinda crazy person wants to eat Styrofoam anyway?" She gestures with the rice cakes. "I say, least you can do is make your zero fat taste like sugar." Tucking them under one arm, she goes about plucking various snack foods from nearby shelves (few of which are as healthy as the rice cakes).

"It was supposed to be funny. My ex got my sense of humor as part of the divorce." Benjamin cracks with a mildly pained smile as he watches Desiree make a grab for various items. "You eat all of that and keep your figure?" he asks, clearly the words tumbled out without thought, as once they're out, he realizes what he said. "Because, I.. sorry. That wasn't called for."

As she withdraws a bag of (non-baked) potato chips from the shelf, Desiree slows down and smiles - a simple smile, amused, not surprised or insulted or smirking at all. "Eh," she shrugs one shoulder, which is half-hidden underneath the oversized furry collar of her sweater-like coat. "I got what you call a active metabolism." She turns around, her arms full of junk food. "I was just kiddin' about only crazy people eatin' cakes taste like Styrofoam. See, my ex left me my sense of humour. I had it on the pre-nup."

Benjamin can't help but laugh at Desiree's comment. "Maybe I should have gotten a pre-nup," he states as he seems to have taken up her suggestion on flavored cakes, by dropping a bag of the caramel into his basket. He then takes his first good look at Desiree, and her armload. "Here, there's room in my basket. You can put some of that in here."

"Are you sure, 'cause I could just go grab a basket," Desiree says as she tries to gesture down the aisle behind her. A bag of chips falls from her arms with a splat-and-crumple onto the floor. That seems to cinch the deal, and she carefully sets a few things (including the dropped bag) into Benjamin's basket. Not the rice cakes, though. "Wouldn't want them gettin' all intermingled," she notes, pronouncing the last word slowly. She nods with matter-of-fact humor. "Might wind up with baby caramel rice cakes overrunnin' the store." She starts to gradually stroll along. "Anyway. I thought it was a silly idea, the whole pre-nup thing, but I guess I was wrong."

"It won't be a problem, we can sort it out at the register," Benjamin offers with a polite smile. "Besides, I think you might have to fight off a little old lady for a basket," he says, indicating the crowd in the store. "Sometimes pre-nups are a good idea. My wife.. ex-wife that is, we're both accountants so we only worked on the financial end of things. I wasn't worried about possessions and I didn't want to fight over anything. So whatever she wanted.." He trails off with a shrug of his shoulders.

Before Desiree responds to any of Benjamin's Sharing Time, she squints down the aisle at the little old lady by the baskets. "I think I could take 'er, she looks like she got the arthritis," she decides, but stays with Benjamin and his basket anyway. "Y'all were accountants and you didn't draw up a pre-nup?" Desiree queries, shooting the grocery store stranger a surprised look. "You coulda got more'n what I bet you got. The good thing about havin' it all decided before is, you don't gotta fight for nothin' anyhow. It's already decided, that's that, slam bang. Same time it's like settin' a tickin' clock. Ooo, are them gingersnaps?" A box is snatched swiftly as she walks along.

"Well.. it just never occurred to really go ahead and divide up our things. It's not like either of us are poor. It was just stuff anyway," Benjamin says as he watches Desiree's grabbing of the gingersnaps. The woman's appetite for junk food is a bit mind boggling. "It doesn't matter. Over and done with now. Uhm, I better stop talking about this, before I run out of material for my therapist this week. Unless I happen to imagine things again." Cause that always goes so well.

Casually examining the box of cookies, Desiree answers: "Yeah, I understand. I feel the same way really, it just solved havin' to deal with it in the end, 'cause that don't seem like a party." The box drops into the basket and she looks sideways at Benjamin, concerned beyond simple curiosity even though she doesn't know the man. "What d'you mean… imaginin' things?" She looks away, rolling her eyes to herself. "Sorry, that ain't my business. It's just…" Desiree suddenly finds herself toying with her hands, clasping them in front of her. "Nothin'."

"You'll probably think /I'm/ crazy for even mentioning.." Benjamin says, clearing his throat nervously. His eyes dart around as he steps closer to Desiree and lowers his voice. "I don't even know /why/ I'm talking about this.. but .. wait. Just what?"

When Benjamin lowers his voice and gets closer, Desiree comes to a jolting halt and glances around as well. "Well… the thing is…" Her dark eyes settle on him. "…sometimes, lately… I think I'm imaginin' things too. I mean, my mama always said I had an overactive imagination anyway, but I ain't twelve years old anymore, and this is different." Her brow knits, but a tremulous smile forms on her lips. "So what if you talk about it, turns out we're both crazy. Worse that could happen is I think you're crazier'n me, take my snack foods and run and never see you again, since I'm just visitin' this place anyway. New York's insane, that's what's insane."

Benjamin starts to laugh and wipe a hand across his forehead. The laughter seems to be of the nervous relief sort and it quickly abates. "I imagined a twelve year old girl healing fruit. If that's what you could call it.. making it fresh again. Man that still sounds crazier when said aloud.. I mean it was just that one time a few months ago. Right when the divorce was finalized and I was feeling stressed. I think I just need a vacation. I keep saying I'm going to take one, but tax season's here again, and there's those refund checks coming soon.. that'll add to our business I'm sure."

Whatever Desiree was imagining Benjamin to be imagining, it wasn't that. Her face screws up in confusion and she gives him a weird sort of look, unsure. "Healin' fruit?" In other words: yes, that does sound crazy. But the moment passes and she shrugs, unfazed by how weird it sounds after all. "You know I read once in a dream interpretation book that fruit means new beginnings. Or was it sexual desire? Hm… anyhow, if you saw her then it wasn't a dream, right? I've been seein' things too." She shuffles to the side to let some shoppers pass. "Started right around… the time my divorce was finalized… and I was feelin' stressed and… and now I'm on a sorta vacation…" You know that look that comes over someone when they have a giant realization? It hits Desiree. Her expression just about falls off and she stares at Benjamin, bewildered and a little afraid all of a sudden, not sure what to think.

"Huh," is all Benjamin really has to say in response. "Nice to know I'm not the only insane person in New York for the past .. well close to a year now." His face colors slightly, "I'm hoping it just means new beginnings, because the other.. one just.. it's not right cause it was a /kid/ I imagined. No. It didn't happen. I'm convinced of that." Sure Benji, keep telling yourself that. "Also, I swear I put people to sleep. I KNOW my therapist has nodded off once or twice during sessions." He looks at Desiree as she stares at him, "Maybe we should start a support group for the recently divorced huh?"

"Yeah…" Desiree responds mechanically, distant, as she's obviously very distracted. Biting on her thumbnail, she stares off into space, just as thoughtful as she was over the box of spilled crackers earlier. "I just want to know what it all means," she says as she looks back at Benjamin. "I'm sorry, I don't think I got your name. If we're gonna be sharin' hallucinations and grocery baskets we should know who each other is. My name's Desiree."

"Me too, that's why I finally caved in to see a therapist. Although, not much good has come of it, other than him getting highly paid naps," Benjamin says, just a note of sourness in his tone. "I keep telling myself it'll help." He looks down at the basket, as if making sure he hasn't forgotten to grab what he came here for. "Sorry.. sorry.. I'm not usually this rude or forward. My name's Benjamin. Nice to meet you Desiree."

"Nice to meet you too, Benjamin!" Desiree responds, piping up with cheerfulness. "Aw, I'm sure it'll help," she says reassuringly, patting his shoulder. "You know, if y'are insane. You just got a real soothing voice. I bet that's why he nods off like that. Have you ever thought about recordin' for them self-hypnosis tapes?" She starts to head out of the aisle, finally, and toward a checkout line.

"Wha?" is Benjamin's response. "No.. I never thought of that. I'm kinda content with just doing what I already do. Apparently it's /too/ soothing. I've a feeling if I talk to you any longer you might fall over asleep." So there's no 'I forgot to get such and such' as he follows Desiree to a register.

Desiree doesn't seem to take the possibility of falling asleep too seriously. "How long you been accounting?" she asks as she makes her way to the register, standing behind the old lady who was taking the last basket earlier. Desiree looks at her, looks back at Benjamin in a silly, conspiratorial fashion, and proceeds to loom over the little elderly woman, feigning almost grabbing her from behind with claw-hands.

"Since I graduated from college, so that's been almost twenty years now." Benjamin says before looking torn between amusement and anxiety at Desiree's actions. He just knows the old woman's going to turn around, have a heart attack and fall to the floor.

Desiree glances back at Benjamin, obviously entertaining herself most of all. "Oh I'm just /kiddin' around/," Desiree whispers to Benjamin, laughing, as she notices his anxiety. Of course, when resumes her antics, which are on the brink of a Godzilla impersonation, the lady starts to turn around. "Pardon me ma'am, I'm just gonna get a pack of this fancy cinnaburst gum here," she says, giving her a friendly smile as she reaches past her for that pack of gum. She starts to take her things out of the basket, standing prim and proper but giving Benjamin a silly look and feigns innocence by peering up at the ceiling.

Benjamin finally chooses to go with amusement as he exhales and tries to relax. Such a nervous sort he is. Wound up a little too tight. As the old woman turns around, he puts on a straight face. He's not too sure what to make of Desiree. She's something else, that's for sure. "So.. you said you were just on vacation. Where are you from?"

"You just seemed like you could use some levity," Desiree notes light-heartedly. As she smiles and nods to the grocery clerk who starts to take her items, she answers Benjamin. "Mississippi. It's only a sorta vacation. I'm usin' the opportunity like that but I'm on the job too, as a favour to a friend. So twenty years?" She seems to study Benjamin for a moment. "That's a long time, twenty years. You say you don't never think about doin' nothin' else?"

"That's what everyone likes to tell me," is said with a small smile as Benjamin sorts out the items in the basket, setting Desiree's first on the counter. Ladies first y'know. "New York's like another planet after Mississippi, I'm sure. What kind of job?" He shrugs his shoulders some and admits, "No. Not really."

"Oh, it ain't just a different planet. I'm tellin' you, Benjamin, it's a whole other universe. I been in big cities before but it's not neeear the same." Desiree shakes her head adamantly, wide-eyed over the notion. "But I'm makin' out okay, my friend's from here so she makes sure I don't get lost like a little stray puppy who found his way outta the pound. …except today on account of I wanted to stock up on snacks," she explains, waving a hand over the items of food. "What job? Oh, I'm deliverin' her baby. I'm a midwife."

Benjamin blinks some and looks, well, surprised. "A midwife? They still have those?" Well that explains the snacks, cause surely Desiree couldn't want all of that on her own. Right? "I guess this goes back to the whole other universe comment."

"Well /yeah/ they still have those," Desiree replies, amused over Benjamin's surprise. From a pocket of her coat, she counts out enough bills for the snacks and pays. While she wrangles the plastic bags, she smiles and shrugs. "There's a real demand for 'em, here in the city, too. Mm-hm, it's true," she nods swiftly, her distinct eyebrows lifted high. "You'd be surprised. Anyhow… I got my snacks so I gotta go…" she reluctantly lifts one bag-holding hand and points with her thumb in the general direction of the exit.

Benjamin pulls out his wallet to pay for his own items, still listening to Desiree. "I didn't know that. Well, it was nice meeting you. Good luck here in the city." His attention is only half on the cashier as he tends to the transaction, the other half is on the newcomer to NYC.

"Thanks. Good luck with your…" The woman spins a finger vaguely around her ear. Subtle, Dezi. "Bye!" she calls out, her accent prevalent even in that single word. She waves, a plastic bag swaying, and starts to maneuver through the entering-and-exiting crowd into the city.

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