I was immediately drawn to the children’s wear department. Girls wear to be precise. I saw that men’s wear, boys wear - even ladies wear were hideously drab. Girls wear was full of bright colours, spots and stripes. It looked edible. What does this mean?
To a young girl it must look like the world will be a bright happy place. Young boys however are lucky; the illusion of joy is shattered early. Therefore, minimizing disappointment. I stare at a candy stripped ensemble for a 5 year old girl. I must move away. I am a grown man with no accompanying child. I am full of drugs. I’m in the girls wear department - security will soon be called…
The book department has been carefully stocked so as not to disturb people. There is no Proust. There is no Murakami. It is safe there. A tree deserves a better death than being converted into a Tom Clancy novel.
Tom Clancy secretly knew this. It’s why he loathed himself. If he loved himself he would have written everything in Haiku. Tom was a deeply flawed man. I still wish he was alive. I’d tell him that everything is ok. I could have hugged him too.
I look at my shoes for a moment and feel hungry. My head swells and grows; I am peaking near Tom Clancy. I can smell rubber. I feel a great fear. I head for the safety of the sporting goods section. There are fishing rods there.
The rods are long and shiny. They will not be used for fishing. They will be bought by men who buy them to indulge their fantasy - that one day they will escape this hell. They will sit on the banks of a tranquil river in the sunshine with their beautiful son, fishing and telling stories. But that will never happen. They know this. Their children secretly hate them. But by purchasing the fishing rod, the hope remains alive. On Monday, they return to their desks in the accounts department. Failure complete.
Sporting goods provides no escape for me. I feel the firm rubberiness of a soccer ball. It smells vividly of plastic. It is factory fresh. I am seized by an irrational urge to bite into it. It feels so fleshy. It feels warm.
I pause again. I need to sit down. I kneel down and pretend to tie my shoes. I linger there for a moment and feel the coolness of the floor under the palm of my hands. The drugs are good. I crave liquorice. I stare up at the florescent lighting and try my hardest not to blink. Tears form in my eyes.
I am staring at the toy department, there are inflatable beach toys. There is a life preserver ring thing with the head of a duck on it. It is so cute. An inflatable duck life preserver. It is so funny. It is the funniest thing I have seen in two weeks. I will buy it for my partner.
I head to the confectionery department. Liquorice may be there. I wish I hadn’t come to this place. My partner is at home and I love her. She doesn’t understand what I am doing. She is baking cookies. I will eat them later and they will be the most beautiful things I have ever eaten. I think I really love her. I need to tell her urgently. I need to call her.
I pull out my iPhone. It is warm from my pocket. I feel the warmth of my body in my phone. I can’t call her. I can’t explain this to her. I just want to hear her breathe. Instead of calling, I take a photograph of my shoes.
Near me is a mountain of potato chips in bright plastic bags. They are cheese and onion. I read the label. They contain no cheese and no onion. They are best before June 2014.
I want them. I grab two bags. I know what they taste like. I can taste them in my imagination now. Liquorice seems so alien to me now.
I feel inexplicably sad. I remember when my mother told me my grandfather was in hospital. She told me - I should visit him ‘today,’ but I didn’t. I was hanging out with my friends, can’t remember who - I remember thinking that I’d visit him tomorrow. But I didn’t. He died that night. I felt awful about it. Ten years later I still feel awful. I will probably have this memory for the rest of my life. And feel bad about myself. I was just a kid. I had no idea. This is how damage gets done to you. By accident. And you never know when it will happen.
In the distance I see a women - she is seven feet tall and advertising Revlon. Her hair is beautiful. I head toward her. She is cardboard and I am in the cosmetics department. There is nail polish. It is so lustrous, so many colours arranged in a display like the periodic table of nail polish. I decide I need to paint my fingernails black. Black is the periodic equivalent of lead. I am looking at my hands for too long, I can’t act suspicious now. I have too much to explain and security never understands these things.
I look around for security cameras. The place is full of weird looking people. They have glassy eyes and pallid skin and move without purpose. I estimate that half of them must be on powerful drugs.
I open my nail polish and inhale deeply. So deeply, I can taste the chemicals. The department smells of perfume and solvents. I can sense bubbles of chemical gas forming in my blood stream. I imagine my blood to be like champagne but with the chemical bubble of nail polish solvent gas.
I have to act normal; I have an inflatable duck, to bag of cheese and onion chips, a bottle of black nail polish and a photograph of my shoes. I feel a sense of achievement.
The florescent lighting is so intense. It makes all the products look so beautiful. It makes all the people look so ugly. Here the products become beautiful but we become ugly.
Warhol's Children's 'Chemically Assisted' series:
Check out the original series here.