We go to the grocery store. David is grilling steaks for dinner so, in addition to the steaks, we get a potato, mushrooms, and two artichokes. Also, we gather our regular supplies like milk, eggs, and a pack of sliced almonds. Though inefficient, one dinner at a time is the way I’ve always shopped. I have a freshness fetish. Sometimes, when I know I won’t have time to stop by the grocery store the next day, I’ll get two meals. Guests are always surprised when they see how empty our refrigerator is.
We pay, go to the car, and transfer our supplies to the trunk.
But when we get home, the steaks aren’t there.
“Did you throw them away?” David asks.
This is his standard response when something goes missing. Obsessive, I tend to be brutal when it comes to clutter. In Singapore, when David was setting up cable for the TV, I followed right behind him, gathering up the Styrofoam and the boxes, pushing them into the garbage chute as he emptied them. It ended up being a faulty cable box, which meant returning it. Already frustrated that he’d gone to all that trouble setting it up only to find that it didn’t work, David was none too pleased to discover that I’d thrown the packaging away.
And clutter isn’t the only thing I’m compulsive about. I recently bought some socks that are labeled left and right, a distinction that carries no merit; yet if I put the left sock on the right foot, I take it off and switch it.
Back to the steaks.
“No, I didn’t throw them away.” But him asking makes me doubt myself. It’s true that I often do things I don’t see myself do. Maybe I tossed them in the garbage when I wasn’t looking. I dig through the kitchen trash, but the steaks aren’t there.
“Check the car,” I advise as I continue to put away the groceries.
He doesn’t come back for ten minutes; and when he does, he’s empty-handed and exasperated. Disbelieving that they’re not in the car, I go and check for myself. Yep, they’re not there.
“We must’ve left them at the checkout counter,” I tell him. “You’re going to have to return to the store.”
“Why do I have to go? You go.”
“Okay, we’ll both go.” As neither of us wants to go, this is the only fair solution.
So we drive back to the HEB. I drop David off at the front, planning to idle at a strategic point so that as soon as he comes out I can zip to the door and pick him up. After several minutes, I pull into a parking place, turn the car off, and get out to go see why it’s taking so long. Carrying a grocery bag, he exits as I reach the door.
“That took forever,” I say.
“They said there weren’t any steaks left at the checkout counter. I think the sacker took them.”
“She wouldn’t do that.”
“As she was bagging them she said they looked good. She was practically drooling.”
“You didn’t have to buy new steaks, did you?”
“No, but the people at the front didn’t know what to do and they didn't seem to believe me, so we had to wait for the store manager.” He releases a weary sigh before adding, “She told me to go get two more steaks.”
What happened to the first steaks? Did we leave them in the basket? Did we drop them in the parking lot when we were loading groceries into the car? We have no clue.
This isn’t the only baffling thing that’s happened lately. A couple of weeks ago I washed my glasses cleaning cloth. It went into the washing machine, but it never came out. I shook out all the clothing laundered with it, and I looked in the washer and the dryer, but it had disappeared. I know Wal-Mart has net bags for storing smaller items during the wash, but I never bothered to buy one. At this point, I anticipated that my washer would soon develop draining issues because of that little blue cloth.
Two weeks later, David brings it into the bedroom and places it on the dresser.
“You found my glasses cloth,” I say. “Where was it?”
“Out on the driveway,” he tells me.
“How did it get there?” This is bizarre.
“I don’t know, but that’s where it was.”
Several years ago, during our neighborhood progressive Christmas dinner, some sneaky person tucked a wrapped gift for me under our tree. I opened it on Christmas morning to find that it was a set of my own keys, which I hadn’t seen in weeks. I never found out which neighbor held on to them for this specific purpose, though they must have found them hanging from my mailbox. And that’s what I suspect is going on with my cleaning cloth: someone in the cul-de-sac is messing with my mind. But that’s ridiculous. A neighbor didn’t come into my house, pluck an item from my washer, and two weeks later place it in my driveway.
“Oh,” I tell David. “It just hit me what must’ve happened to those steaks. They went home with the people who checked out after us.”
“The sacker took them.”
It bugs me that we’ll never know for sure. And it also bugs me that I had to relearn something, which is that I should take a quick scan of the counter to make sure I have every bag and item before leaving the store.