The sun set today at 15:39. She leaves work at 17:47. It is not raining, although it clearly has been. She doesn’t remember hearing it on the windows. She digs her hand into the pocket of her jeans as she is walking down the hill: £1.25. The bus is £1.60.
She goes to Sainsbury’s to get change for a tenner: one pack of Cool Original Doritos. 65p. She has become an expert at knowing what items she needs to buy to make up the change based on whatever she has in her pocket. Need a full 60p? One Granny Smith apple, 40p. Only missing 10p? One box of oatcakes, 89p.
Change hurriedly stuffed back into her pocket, she bumbles out of the supermarket, trying not to make eye contact with the security guard in case they recognise her. Stepping out from the hot blast of air at the door and into the winter chill, she tears open the bag of Doritos. Every day she thinks of the Charlie Brooker or David Mitchell Guardian column she read a few years ago where he or he bemoaned the fact that in the 90s, you could walk down the street eating a packet of Nik Naks, but These Days You Can’t. He or he had a point. No one eats in the street. She does it most days. Each day, she silently prays that she leaves work at a different enough time so that the same people don’t see her each day and that those who do see her on any individual day think:
“Wow, what a busy person, they must be going somewhere important and they must not have time to eat a real dinner!”
She finishes the Doritos at the bus stop, and knots the bag into a small triangle before shoving it into her coat pocket. There are probably seven? eight? people. She doesn’t look up to count. She feels their judgment.
She takes her ticket and heads upstairs. The bus is reasonably empty, and she sits by herself behind the stairs. Reaching into her pocket, she rolls the triangle of the Doritos bag between her fingers, finding the sharpest point and pressing it into the soft skin on the distal of her middle finger.
The bus jags down Leith Walk, bumping through pot holes. There are three different phone calls happening and she tries to work out what languages are being spoken. The windows steam up.
She gets off a stop early so she can go to Big Tesco. She thinks through her cupboards. She has pasta, noodles, rice. Chickpeas, potatoes, tinned tomatoes. Mushrooms, onions, broccoli, cheese, bread. More than enough to make dinner.
What is her excuse.
What is her excuse.
Head down, she crosses the road. She figures that in this part of town, she looks like someone on their way home from A Real Job, going to pick up Some Things For Dinner, probably to have with A Partner. She never gets ID’d at this time of day, in this luxury camel coat.
Inside Big Tesco, she walks up past all the fruits and vegetables to the dips. She stares at a wall of rich, creamy tubs, full of thick goop and chunks of onions, garlic, chives. Heavy hummuses: chilli, red pepper, roast onion, lemon and coriander. She has had a phase of every single one. The salsa too, the salsa for when she thinks “god, no more calories today”.
Two for £1.80. A sour cream and chive, and that bloody salsa. Two dips looks like she’s entertaining, she thinks. She walks past the pizza, the bread, the freezers. The cling film.
She stares up. Tubes of Pringles, their moustached faces welcoming her in. Kettle Chips - she remembers the grease and the salt and the pepper coating the inside of the silver foil, how she can lick her entire fist clean from those packets. Thai Sweet Chilli Sensations - she eats them so fast her eyes and nose start running, having to put her tongue to serious work to get the mulch out of her back teeth. Tortilla chips, no good without dip - but cheap. Cheap. She takes the own-brand, value packet from the bottom shelf and heads straight to the checkouts.
She looks like someone with friends; friends who are coming for drinks and nibbles; friends who bring bottles of wine that cost more than £7 and are called Ross and Morag and work for Standard Life and have Morningside accents.
She keeps her eyes down at the tills, hoping none of the staff recognise her. The worst thing about buying alcohol is that they have to come over and properly peer at what you’re buying, but she’s escaped that torture today. There’s wine in the fridge.
She puts in the fiver from her earlier tenner. £2.74 change. Tomorrow’s bus money sorted.
Goes home. Takes off her coat. Stands in her bedroom. Opens the big bag of tortilla chips. Eats them, one by one, two by two, dip long forgotten. Digs her nails into the corners of the packet, getting every last salt crystal and crumb.
She lies, face down on her bed.
E Jamieson is a 2nd year PhD student in Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh. They were awarded Shetland Young Writer of the Year in 2005, aged 13. Since then, they have occasionally written things, published in the likes of Counterpoint magazine and The Grind. Mostly, however, they tweet (@essikert), drink tea and make playlists.