An Ode To Spring

It feels as if the ground is buckling under me with each slippery step. The unforgiving concrete has been coated with what must have once been a fine white powder. But now the thick paste surrounding my soaking feet looks a lot more like day-old excrement. No matter how far up the hill I seem to get, I always end up sliding back down a few inches. The rain is heavy, soaking into my jacket and hair. I can barely see from all the water pooling into my eyes. Yet for some reason none of this rain has affected the crap on the ground. As I continue my awkward march through the snow, a line of struggling cars passes by. I can tell from the uneasy smiles on their faces that they’re wondering the same thing I am: Why did I think it was a good idea to go grocery shopping in this weather?
My plan was simple. Make my way up and down the big hill, go to the ATM, get groceries, go up and down the big hill again, and then go back to the apartment and watch the new episode of Moon Knight. Unfortunately Duluth is insistent on prolonging winter as long as humanly possible. As soon as I stumble away from the hill and back into civilization, I make a beeline for the nearest store. I’m so desperate to get out of the rain for even a second that it takes me a few minutes to realize what I just wandered into. It’s 10:30 in the morning. I’m sopping wet and tired as all hell. My winter coat has retained so much water now that it feels like someone is standing on my shoulders. And I’m standing across from a giant shelf of disfigured dolls in the creepiest Goodwill in North America. Rather than leaving right away, I decide to linger for a few minutes so it isn’t obvious that I came in here on accident. Because for some reason I’m worried I’ll insult the lady at the front of the store who is currently half-asleep and probably didn’t even realize I was here. But I guess if I ever need a wireless rotary telephone, I now know where to go.
I spend the next ten minutes leap-frogging across the parking lot in a futile attempt to avoid the rain while walking to and from Wells Fargo. It must seem weird to anyone that happens to be looking. “Why is that man running to and from store awnings? He ran out of Goodwill and under the roof of that auto repair shop. Now he’s under the Arby’s awning. Now he’s under that gas station. He’s crossing the street. And now he’s in that Wells Fargo. But wait! He’s coming back! There he goes to the gas station again. And now Arby’s. Oh, what’s this? He ran right past the auto repair shop… and now he’s in that grocery store! (Sigh)That was incredibly underwhelming. I wish my life was more interesting.”
I waste the next half hour of my life sloshing through the grocery store, regretting every choice that brought me to this overly-lit hell hole that never seems to have the items I need. My least favorite part of grocery shopping is that nothing ever changes. The same things always happen, and I always end up running into the same types of people. There’s the irritable middle-aged man and his son who doesn’t leave his dad’s side because he’s so afraid he’ll piss him off. And they always just happen to be in whichever aisle I’m walking into, so I end up exchanging the same awkward head nod about twenty goddamn times. There’s the woman in her seventies who, funnily enough, is buying the exact same things that I am! And she’s either in front of me with her comically large shopping cart, walking slower than I thought was physically impossible. Or she’s behind me, waiting impatiently for me to hurry up. There’s the old married couple gossiping about their children, who never seem to be anywhere but the dairy aisle. There’s the guy my age who’s much skinnier, better-looking, and has great hair. And he somehow keeps this up despite only buying food that’s been scientifically engineered to give you diabetes. And then there’s the teenage girl with heavy bags under her eyes that seems to be seconds away from trying to strangle the self-checkout machines. There’s also the running-obsessed weirdo who always buys twenty bottles of grape Powerade Zero and a box of Wheaties. But going grocery shopping with my dad doesn’t happen that often right now.
The walk back is always the worst part. Whatever small amount of energy I had at the beginning of this idiotic endeavor burned out long ago, and now I have two heavy bags of groceries to carry. My time in the grocery store definitely helped me dry off a little, but the rain is back in full force. The wind is threatening to push me back down the hill. And judging by the piercing jabs of pain I’m starting to feel all over my face, I’m not dealing with regular rain anymore. The walk back is long and irritable, but I manage to fall on my ass seven times instead of my usual nineteen. My new mantra is what keeps me sane until I finally slide into the warmth of my apartment: “I should have gone to school in Hawaii. I wish I had gone to school in Hawaii. It isn’t too late to transfer to a college in Hawaii.”
I arrive at my apartment, shaking from the cold and feeling as if I just went through a spin cycle in one of those industrial prison washing machines. After spending ten minutes shuffling along my kitchen, putting groceries away and groaning, I make my way to the window. The hale has now transformed into yet another full-blown flurry of snow. I shake my fist and howl at the sky, deep from the bowels of my soul. Some guy on the street looks up at me like he’s about to tell me to shut up. But instead he nods in agreement. Five minutes later I’m on my couch, shirtless and shivering away. In one hand I hold a two-liter bottle of Squirt. In the other I hold a container of carrot sticks. I press play on the remote with my big toe and the Marvel logo flashes before my eyes. Moon Knight time. The last thing I do before my mind goes into full nerd mode for the next blissful hour is check my watch for today’s date. April 6th. Yay. Spring in Duluth.

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