Flirting in the time of COVID by Leo Lazarus

It’s hard to flirt in supermarket aisles in times such as these. I saw her by the jam jars, again in proximity of the herbal tea, doing loops of nameless aisles, but it was her who said, ‘I’m not following you, I swear’, as I stared at rows of olive oil glistening in their glass. She’s pretty, dressed in black, a warm woollen knit, a light sense of calm about her.

‘I just go round in circles in here’, I say, sometimes more than others, an unspoken thought, better than, ‘I wouldn’t mind if you were’, no, no, that’s terrible.

Be decisive; I grab the good quality oil on special, raid the fruit and vegetable section, tell myself I’ll say hello if we meet again. I stare at packets of pasta. There she is.

‘Have you got any spaghetti recommendations?’ Really? That’s all you’ve got?

‘Gluten-free or normal?’

‘Either one.’

‘Try the Molisana, it’s good.’

‘Great, I tried the wholemeal and it wasn’t very…’ I search for the word, ‘springy.’

Mutual agreement.

I smile at her, but I can’t see if she smiles back, and she can’t smile back because she can’t see my smile anyway, and vice versa.

There she is, at the self-service. I’m going through the registers. My bag tumbles off the poxy ledge, my mask keeps threatening to slide off my nose, I feel hot and stuffy all of a sudden; then she walks past, with no acknowledgement.

I lug my bags and sack of oranges up the hill to home. The spaghetti is excellent.

About the contributor

Leo Lazarus is a writer, poet and traveller from Melbourne, Australia. His first book, Myanmar in Moments, was published in 2020 by Ginninderra Press.

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