Jenny is fifth in the checkout line line. Kevin is sixth.
They have just met at the Total Drug, while the customer at the front of the line tries with all her might to return some toothpaste.
“I’m Kevin,” he says.
“Jenny,” she responds, smiling in a way that lets Kevin know her heart is his and she hopes he’ll be careful with it.
“I never felt like this while waiting in line behind anyone before,” Kevin says to Jenny. “I’m afraid to trust it.”
“It’s real,” Jenny says. They kiss while the cashier picks up the phone to ask a manager to come to the front with an approval key.
Jenny’s fourth now. Kevin’s fifth.
They make love for the first time, leaning up against the glass case full of off-brand ipod accessories, while the customer at the register complains that her razors were cheaper last week when they were on sale and she should be allowed to buy them at that expired sale price.
“I’m worried we’re moving too fast,” Jenny says. “I’ve made mistakes with guys at drugstores before, getting too serious too far back in line.”
“Maybe we should combine our purchase items and pay for them together,” says Kevin.
Jenny asks Kevin if he’s sure he’s ready for that, and Kevin just smiles and starts emptying Jenny’s basket into his own.
Jenny’s third. Kevin’s fourth.
They argue while a customer tries to pay for her purchases with a double-endorsed check.
“I don’t see why you need to buy so much makeup,” Kevin says, studying the items in their basket.
“I don’t wear too much makeup,” Jenny says.
“I didn’t say you wear too much makeup,” says Kevin.
“But that’s what you meant,” Jenny says.
Kevin explodes. “Don’t tell me what I mean!”
Jenny starts to cry. Kevin apologizes, then they lie down in the shampoo aisle and make love again.
It’s a pattern for them. They fight, they make up, they have sex. Then they just stand in line, both of them wondering why they can’t be intimate without hurting each other, both of them wondering if they’re even going to make it to the cash register together.
Jenny’s second, Kevin’s third.
His mind wanders. He’s reading the ingredients on a box of decongestant, wondering when waiting in line behind a girl got to be so hard. It wasn’t always this hard, was it?
While the customer at the register aims a handgun at the cashier, and the cashier empties the cash from her register at a glacial pace, Kevin looks down at their basket and sees Jenny putting her purchase items into a basket of her own.
“What’s going on?” Kevin asks.
“I’m paying for these myself,” says Jenny.
Kevin pleads with Jenny to reconsider, but she just keeps filling up her basket.
“These past few minutes, I’ve felt like I’ve been waiting in line with a stranger,” says Jenny.
Kevin says, “So that’s it?”
Jenny’s first. Kevin’s second.
She puts her basket on the counter and the cashier starts ringing up her items.
“Jenny please,” Kevin says.
Jenny is crying when she asks the cashier to hurry, to please ring her items up faster, to scan her club card and get her the hell out of there.
“Goodbye Kevin,” Jenny says as runs out of the store.
He can barely hoist his basket up to the counter. He doesn’t even bother to take out his club card. What’s the point?
“Hi I’m Sharon,” the girl in line behind Kevin says.
Kevin turns around to a pair of welcoming eyes, an eager smile.
He looks into her basket.
“Jenny used to buy that brand of makeup,” Kevin says.
Sharon says, “Who’s Jenny?”
Kevin looks away from Sharon. He doesn’t answer her. He’s not sure if knows the answer.
He just pays for his bag of purchases and walks out the door.
Bob Powers is the author of several humor books, including Happy Cruelty Day! and You Are A Miserable Excuse For A Hero.