This is a cry for help.
It all started fifteen minutes ago, when I was walking to my local Rite Aid for my usual night time snack. I love RiteAid, it’s my happy place. I’m a Rite Aid girl through and through, my best memories happened here and my worst memories were soothed here. I come here every night to cruise the aisles of bliss until finally ending my trip at the cash register, where I always buy one singular Hershey’s bar. This is a routine I’ve practiced for weeks now without any disruptions. I’ve done it so frequently I’ve started cultivating a friendship with the employees. I’m more than a customer, I’m a regular. They see me and their faces light up with joy: every time I walk in, they say “Welcome in!” I think they say that to all the customers, but it’s different when I walk in.
This part of my day is sacred, and now I fear it’s been ruined. Tonight, as I turned the corner to my favorite establishment, I heard a cartoonish “psst!” coming from the parking lot. A “pssst!” has never been directed to me before, so I had no reason to assume I was involved. I was halfway through the sliding doors of heaven when I heard the “psst!” again, this time louder and followed by a “You! In the Grinch pajama set!”
Right then I froze in my step: there’s only ever one person in a Grinch pajama set, and it’s always me. I turned my head in the direction of the whisper and saw a group of five teenagers huddled in the crowded sliver of space in between cars. Their faces lit up after getting my attention, and waved me over to join them.
I have to defend myself here: This was completely out of character for me, I’m not the daring type. Risking my life isn’t necessary for me to have fun. I’m perfectly content ditching a party to make extra-long small talk with Shannon the Rite Aid cashier, who also happens to be my best friend. That being said, how often is a cartoony “psst!” intended for you? You can’t blame me for being curious! The spark of adventure only ignites inside me a couple times a year, but when it does, it’s inextinguishable. I saw the hands of those eager adolescents beckoning me towards them and before I knew it I was right by their side, begging to know what was so intriguing about me that urged them to recruit me as part of their group.
“We were wondering if you could buy us a six-pack? We’re of age, but we forgot our ID’s.” Their words hit me like a brick, I was frozen in my half-crouched stance trying to process what I was just asked. An inkling told me they weren’t of age, and the issue is that neither am I. I think we go to the same school, actually. Maybe it’s my height, or the stress wrinkles, or the confident stride to Rite Aid, but for some reason this gaggle of teens was convinced I was legally allowed to purchase alcohol. Their yearning faces were glued to me as I tried to think of how to tell them I wasn’t the one to complete their forbidden mission, but I couldn’t muster the words. I knew it was wrong, I knew it would lead to my downfall, and yet I still accepted their wrinkled wad of cash. It was like a force from above overcame my body and sealed my unfortunate fate.
Let me reiterate: I. Am. A. Regular. Here. I have a very important reputation to uphold, if I get caught engaging in an illicit activity I’ll be breaking the hearts of Shannon and all the other employees here. I was welcomed in, in that slightly-more-casual tone that they only use with me, and in response I let out a whimper that made the employee glance back at me with concern. Two steps in and I’ve already shot myself in the foot.
I scanned the linoleum floor for the small chance that I’d find an ID on the ground, but there was no easy-way-out waiting for me on those tiles. Not even a library card I could show. I thought about taking out my own ID and scribbling out my actual age, but I left it at home seeing as how they normally don’t ask for it when you’re buying candy for yourself.
My guilt sank even deeper the closer I inched towards the alcohol section. My incredible lack of speed caught the glances of everyone around me. I was going out of my routine, and I knew it showed. The employees were probably speaking of me that very moment, saying “Shouldn’t she be at the register by now? Why is she going to the alcohol aisle? I was hoping to comment on her exceptional Grinch slippers that match her pajama set.” My mind was racing with the many ways the beloved employees would react to my betrayal. Shannon, Gaby, and Brian were all working today, they would be the first to feel the hurt of a backstabbing friend. Michael, who I’d only ever seen work Wednesdays, would be one of the last ones to know. Now I’ll never be able to gain his trust. I wouldn’t be surprised if the news spread to the other Rite Aid locations, and once I get out of prison I’ll never be able to show my face at a Rite Aid again.
This story has no happy ending. I’m writing this from the wine section of my local Rite Aid. An elderly woman was here not too long ago who could’ve helped me with my struggles, but I unfortunately think I scared her away. When she first walked in, I tried building the confidence to say “Hello ma’am! I was entrusted to buy those young teens out there a six-pack, but alas’ I’m under the age of 21 and cannot legally do so. Would you be able to relieve me of this dilemma?” But the words came out like a soft unintelligible whimper, like a squeaky windshield wiper. As she was reaching up to grab a bottle of champagne, I tried telling her about my circumstance through the powerful use of eye contact. I guess there were some miscommunication issues, though, because she quickly paced out of the store.
I don’t know how long those teens will be out there, but I can’t look out the windows and risk them seeing me seeing them. As of now, I’m thinking of overnight options: the ceiling tiles don’t look too sturdy, if I can quickly climb up the shelves and push them up I’ll basically have my own private apartment for the night. If anyone reads this and is willing to bring an ID and rescue me from my doom, I’ll be forever indebted to you. I’m the girl at the Rite Aid with the Grinch pajamas reading over the same labels over and over again and mildly hyperventilating.