I imagine Purgatory to be like the Costco food court – disingenuous bursts of impossibly bright red bringing to the mind the intense flavor of cherry cough syrup and gleaming white countertops that are supposed to give the impression of cleanliness but whose smooth surfaces only feel grimy. Under the fluorescent lights and against the backdrop of huge containers of SunChips and Pretzels, no one looks happy. Instead, a natural expressionless inevitably creeps into the facial make-up of each resident’s mask. No one laughs as they stare down impassively at their giant pieces of pizza, gathering in oily swirls of what can only be described as cheese sweat on the annoyingly thin paper plate. Perhaps they, like me ponder the nature of consumption and how, beloved as it is by voracious teenagers like myself, whether we will know when big is too big, or if we will ever feel trapped in the metaphor of the little woman trembling under one of these monstrous cardboard boxes. In the corner of my eye, I observe as her young children dance demonically around her fraying pink socks chanting, “cookies, cookies!”
But probably not.
Most sit alone and avoid eye contact with other people—no one seems to want to figure out how they got to this point in their life – eating alone under too-bright lights among too-big boxes surrounded by people without faces, munching on the all-famous 100% Kosher Kirkland hot dog. And I understand. I am not above the sentiment of collective shame of being drowned in grease and that heaping helping of relish that exceeds the desire that anyone could possibly have for a serving of too-sweet, toxic-waste green relish. I watch with a kind of amused despair at the old white lady in the conservative blue blouse hungrily digs, wearing diamonds from one of those awful chain jewelry stores like Shane Company or Kay’s (if we waited for every kiss to begin with Kay’s we’d all go extinct you horrible people), into one of those absurdly giant red hot dogs with a fork and a knife. I feel like laughing. A fork and a knife? For a Costco hot dog? Don’t pretend like you are any different from the rest of us here in this infernal food court, just pick up the hot dog or your giant slice of pizza and accept that you are the same. Wiping her chin of bright orange grease, she demurely reapplies her lipstick.
Seriously, who (give it a break, I know it’s whom, grammar check bitch) are you trying to impress in Costco? She keeps throwing come-hither looks at the balding middle-aged man, who only has eyes for his phone (no doubt checking the score on the US-Germany game—‘Murica) as he picks at his limp pre-packaged Chicken Caesar salad. And to the oh-my-love-we’re-so-in-love-watch-us-mash-our-mouths-together young adults a couple of rows in front of me? Thank you for informing me that joining the ranks of the most romantic places in the world like the Empire State Building, a Paris café, a gondola ride in Venice—is the food court of this blessed Costco.