My Target Diary: Continued
by Caitlin Brady
A note to the reader: For me, not all but most roads lead to Target. I live close to one, so that helps, but I’m also drawn there to search for something more powerful— a spiritual truth only accessible in a mass retail store.
Every time I go to Target, I play roulette with my expectations, my dreams, and my faith. This is my journey to enlightenment, and I invite you along. Target is an inferno; I purge myself in its flames, emerging always a little stronger, wiser, and more aware of the restocking schedule.
Listening to Coldplay’s “The Scientist” while waiting for the elevator at Target because I haven’t hit rock bottom yet.
I wander over to the glowing white light of the cosmetics aisle where I’m hunting for an over-priced facial exfoliant to make me beautiful; it’s made of ground rose petals, imported from France, and sold at Target, all of which are personal metrics for quality. As I draw closer I hear a mother yelling at her child one aisle over; he wails “I’m scared,” and flees her. His mom pursues him, stalking past me into the cereal aisle. The exfoliant isn’t in stock, so I pick up a random blue bottle of foaming chemicals and stare at it.
Then I put it down and run out of Target.
Overheard: “I’m scared.”
Observed: High-heeled clogs
Conclusion: The bottom is a long way down
In an elevator I’m playing chicken with an elderly hunchback over an un-pressed Up button, he finally gives in and presses it. He might have a backpack on under his coat; though I check again with my glasses on, I’m still unsure.
I’m here for the same rose gelée exfoliante douce, as my face is still not perfect, and insecurity-driven self-improvement through spending is an essential American value. Some may call that shallow, but I feel proud as hell as I put on my smudged glasses to see— nothing, except a gooey, gray puddle. To calm myself, I inspect other serums and scrubs, weigh the bottles in my hands, and smell them individually. They all smell like disappointment. Four aisles up, in plastic and paper food storage, I conduct inspections on different sandwich baggies.
I purchase mid-range Spring floral design sandwich baggies and rigatoni pasta. I eventually cook the rigatoni but forget about it and later eat it cold, plain, and piece by piece like party hors d’oevres as I stare out my dust-caked window. A man blasts music from a car parked directly below me. What is the karmic cost of assuming everyone can appreciate, much less handle, your bullshit? As soon as I decide, I will unleash a psychic torrent of jagged lightning chi. Of all the animal spirits residing within me, I will summon rattlesnake, or black bear, or maybe snapping turtle. Rattlesnake would vote for a locked, plummeting elevator; black bear for a broken clavicle; and snapping turtle for a parking ticket.
Overheard: Thundering bass
Observed: No express check out
Conclusion: You get what you give
To be real, I’m not sure what happened in Target today; I just wanted to sit down on the floor, which of course I didn’t do; I kind of, like, half-squatted and leaned against a shelf.
I miss my favorite Target from my hometown— it no longer exists. That Target closed and they built a new one off the highway. I can’t fault this new, inferior Target for not being the old Target, since it still has a great selection and all my favorite brands, but I also feel like it’s a step-Target. Sometimes I just want to slam the door in its face while screaming, “You’re not my real Target!” I miss my biological Target’s popcorn smell, the way popcorn became mushed into the linoleum by the Icee machines, and how all the mismatched swimsuits had odd-sized tops and bottoms. Once, I was at real Target during a bad thunderstorm. The fluorescent aisle lights flickered and swayed above me, and I couldn’t find my mom or the cart. I thought, “what if the roof flies off, peels back like a tuna can lid, and I look straight into the burning, resplendent gaze of Old Testament God, who vacuums me up to his kingdom in a swarm of mismatched neon bikinis?” Anyway, I survived.
This Target in Brooklyn sometimes feels like a hug from a stranger who scares me a little and hugs for too long but still wants connection.
Observed: A man struggling to light his cigar in the wind
Overheard: Shattering glass
Conclusion: Target never really dies, it only changes form
Disclaimer: my editor is not in any way affiliated with the Target Corporation, and in fact, has called my reverence for Target “gross.” Abiding by the Tao of Target, I will not judge him for this; only lament the revelations he could have with a more open mind. I am also not compensated or incentivized by Target Corporation in any way, and the only manner in which we communicate is mind control.
I consider showering before I go to Target today, but decide to go un-showered and braless, because I want to be taken seriously.
I see an older woman getting suckered into a Target credit card, mostly against her will, but also because she doesn’t speak enough English to stop what’s happening. It’s taking very long, and the woman removes her glasses several times, seemingly concerned she’ll be trapped into monthly payments (she will be). The man behind me, wearing a Blue Tooth earpiece, grunts impatiently and asks whether our line is cash only. “I don’t think so,” I say, and he replies, “that other line is.” This line is not that line. Sorry, is this his first time in a Target?
Observed: Figure of Bullseye, the Target dog, toppled on its back, legs in the air atop a Memorial Day cookout display
Overheard: “Target guest report to check out”
Conclusion: It doesn’t matter what line you’re in
I’m here on Memorial Day weekend, because I hate myself more than usual. A woman shakes her head at me in the elevator and says, “What are we doing?” and I whisper, “I don’t know. This is a mistake.” Mistake or not, Target is my heaven/hell/home.
On a busy holiday weekend (see entries for Columbus Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day) at Target the first thing they do at Target is erect impromptu walls of products for use as barriers to form a single, snaking lane of foot traffic. What this also creates is shopper mayhem, in the form of abandoned strollers, carts, baskets, and hover-boards. Some shoppers wedge themselves and their loved ones between the towers of paper towels or soda, which cut off access to check out from the escalators. To navigate Target on days like this, I keep my elbows out and imagine I’m escorting Whitney Houston better than Kevin Costner ever did.
I squeeze past the paper towel tower and scan the section of greeting cards—I need to write a love note for an actual person, though I would prefer a cute animal be on the cover. I find a card with a kitten in a basket, and when I pull the kitten upward it meows. I think the surprise sound would startle my intended recipient, and since one has to grab the kitten by the head/neck as it squeals, the only people who would enjoy this card are my Polish great grandparents. I settle on a more neutral card; one with mariachis.
Overheard: Two people speaking softly in their mother tongue over a chef’s knife
Observed: Empty electric wheelchair?
Conclusion: Control is the best feeling (with love a close second)
I brave torrential downpour as I run into Target, and pass two sad souls failing to shove a giant flat screen into the back of a livery cab. I scamper through the automatic doors only to find that all elevators are broken. So I scamper through the Atlantic mall entrance, where I find a lone Target security guard tossing a football to himself.
I decide to go upstairs, which I failed to do last time and probably missed a lot of deals. Today my #1 goal is a 12″ tall glass container for dry spaghetti.
As I ride up the escalator, I consider writing to Target to suggest that they set up a place for scrap metal sales in-store, as I have some metal I’m looking to clear out and would like cash for. In my opinion, this is one of the very few ways Target could improve itself. New York State doesn’t allow Target to sell alcohol, but if they did, AND if they accepted scrap metal, toxics recycling, and laundry, I would never go anywhere else.
Of course, I mean, just of course, there is no spaghetti container. This is such a basic staple, one I ran through rain for; but I try not to get angry. I count to ten and hold an ugly pillow, then feel better.
I settle on purchasing disposable latex gloves, string cheese, and extra strength melatonin
Observed: beautiful Santo Nino de Atocha candle
Overheard: House of Pain’s “Jump Around”
Conclusion: There’s always room for improvement
Caitlin Brady is an MFA candidate from Texas who writes fiction and humor. She studied screenwriting at New York University and collaborated with Animal Kingdom Films (It Follows, Short Term 12), on a feature-length script.