We, the nightshoppers

Some of us still wearing our office clothes, others just baggy pants and t-shirts, others bathrobes and slippers (yes!), squinting at the shelves in that tiring, artificial light that makes your skin pale, your brain foggy and suddenly so needy. Getting single beer bottles and the smallest pack of peanuts there is and then just walking among shelves looking for salvation.

I remember a night in Pnom Penh, Cambodia, when I went out and walked around and then just before returning to my hotel, I got into this shop and walked among the shelves and stopped in front of the beer fridge. And this short guy, in his late twenties or early thirties stopped next to me and opened the fridge door only to find we were both reaching for the same bottle. I don’t remember the brand, something local. We turned to one another and smiled and, with a short gesture of his hand, he let me have it and then reached for another one. I wanted to ask him if he cared to join me and have that beer in a park nearby, but before I got to the cash register he was already gone. I had no intention to pick him up and lure him into my den, I was just craving for conversation and companionship. At least we smiled and had a moment of connection there.

Here, in Bucharest, the fauna in the supermarket at night is much wilder. We never smile. If we see someone interesting, we just stare. Repeatedly. We lack the courage to smile, smile back (if an alien does smile to us) or say anything. If asked “Shall I wait for you?” we would probably collapse or just die through implosion. Such things are unheard of. In our autism, we simply move around like headless pawns in an electronic game of chess played by a slow computer on its own, in a demo version. And when we are out of the game, we cease to exist.

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