Not My Best Friend

On a wet Manchester Monday I decide it is worth braving the drizzle to go a little organic health food shop that I found recently. And even though the ominous Arndale shopping centre, full of fluorescent unpleasantness, looms between my apartment and this shop I have found myself daring the journey frequently to stock up on bags of rice, black beans and Vego bars that I do not need but very much want.

As I enter I grin from ear to ear, holding my hand in my pocket so it doesn’t wave incessantly like it is dying to. I look around at the shelves approvingly, lifting my eyebrows to show I am impressed at their range of nutritional yeasts.

I say “oooh yum” and smile over my shoulder at the busy shopkeeper who is not and never will be my best friend.

That’s what I have to repeat to myself over and over when I enter any establishment where they offer healthy things, or have vegan options, or anything I am vaguely interested in.

“They are not my best friend, they are not my best friend.”

The minute I am in an independent health food shop I get filled with a sense of joy that makes me want to discuss different uses for molasses at length with whoever is standing near me. I stay at tills too long, holding a conversation that was over many minutes ago and was only started by the cashier out of politeness.

You know the way there’s always a queue in Holland and Barrett? It’s because I’ve been there refusing to leave the counter until the server has heard my linseed related story.

I was sad the other day when I felt a cashier in the shop had cut our conversation short. We had only started to get into it, I had so much more to say! But the nice boy I live with had to remind me that it was kind of her to even talk to me for that long and in her mind the conversation had probably come to a natural conclusion, whereas I was born without that indicator in my brain.

There is a magical supermarket called Unicorn in the suburbs of Manchester that is completely vegan. They sell magic things like organic vegetables and fruit and all the vegan beer your heart could drink. I am surprised I haven’t spontaneously combusted on a visit there yet.

I swing through the door, absentmindedly hitting my fellow vegans in the shins with my basket. I dance around the vast range of dirty potatoes, playfully juggling with them until my feet are drowning in a sea of dropped spuds.

I ask the workers questions just so they’ll talk to me:

“Have you got any hot sauce? Oh look, here it is right beside me. Now, tell me about your earliest childhood memory.”

I pat all the vegan children on the head, usually getting incrusted lentil soup on my hands. I watch as people put vegan shampoo into their baskets and hoot behind them in celebration.

On a recent trip to Unicorn forgot to transfer money into my current account and had an enormous amount of food laid out on the till, because everything they sell is vegan, everything! My card kept getting declined and a queue started forming rapidly behind me. The ageless floppy haired man at the till patiently waited as I tried to get a WiFi signal to transfer the money on my banking app.

Even though this happens to me regularly, the last time in Aldi was my favourite, it is never not embarrassing.

As my sweaty hands slid around my phone screen trying to get money, any money, the nice lady behind me said:

“Don’t worry, I’ll pay for your shopping then we can sort it out after.”

I nearly hugged her legs, but I was sweating profusely by this stage so it would not have been pleasant, for either of us.

I had to repeat my mantra many times as I walked away from the nice lady with the shopping I had finally managed to pay for myself.

“They are not my best friend, they are not my best friend.”

But maybe she was the exception, maybe she definitely wanted to be my best friend. She just didn’t know it at the time.

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