What's Confusing

by Willie Fitzgerald

In the aisle with canned vegetables, pickles, tomatoes, and pasta sauce, they reached their mutual breaking point.

I don’t understand, she said. I don’t understand why you would feel that way about what I said.

I didn’t say that I felt that way, he said. I said that I felt you were misconstruing what I had said in response to it.


What you said before that.

Why can’t you just tell me what you mean? What you feel.

Because I don’t think that I have to do that all the time, he said.

But that is crazy.

No, he said, shaking his head quickly and drawing out the ‘o’ a little.

It is crazy, she said again. Neither of them had stopped walking through the store. Nor had they stopped picking out groceries. In the midst of their argument, one of them would hold up something and the other would nod in confirmation, shake their head in refusal, or shrug in ‘It’ll have to do.’


I don’t feel that I need to tell you every single thing that’s happening in my head, he said.

She grabbed a bag of chips.

And I feel like, he nodded at the chips, that’s completely my right. To have that sort of privacy.

So it’s a matter, she put the chips in the cart, of privacy.

Yes, he said.

Which I get! Which I get.

Then why are you, he grabbed some salsa, so angry?

I’m not angry!

She shook her head at the salsa.

Then what, he grabbed a different, hotter salsa, is this that we’re doing right now?

It’s an adult conversation. She nodded at the hotter salsa. He put the salsa in the cart.

Earlier that evening there had been a vivid nuclear sunset, and they had walked together out into the flat, laboratorial light. Their neighbors had come out of their houses, too, and for the fifteen or so minutes before night descended everyone they saw had the same look of bemused revelation, as though the pavement, the curb, and the ratty yucca plant in the small traffic circle had taken on a heretofore unobserved color or dimension. People had taken pictures with their phones and greeted each other with uncharacteristic animation.

There’s some sort of weather phenomenon behind this, he had said eventually. Something about the clouds and their altitude and moisture content, probably.

She had shrugged. Undoubtedly that was true, that there was some sort of meteorological explanation, but it had seemed beside the point.

Now they were in a different kind of light, in the shadowless fluorescence of the frozen aisle, and she had had enough. She said as much:

Sometimes I feel like, ‘Fuck this.’

About this? He made a loop between them with his hand.

Sure, she said, holding some frozen corn over the cart.

Sometimes you feel like ‘Fuck this,’ he said back to her again, nodding at the corn. The corn made a ‘thwap’ noise as it hit the plastic grating of the cart.

Is that wrong? Is it wrong to be honest about that? she said.

No, he said. No, it’s not wrong.

A woman at the end of the aisle with an empty cart started taking out bags of ice. The woman would lift and smack the bag onto the floor of the grocery store, breaking the large ice chunks into smaller pieces.

She said, But so what’s confusing—

The woman smacked the ice bag down.

She started again: Sorry. What’s confusing—

The woman smacked one bag down again, grabbed another bag.

What’s confusing—

And every time she would begin to say something, every time she said,

What’s confusing—

the woman would smack another bag of ice down, abbreviating her attempt to straighten things out.

Willie Fitzgerald is the co-founder and creative director of APRIL, a festival of small press and independent publishing. His work has been appeared in or at Hobart, Everyday Genius, Poor Claudia, City Arts Magazine, and Pacifica.