Don’t shop when you’re hungry, they always say. No one mentions the opposite: don’t bother when you’ve lost your appetite. Nothing looks like food. The cart goes hungry.

Spotless glass flings fluorescent reflections across the aisle. The Jolly Green Giant imprints his ghostly image over the chicken enchiladas on the other side. Three cases full of frozen pizza mock their opposite number, and the waffles retaliate. Dinner succeeds breakfast succeeds dinner succeeds breakfast.

An optical illusion transforms the frozen food aisle into a hall of mirrors that converges to a point at the meat department.

Icy smoke escapes every time a freezer door opens. It sinks into the linoleum, pervades the steel grid of the shopping cart, migrates to my hands. My fingers contract around the handle.

The colder I am, the slower I move. The slower I move, the colder I feel, the farther the aisle stretches.

My family will love me for something, the girl on the announcement says. She doesn’t say for what. Buying something, probably.

Twenty years I’ve shopped in this aisle and only ever bought ravioli and vegetables. They don’t call them TV dinners anymore. I never paid attention to the meals because I used to know how to cook. I could sauté, roast, braise, deep fry, bake, broil. I didn’t use recipes. Never needed them. Now, I microwave. Or will. He has to eat.

He loved the way I used to glance in the fridge and cupboards, tally ingredients, group and regroup, factor and subtract, until they added up to dinner.

I’ve lost the knack for cooking. Also for explaining.

My spine aches from the chill, then numbs. The November wind outside is kinder than this aisle. I need to buy food and get out of here, but my God, the endless choices! Three cases full of Italian entrées alone. One brand with plump Italians raising glasses of red wine over their pasta bowls, laughing. I used to believe Italians were always happy. They are on TV, but it’s a lie, I think. It must be.

A whole case of Thai. Two of Indian. So many things now that didn’t used to exist.

He can microwave one of these, eat it from the tray, throw it out. One dirty fork. No pots, no dishes.

Practical thoughts try to swim through my brain, but exhaust themselves and drown. I can’t remember what he likes to eat.

Frozen air assaults my eyes when I jerk open a case. I reach in, grab a box at random, and drop it into the cart. I open another door, and another–reach, grab, drop. I can’t feel my hands. I lose my grip on the cart and have to push it with my arms. The meat department recedes with every step.

The colder, the slower. The slower, the colder.

It’s not an epiphany when you finally understand how stuck you are, that your tedious life ends only in death. Every six months, they test you for a different disease.

I have thought every new thought I will ever think and felt every fresh emotion I will ever feel. I will not have another. Not today. Not ever.

Tears freeze on my cheeks, freeze my tear ducts, freeze my eyes open. The meat department blurs to a smudge on the horizon.

My hands too weak to grasp the freezer handle, I sink to the floor, where my back fuses to the glass. I draw my knees in to thaw my eyes, but the icicle tears freeze my legs instead. I couldn’t walk now, even if I knew where to go.

The buzzing of the compressor drowns out what sounds like screaming, coming from far away, where the meat department once was.

My heartbeat slows.