Karina is addicted to books. This is her story.

{Read it from the beginning by clicking here.}

Backpack in hand, Karina walks across the parking lot. She has to wait three seconds for the automatic doors to realize she’s there.

Once inside the store she takes her wallet out of the backpack and pulls out a handwritten list. She puts on her backpack, grabs a shopping basket, and walks to the furthest corner of the store.

She finds a package of her favorite pens and draws a line through the first item on her list.

Two aisles over she picks up a spiral bound notebook and crosses off the second item. Next comes pencils. She freezes.

Those are in the aisle with the pens.

She’s already been there.

She stares at the disordered list for a moment, closes her eyes, takes a deep breath. Pencils can wait. She’ll pick them up on the next shopping trip. She blacks out the word on the list in her hand.

She stares at the disordered list again. Another deep breath.

Pencils can wait.

She blacks out the word on the list in her hand harder.

On to the food items. Peanut butter, breakfast cereal, bread, sandwich meat, sliced cheese, apples. She lets out her breath; everything else is in order.

Only one failure out of nine this trip.

All the lines are long, self-checkout the longest. She chooses that one anyway and pulls out her book to send a clear message to the people in front of and behind her that she is uninterested in small talk.

Two new cashiers show up and motion for people to come to their lines. She lets the others leave, pretending to be so absorbed in her book that she doesn’t realize what’s going on around her. She slowly wanders up toward the self-checkout stations and waits for the one person in front of her to take care of his full cart.

Finally she is free to put her book away and focus on checking herself out. She hasn’t read a word, of course. It’s all a facade today. She always brings this book on excursions like this one. It’s her shield.

She puts the peanut butter, sandwich meat, and sliced cheese in the bottom of her backpack, and sets the bag of apples on top. The two boxes of breakfast cereal and the bread go into a plastic grocery bag.

Everything in order, she heads back to the bus stop. She checks her phone. A full fifteen minutes until the next bus will arrive. She puts a hand on the bench to steady herself and takes oxygen deep into her body, filling lungs and diaphragm both. She chokes letting it out.

Does Amazon deliver groceries?