The strangest thing of all was seeing nine pictures of my face on the singles shelf at Woolworths. The stencil effect that the art department had used for the disc covers reminded me less of Andy Warhol and more of a photocopied wanted poster. The effect was twice as bad on the cassette cases that rested discreetly on the shelves below.
Odd as it must sound, the cover looked totally different to how it had looked in Cynthia’s office a couple of weeks ago. Sure, the picture was the same, but it went together perfectly with her shiny marble veneer desk, art deco lamps and pop art prints. Here, in the middle of a shop, it just looked wrong. Like something from another world.
As I stood there, I half expected someone to tap my shoulder and shout my name. Or to look at the cover and then look at me, then to look back again. But, the middle-aged man standing next to me didn’t even glance in my direction. He just knelt down, studied a ragged shopping list, and carefully picked up a Spice Girls cassette. He checked the title against his list three times before wandering towards the garden supplies.
Before I could fumble through my bag for my own shopping list, I heard footsteps behind me. My heart quickened. Although I’d done a couple of guest spots at clubs, I still wasn’t used to the whole crowd thing, let alone fame. My autograph looked less like something from a museum and more like something that made bank tellers squint suspiciously.
The footsteps got closer. I chanced a glance sideways. Two women about my age rushed past me and went straight for the shelves. As much as I tried, I couldn’t resist listening in.
‘Have they got it? It’s a couple of weeks old, so it’s gotta be here somewhere.‘ The woman with the blond hair and the crop top flipped through a line of discs above the cassettes like they were filing cards.
‘It’s punk, Debs. It probably won’t be here.‘ The other woman stood back slightly, scratching a new-looking Chinese letter tattoo on her arm. ‘It’s all pop music. Told you we’d be better off at the record shop.’
Dejected, they walked away. I let out a sigh of relief and began to look for my shopping list. If I stood around here for too long, someone would probably ask me if I was ok. But, even when I’d extracted the thin strip of paper from the side pocket of my bag, I just couldn’t bring myself to move. Maybe, in spite of myself, I wanted a story to tell. Something I could rattle off to a magazine journalist about how I’d been “spotted” by an adoring fan.
I shuddered and looked at my shopping list. Double A batteries, A4 folders, gift labels, plant food and some odour eaters. They were all on the other side of the shop. So, what was I doing still standing here? I had to pull myself away from the shelves. But, I couldn’t.
Soon, there were more footsteps. This time, I didn’t look. Instead, I fixed my eyes on the shopping list and double-checked everything. Surely, I’d forgotten something. Blank videos, that was it! Being careful not to look sideways, I fumbled around in my bag for a pen, before carefully writing “videos” in the tiny space at the bottom of the list.
‘Sorry to bother you, but I was wondering if this was any good?‘ A man’s voice echoed beside me.
Brushing a strand of hair behind my ear and putting a smile on, I turned to face him. With his spiky hair and battered leather jacket, he was the picture of perfection. He held a record in his hand. Was this it? Would I be telling some journalist about how this was the first time I’d met this guy? Then, I saw the cover. It was a Beautiful South single.
Chuckling to myself, I said: ‘Yeah, they’re ok. I’ve only heard a couple of their songs though. They’re kind of sophisticated, I guess. Good dinner party music, if you’re into that kind of thing.‘
He shrugged and put the disc back, before walking towards the counter to buy cigarettes. I kicked myself. I should have shown him my own single. No, that would be weird. I’d sound like one of those creepy people from the adverts. But, I thought that I should say something. So, I turned to face the counter. He’d gone.
With a weary sigh, I finally pulled myself away from the singles shelf and forced myself to go to the other side of the shop. When I’d picked up everything and started to walk back to the counter, I felt myself rooted to the spot once more – staring at the nine photos of myself again. Shaking my head, I told myself that it’d be easier next week.