The day did go, though slowly. Rob, the manager that was currently going through some serious midlife crisis, stopped by to drop some more papers for filing. Ariana, the pretty one, pretty as every-store-got-one-pretty-girl type of pretty, lingered a while too. Apparently she was publicly on a diet, but she wouldn’t feel that it’s cheating if they were chocolate bars from the inventory room in the basement. Indeed, if Kevin had to see someone from the store gorging and gagging, it’d better be Ariana. Jeff, his work buddy, who apparently had a thing for Ariana, spent the most time with him. They talked about lots of things, from betting on the NBA championship to this new game, Elden Ring. Jeff even brought up the union movement thing. They could no longer openly discuss it though, according to the emergency policy that was introduced last week. Therefore, employees started to adopt the codename “constitution” believing that it would be the last word the corporate could ever censor. Kevin was, characteristically, uninterested at first. Gradually, however, things started to click for him. It wasn’t just that the movement was gaining momentum. That urge for the “more-ness” originated from somewhere else.
As soon as the clock face said 6:00 pm, Kevin was already on his way to Lorenzo’s.
Kevin, my brother!
Lorenzo, the patriarch of the family, welcomed Kevin with his signature Italian passion and thick accent. It’s interesting that after almost 30 years in the US that accent just wouldn’t go away.
Your pizza is ready. Enjoy! Ciao!
Lorenzo waved and then quickly went back in the kitchen. The pizzeria was busier than usual, probably because an influencer from Korea did live-streaming there recently and hailed it as the best pizza place she’d ever been outside Busan. Lorenzo’s search keyword was even trending on Naver for a day, although he knew absolutely nothing about where Busan was or what trending on Naver even meant. The entire time, he thought she’s Chinese. Kevin picked up his pizza, left some cash, and went home.
His studio apartment was tidy and cozy, the right size for a simple guy like him. When he moved out of his mom’s basement and moved in here five years ago, he was bathed in this joy of standing right at the beginning of a glorious adulthood. He was so sure about the wonderful things to come, with or without an agreed-upon definition of what wonderful could possibly mean to a guy like him. It’s a feeling. As someone that had always felt like an extra in a grand scene that probably was going to last a life time, it was the first time he had a sense of being Kevin Hillstill, unequivocally. Five years later, that exhilaration had long faded, much like the print on his favorite tee, a colorful portrait of Popeye that now looked more like an artistic rendering of Donald Duck.
Elon Musk is buying Twitter. Woah, what a guy.
Imagine being that guy.
That was Kevin’s obsession of the day as he munched his Pepperoni Special.
Wait, there’s something missing.
Right, a beer.
He opened the fridge and looked for the beer that he faintly remembered that Ted had left there a few weeks ago. To his disappointment, there’s no such thing. His fridge was, in fact, quite empty.
No eggs, no milk and no beer.
What’s the point of owning a fridge if there’s nothing in it?
Time for some late night shopping.
The WallgreenSuper supermarket was the only place still operating this hour that also carried Kevin’s favorite beer, Knight’s Armor, made by a local brewery. Yawning as he walked into the huge state-of-the-art supermarket that only opened last year but had already broken all types of sales records in the retail industry. Well, at least based on the corporate newsletters, it did such wonders, if calling anything a miracle would be slightly too dramatic in the 21st century. Among the employees themselves, this place had also been quite a topic, right up there with the chatters of forming a potential “constitution.”
He had his glasses on for otherwise it would take forever to find his beer in a giant aisle like this, one that even a bad driver could drive a truck through. Just as he was debating whether to add a second pack for an extra 15% off, he saw this guy with a hat that looked as average as him, not too far away, walking away with two 6-packs of Knight’s Armor. There were no others in between and, as a matter of fact, that was the only person he’d seen since he walked in. This flagship store was touted to be minimally staffed and highly automated, especially during off-peak hours. It was probably this uncanny feeling that made Kevin put back his own Knight’s Armor and went with the next brand he’d never heard of, Spinoza.
After picking up eggs and milk as well, he headed for the checkout section. He particularly looked forward to that part of the trip every time — watching employee discounts being applied was honestly satisfying. He thought he would have already got used to it after all this time, but it still remained as one of the few things that were small yet oddly pleasant in Kevin’s unexciting life.
There was only an old lady there, looking perplexed as well as helpless at the newest checkout station. Kevin went up, like a true gentleman, ready to help, only to find out that the whole system was in the maintenance mode. All 36 stations were temporarily out of service.
Technologies, they say?
The old lady shook her head and looked at Kevin.
Yeah, they totally make life better.
Kevin shrugged and replied. Then they both smiled.
There were rolls of receipts and a couple of broken paper bags scattered on the floor. Instrumental easy-listening music was playing in the background. Hundreds of LED lights were so bright and fierce that they could probably punch a hole in the darkest soul.
The system maintenance was still ongoing, according to the notice printed on the screens. If Kevin had poorer manners, he would have cracked open a Spinoza to have a taste already.
Hello, is anybody there?
The old lady finally lost patience and shouted for help in various directions. In a short while, the sound of foot steps was nearing from behind. Kevin turned around and it was that man with a hat from moments ago that looked as average as him, from afar.
Well, now he’s much closer, Kevin could see his face much better.
Oh, you two boys… are siblings?
The old lady exclaimed.
Kevin looked at the man in front of him having the same height, same build and same face without the glasses, trying his best to process what was happening.
Is he just another unfortunately average looking fellow or do we really look alike?
Or do we look alike simply because we both unfortunately look unbearably average?
Although he’d admit, in the most self-deprecating way, that he looked like an advanced composite of average white guys in their late 20s, he could still tell when someone that was sculpted exactly the same. He might score an unprecedented 90% similarity with 90% of the faces in the world, but what mattered much more was the remaining 10% for that 10% would make up 100% of Kevin Hillstill.
Kevin was stunned and profoundly confused as that guy went past him to help the old lady. He took out his phone and opened the camera app just to confirm his own face in the front view. It was absurd, but he had to do it. He then took another look at the man with the hat. If his eyes were not betraying him and his mind was still sane, that man was literally a clone!
Wow, you two brothers even have the same voice.
The old lady remarked upon leaving.
Kevin scratched his head and awkwardly replied with a stiff smile.