I felt no joy out there, not close to the joy I felt in Daiso.
The line extended to the mall’s exit then looped around three more times. M hated lines but relented after I whined and pouted. At thirty-five, he still thought my interest in objects intended for children (notebooks with overweight cats, pajamas with strawberries) was cute. “You’re so cute,” he liked to remind me. After three hours, we arrived at the entrance. I grabbed a pink shopping basket as M said something about waiting outside, but the doors were kissing close behind me and I could hardly hear him. “I’ll only be a minute,” I breathed.
Heavenly, heavenly Daiso! I wanted to sweep everything clean off the shelves and fill ten, twenty, a hundred baskets. A new section of stuffed animals greeted me: tube-shaped with manic, strung out eyes. I adopted six. Next, miniature plastic vials and pots twinkled at me from the makeup aisle. I never traveled outside my time zone due to a paralyzing fear of flying, but this purchase would act as both inspiration and investment. “I will definitely use these,” I announced, and a shopper beside me nodded fervently as he tossed a dozen into his basket too.
In the housewares aisle, I nearly fainted. Little ceramic dishes to place wooden spoons while cooking, all designed like pastries: toast, croissants, muffins. I couldn’t bear to insult the different pastries by choosing between them, so naturally I selected three of each. In another section: green-onion slicers, sausage molds, built-in butter grater knives. I was angry with myself for having never understood I deserved more than a butter grater and a butter knife; I deserved both in one. Daiso showed me possibilities for living I could have never foreseen. I realized the store had figured it all out: usefulness, when married to the aesthetically pleasing, adds a shiny gloss to the pursuit of capitalist perfection as we inch closer to death with every passing second. Far from horrifying, Daiso transformed death’s approach into a satisfying, consumer-focused experience.
My basket was growing heavy, yet it appeared bottomless. When I passed the snack aisle (chocolate in the likeness of mushrooms!), I noticed M pacing impatiently outside the store. He widened his eyes and snapped a finger against his watch. When irritated, he looked old and tired (and he was already twelve years my senior). I couldn’t fathom why M was so upset; he was the one who’d bought me the strawberry pajamas. In a way, all of this—the stranglehold of cuteness around my neck—was his fault.
But the thought of M floated away the second I reached the stationery aisle. Good God, what was more perfect, more holy, than stationery? Though I could not recall the last time I had used any, a primordial urge compelled me to gather all the pens, folders, and sticky notes stamped with sea creature illustrations. How friendly the whale’s spout, how uplifting the otter’s paw! Together, they would give shape to my shapeless days. With the right stationery, I would become the kind of woman so neat and orderly that the ends of her hair would never dare to split.
When I passed by the window, M was angrily waving his arms at me, nearly jumping up and down. A few elderly grandmas eyed him, then pursed their disapproval at me. I only recognized M after studying him for a full minute—who was this watery-looking man dressed from head to toe in fleece? My husband? Oh.
But I was quickly distracted by the scrapbooking section (I resolved, at that moment, to begin scrapbooking) followed by the organizational section: crates, trays, and boxes in every imaginable shape and size. Picturing all my new possessions immaculately displayed in clear containers made me a little teary. My apartment would transform into a Daiso of its own.
How much time had passed? By then, the store had swelled with more shoppers. I paused by the doors, where newcomers’ faces lit up with a purity of ecstasy as they witnessed the wall of sensibly priced house slippers for the first time. I envied them; the moment seemed a lifetime ago for me.
I turned around and saw M staring slack-jawed in my direction. He tried to enter the store, but the swarm of shoppers would not be penetrated; he bounced off them like the fruit-shaped erasers in my basket. The mall was empty. A lone janitor coaxed forward a mop bucket on wheels as the lights blinked off behind him. M looked at me in astonished disbelief, as if he’d just lost a game he did not know we were playing. I laughed and returned to the warmth of the store. I felt no joy out there, not close to the joy I felt in Daiso. Night had fallen outside these four walls, but in here, daylight persisted—always.
Hours dissolved into days and weeks and months. I waited for the employees to kick me out or to gently touch my wrist and ask, “Aren’t you tired?” or “Would you like to sit down?” I waited to feel tired or the urge to sit down. But they seemed to understand, as did I, that I belonged here and always had. My presence no longer registered, so much had I blended into the other objects. Me and Daiso, Daiso and I. What was so different from me and this tea cozy, anyway? Neither of us needed to eat or drink or sleep if we didn’t feel like it.
M no longer waited for me outside the store. I assumed he had left to find the most authentic dumplings in Flushing, a favorite pastime of his. He hated it when I disagreed with him over a dumpling’s authenticity. His pained face, erased from my field of vision, brought instant relief as if a painful blemish had finally ruptured. Let M have his authentic dumplings. I didn’t want them or him. I asked myself what purpose M served in my life and came up blank. Compared to everything around me, he was . . . useless.
Daiso anticipated all my desires before I could name them. When I browsed various kitchen contraptions—the things I could do to eggs—I felt calm, fulfilled, even blissful. Who needed antidepressants when sushi-shaped pillows sufficed?
“A nail clipper that catches nail clippings,” I murmured, slipping it into my basket. “Why yes . . . why hadn’t I thought of that before?”
In here, not a thing was out of place. In here, I wanted for nothing.