Jake combed each aisle and could barely find the items that he came to the store to buy. It was slim pickings at best―all the milk was dated and was about to expire in a few days, and the store didn’t have the deli meat that he normally bought. However, he was able to get a 12-pack case of Pepsi, bread, and eggs and got some essentials like toilet paper, paper towels, cocoa butter lotion, and toothpaste. The checkout lines weren’t long at all, and he was at the cash register in no time. When he reached the cashier, he noticed that there was only a credit card machine and not a cash register at the front of the checkout counter belt. He also noticed that all of the other lines were strictly automated, and the customers were scanning and bagging their own groceries.
“Y’all don’t take cash anymore?” Jake asked.
“Nope, just debit and credit cards,” the lady cashier answered.
“When did this happen?”
“They swapped out all of the cash registers earlier last week.”
Jake pulled out his debit card and inserted it into the credit card machine. He then typed in his PIN and got his receipt.
“Have a good day,” the cashier said.
“Thanks, you do the same.”
He left the store and strolled back home with three plastic bags in one hand and the case of Pepsi in the other. He was still reeling over seeing his girlfriend Leah kissing that other guy and was pissed over the fact that he had just spent nearly a hundred dollars on the few grocery items he had bought. It took him fifteen minutes to get home, and he put away his stuff before heading out to his friend Mike’s apartment. His phone rang before he could get out the front door.
“Hey, what’s up, Brian?”
“Can you pick up a case of beer on your way over here?”
“Yeah, what y’all drinking?”
“Budweiser is cool.”
He quickly locked his front door behind him and hopped in his 2024 black Chevy Camaro with tinted windows and chrome rims that was parked in front of his house. There was a liquor store a block from Cottage Grove Avenue on 87thStreet, so he parked in front of the store and went inside. There were a stack of 24-pack of Budweiser on sale for $34.99, so he grabbed one and walked toward the front of the store to pay for it. He then pulled out two, crisp twenty-dollar bills from his pocket and handed them to the cashier.
“Debit or credit only,” the cashier said.
“Huh?” Jake was stunned. “You don’t accept cash anymore?”
“Where have you been? There was a major announcement on the news last week that all cash will no longer be in circulation by the end of the year. I got the jump on switching out my two cash registers for these two credit card terminals a couple of days ago.”
“Damn, I knew that the Federal Reserve was gonna do away with cash soon, but I didn’t expect it to be this soon, though.”
“Yeah, you better spend your cash and coins asap before it’s too late. Everybody’s starting to switch over, and soon you won’t be able to use cash anywhere.”
Jake inserted his chipped debit card, and the cashier handed him his receipt moments later.
“Take care,” the cashier said.
He quickly hopped back in his car and drove off. He knew that change was on the horizon but was out of the loop because he hadn’t been keeping up with the news lately or the subtle transgressions of his ex against him for that matter. He was too wrapped up in work as an associate attorney for a law firm in the West Loop to even notice. He took Stony Island Avenue to Hyde Park and was parked in front of Mike’s apartment on 57th and Stony Island before the parking spaces began to be filled. Mike buzzed him in a few minutes later, and he took the stairs up to the second floor of the apartment complex. Mike had left the door slightly ajar.
“What’s up Mike?” Jake gave him some dap.
“Nothing much,” Mike answered. “Where were you earlier?”
“I wasn’t feelin’ it today,” Jake answered, giving Brian dap as well. “Besides, my ankle is still sore from the last time we played.”
“But that was three weeks ago,” Mike said.
“He’s getting old,” Brian joked. “Those old bones don’t heal like they used to.”
“Whatever, man,” Jake said. “So, where’s everybody?”
“They all said they got shit to do, so it’s just the three of us,” Brian answered.
“Well, I wish you would’ve said something, bro…I would’ve bought a 12-pack instead.”
“Damn, cheap ass,” Brian said. “You can afford it, big time.”
“This shit ain’t cheap, man,” Jake said. “That goddamn engagement ring set a brutha back.”
“Did you propose yet?” Mike asked.
“Why not?” Brian asked.
“We broke up last night,” Jake said solemnly.
“Are you okay?” Brian asked.
“Nah, but I will be,” Jake answered. “I really don’t have the time or the luxury to feel sorry for myself.”
“Yeah, but that shit still has to hurt, bro,” Mike added. “You two were together for a while.”
“Yeah, three long years,” Jake said. “I tried my best to make her happy, but nothing I did was ever good enough.”
“Maybe it’s for the best, Jake,” Brian said.
“Yeah, it is…I saw her earlier today at Jewel with another dude. I saw them in the parking lot, and they kissed right in front of me.”
“Damn, did they see you?” Mike asked.
“Nah, they drove off and never saw me.”
“You should’ve confronted her ass,” Brian said.
“For what?” Mike asked. “She ultimately did your ass a favor, Jake.”
Jake ripped the cardboard case open and grabbed a beer and asked, “Y’all want one?”
“Yes, pass me one,” Mike answered, “and I’ll put some in the freezer.”
Jake handed Mike two beers, and Mike handed one to Brian before he grabbed a handful of the bottles and put them in the freezer.
“Can I get a glass of ice?” Jake asked.
“Me, too,” Brian said.
“I got you,” Mike answered them.
“You want a slice of pizza, Jake?” Mike asked.
“Yeah, as long as it’s cheese,” Jake answered.
“We bought you a medium,” Brian added.
“Cool, I’ll get it,” Jake said.
Mike came back to the living room of his diminutive, one-bedroom apartment and turned on the television. The pregame broadcast for the Bulls vs. Pacers first-round playoff game was on.
“Good, the pregame is on,” Mike said.
Jake took a bite of his cheese pizza slice and said, “You know I only paid $35 for this case of beer…it’s on sale at the liquor store off 87th and Cottage.”
“Yeah? I paid $50 the last time I bought a case a beer,” Mike said.
“Everything’s so damn high,” Brian added.
“And nobody’s accepting cash anymore either,” Jake said.
“Yeah, that’s crazy,” Mike said.
“I don’t carry cash no more anyway,” Brian said. “What y’all gonna do when they make it mandatory to get chipped?”
“I don’t know,” Mike said, “I don’t know. I guess I thought it wouldn’t happened in our lifetime, but it’s right here in our faces.”
“What about you, Jake?”
“I’m not doing that shit.”
“How you gonna eat?”
“I’m not worried about that…the Lord got me.”
“Ugh, there you go with the Lord got me shit…you think you’re special, don’t you?”
“What’s your problem, man?!”
“When it all goes down, you gonna cave in just like everybody else.”
“Just chill out, Brian, alright?” Mike implored him.
“I didn’t take the jab, so what makes you think that I’m gonna take the chip, huh?!”
“Man, you’re stupid…I lost a lot of family members because of COVID, and you just march around like you’re invincible and shit.”
“It’s my choice to refuse a jab or a goddamn chip, so what you’re saying right now doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot to me, Brian!”
“You’re probably one of the main people who spreading this shit!”
“I said chill out, goddamnit!” Mike shouted.
“I’m chill, Mike,” Jake said calmly, “and I’m out.”
“Yeah, get your punk ass outta here,” Brian scoffed. “I don’t know why I even invited you over here anyway.”
“Enjoy the beer, man,” Jake gave Mike a hug and dap, and he motioned toward the door and left.
Jake stood by his car for a moment and thought about how he lost his girl and best friend in less than a twenty-four-hour span. He then shook his head and said to himself, “I can’t believe Brian came at me like that…shit, what more can happen to me right now?”
He then hopped in his car and sped off toward 57th Street before he made a right turn at the light and another right onto Cornell Drive.