A person isn’t a real writer until she writes about the painful events of life. That’s what I’ve been told. A writer hasn’t found her voice until she sets aside topics like flowers, kittens and kid antics to delve into the darker side of humanity.
I want to be a real writer. Thus, instead of telling you about my cat’s attempt to access our goldfish by drinking the water in the fishbowl, I will compose a harder-hitting story. Instead of glossing over the events of last Saturday, I will write an honest exposition of them.
The CVS cashier tried to make me cry. She examined me and examined my purchases and decided to make her day more interesting at my expense. Puffy eyelids and blood-red eyeballs hinted to her that I’d already had a tear-stained morning and that my raw nerves were vulnerable.
For the record, and this is the truth, I hadn’t been crying. I don’t cry on Saturdays. I’m three weeks post-op from eye surgery that left me looking like I exited the make-up trailer on the set of The Walking Dead. For the first two weeks, I wore sunglasses to spare the public from my horrific countenance. After that I liberated myself. Though I’m much improved, healing takes time. Meanwhile, people make assumptions. Mostly they think I’ve been bawling non-stop for weeks and no doubt develop wild explanations for it. Yes, I feel self-conscious.
The CVS cashier cultivated no compassion for me. She’d been standing behind the counter all morning and her feet hurt and her boyfriend was being a jerk and the chocolate selection on the other side of the counter taunted her and the monotony of her job insulted her intelligence and I was just the person to relieve her despair over her own state of affairs. I appeared worse off than her and if she could provoke an emotional breakdown, then she would have iced her own cake.
My purchases did me no favors: Lotions, potions and hair products with promises of rejuvenation. When I threw the Snickers on the counter, I sank my own leaking rowboat. It was as bad as wearing a sandwich board listing my insecurities on one side and my failures on the other. I’d borrowed Lady Gaga’s meat gown and worn it to a dog kennel.
Scanning my items, the cashier studied the packaging as if trying to memorize the print. I looked at her like she had two heads, but not to intentionally insult her.
I’m seeing double since the surgery and from my perspective she really did have two heads. It foreshadowed her monster within coming out.
Finally she picked up the shampoo and conditioner, Organix argan oil products in the blue bottles, my favorite hair elixirs. I’ve been using them almost since stores started stocking them. “Everyone buys this stuff,” she said.
“I know,” I exclaimed, momentarily believing that I looked human again. “These were the last ones.”
Our eyes connected. She winced. I ducked my head. An apology for foregoing the sunglasses seemed in order. She said, “Is it worth the money? Does this stuff really work?”
Does it work? She tossed her words like stones. My hand reached up as if to deflect their cruel blows. I smoothed my hair and stammered, feebly, “I like it.” “Oh,” she answered.
I wished I’d worn my sunglasses into the store. I wished I could find my voice like a real writer. I wished my hair looked like the stuff works. I wished the cashier’s boyfriend would break up with her and her feet would swell.