I go there because the teacher has asked for supplies. As I pull my car into the far side of the parking lot, I look around to make sure no one sees me going in. It feels a little sketchy and exciting, like going to the wrong side of the tracks. Ponytailed ladies walk in the door speaking to each other in Spanish, and another woman simply says ‘Da’ as she answers her Bluetooth.
The cosmetics aisle catches my eye, with its colorful packages of glitter lip gloss and foundations in the shades too light and too dark for me. A black woman with cropped white hair examines some packages of face powder. “964… 975… what’s the difference? They look the same to me.” Don’t stare at her, just keep moving. I am just there for the hand sanitizers and liquid soap. For the first, there are two flavors: neon yellow lemon and neon green aloe. I pick two of the aloe — hoping the scent won’t turn off seven year-olds as they squirt the goo on their palms before eating their turkey sandwiches and granola bars. Jergens Original is the only liquid soap, so I grab two of those as well. The scent, creamy with cherries and almonds, reminds me of my mother and my mother-in-law.
I head for the cash register, as there is only one line and I am running late. The woman ahead of me has spread her foil roasting pans all over the counter, and I juggle my load in my arms. I spy Prego spaghetti sauce. Too sweet for me, but it’ll do. I run to snag a jar, and when I return a middle-aged engineer in his short sleeves has taken my place. “Please, go ahead,” he motions me on.
“Thank you,” I tell him, as I grab a water bottle from the cooler.
The cashier has black rings the size of coins in his earlobes. Not through the lobes, but in them, stretching out the skin. As he scans my items, I chastise myself. “Why didn’t I choose more? Can’t I spend more than four dollars on my son’s class?” But the recession mentality has gripped me. Every dollar counts. A penny saved is a penny earned.
Behind the register there are more items: Jonas Brothers pens, cartoon character washcloths folded into compact packages, lemon scented hand sanitizer. “Throw in two more of those,” I instruct earring boy. The total, including my extras: eight dollars. A practical price for a little thrill.