Dry cleaners, black pants, me dropping off this morning.
I check pockets, front and back, my hands inspecting the silk lining.
One was a pair we brought from the US, what quality.
Two pants, zubbon, ni hon, two pairs.
Red member card, black pants, every thread smooth
while I sneaked a look at the clerk’s hair, so clearly a hair piece.
He smokes near the front door, then strides inside, when a customer arrives.
Nothing phases this man and in the maybe three years we’ve gone to him, he’s never really inquired about our whereabouts
or done much more than smile. He is a smile.
He, with his salt and pepper plume, everyday pressed fresh polos. Longish nails, maybe a bit yellowed, pushing buttons on his computer. Uchiyama san.
Folding the pant leg, my elbow bumps my handbag and a sudden spray of the contents–clatter go three tubes of lipgloss, two Herbert Smith plastic pens, the good ones, and the pummpphh of my wallet, vintage canvas Dior. He leaned over the width of the white laminate counter and BAM, my leopard flat coming down on the obvious tampon, blue and white plastic wrapper. He gave a bit of a laugh. Oh, man. Bam, if it were a roach, it’d be dead.
This, in a culture that says lipstick is for applying at home. Eating is for the dining room, not on a train, certainly not while walking out in public. Drugstore clerks package such feminine products, along with condoms and all that other private stuff, in opaque black bags. They tape the top and that is that.
Oh no, another one. My cheeks pale as I clopp on another misfit tampon, which, again, he sees, right now.
“Do you have anything more down there?” Oh, wait. He points. His fingernail, his hand and gaze don’t lie; there, just under the cutouts of white lace grazing the tile floor is my mascara tube. Thank you. Excuse me. Thank you and excuse me.
All these things meant for home. This is why women use quilted pouches, any pouches. It is more feminine, perhaps, to keep these things out of public view. Sometimes it is good to protect or maintain what is personal.
I didn’t grow up with my mom teaching me all of these things. I didn’t improvise, clearly. We didn’t have such mother/girl time as that. In the short moments picking up my mascara, I remember an awful thing: it is ninth grade. I have a heavy backpack. I have a heavy need to both blend in and especially, only gorgeously stick-out. I may have even carried my drill team wooden rifle. Boom, my back is struck with the weight of some enormously big kid. My books fall. Papers are strewn, absolutely strewn and I am suddenly in a an afterschool special, white papers blowing. Why did I have so many papers? Could they not have been better secured? The hulktacular football player is gone, but you know what’s there? I have a faint recollection that there, on the ground of JP Taravella High School were tampons or liners, one of them. They are many. I am mortified while a stream
I zip close my pocketbook. It is so deliberate, a dainty, pinky-up action with ferocity.
I almost want to show him; look, I will not make this mistake again.
I push out the kickstand and I am whirring back home.