This piece was originally published in The Indicator's May 2021 Issue: Ecologies of Care. See the full issue here.
My gaze floats up to her lips, red and drawn into a thin line with a slight upward tilt. She speaks as she looms behind the counter, “Yes, ma’am. SO you’ve purchased the basic package, which is really just the skeleton of the work we do here.” Her eyes widen, and she flips to a random catalog page. I eyeball the receipt book next to her, still awaiting her disorganized scrawl. Her raised brows betray her Cheshire-like smile. “Is that right?”
I hesitate, stumbling slightly over the syllables. “Y-yes?” I curse the unsteadiness in my voice.
Her filed French tips reach for a pen with a feather on top. I watch with mild interest as she begins to write, but—as if on cue—her intern rushes through the front doors. The girl is short, large red frames sitting comfortably on her nose as she observes me. She wrinkles her nose, dropping the large box of self-care items cradled in her arms on top of the desk.
French Tips has restored the pen to its desk holder, but there’s no receipt on the counter. I blink, impatient, and prepare to ask for my money back.
“Oh, honey.” The intern walks my way, cute bob and gray pantsuit heavily influencing me. I back away from her abruptly. She pretends not to notice, grabbing my left hand. “Don’t you know what we sell?”
Blood rushes to my cheeks, and I shift my weight slightly. “I think so.”
Her lips are the same deep red color as her supervisor’s. But her dark brown skin is like my own. As if realizing this, she tilts toward me, dropping her voice low in my ear. “They sell products for people like us. Think about it.” She gives my shoulder a playful nudge. “The one place with our shades too.”
My voice catches somewhere in my throat, and I set my microchip down silently. Finally, I whisper, “And how much is the premium package?”
I don’t think I imagine it. For a split second, she looks disappointed. She looks like I’ve broken her heart. She fashions a sweet smile as she recites the price, adding, “And what a little price to pay with the benefits we sell.”
It’s on the tip of my tongue to ask exactly what they sell, when French Tips returns to the conversation. “Sweetheart, didn’t you hear? We sell care here.”
I don’t question my ability to care for myself. I don’t pursue a relationship with the persevering intern. I simply buy the product that they sell.
They sell care here.