I am standing in line at the CVS. I am about to pay for a pair of sunglasses, two beverages, and two plastic shiny bags filled with peanut butter-related items. I have already paid for the cold medicine because I had to go to the pharmacist to get it. When they ask for my ID, after I request something from behind the counter, I find it a little funny and also a little strange. I wonder briefly if there’s a whole database out there somewhere that is meant for the meth-riddled drug makers of the world but secretly includes only the allergy ridden watery-eyed masses who purchase this kind of shit once a quarter. It seems like a waste, but I forget about it before I’ve even paid my 12.99 and entered my secret code into the machine. I kind of have to sneeze, but hold it because the pharmacist is nice and not full of suspicion, despite carding me for the zyrtec.
I pick up the other items I need, because right now I need peanut butter and energy drinks, and when I get in line there is one customer ahead of me. It’s a mother. Her two children, one boy and one girl, are in the basket that she’s been using to shop with and roll them around in. The kids are of a pair, with dark liquid eyes and unruly black hair. They are both standing up. I guess them to be about three or four. They aren’t twins, but I’m only partially sure that the boy is the older one. The girl, closest to me, slightly turns and peers at me out of her deep pools. She isn’t shy, exactly, but she doesn’t speak and she doesn’t readily smile back when I smile, shyly, at her. But she doesn’t look away, either. She peers and peers, for two or three seconds, and then turns back to her brother.
I notice that both of them have stickers all over their arms. Not stickers, but the tiny adhesive scraps that are left over after you peel off all the stickers. Blocks and lines all over their small limbs, all over the cart, all white and no cartoon character within a mile of their basket. I comprehend these kind of stickers on a fundamental level, and I smile at the girl again, when she turns back to me, still not smiling back. The little boy is talking more than the little girl, and they both keep sticking and unsticking the scraps of plastic adhesive that are everywhere.
The mother may or may not speak English. Either way, she says little. When the cashier asks something about donating this or that amount for this or that charity, something we all know full well she’s absolutely required to do, the mother says, "No, that’s all." This phrase gives no perspective as to her native tongue, because absolutely everyone who checks out here says "No, that’s all."
When the mother’s purchase is complete, I see what she places back into her basket. It’s three puzzle books and one package of sponges. Nothing else, not even a bag to hold her items. The mother isn’t smiling, but that could be for any number of reasons. She could just be keeping quiet because any words she said would be in a language that none of the rest of us speak. It could be because her last fifteen dollars went to her children’s entertainment and cleaning supplies. It could very well be because she’s exhausted.
When they are finished they leave, and even the little girl doesn’t look back at me as their cart rolls them away and out the automatic sliding door of the CVS. When I go to check out, the cashier, an old cranky woman with a long white braid, whom I am very familiar with, asks if I have a CVS card. Another card, my mind sighs. I would start paying extra for people to stop asking me if I have one of their fucking cards.
“Because if you do, these sunglasses are buy one get one free,” she says. Part of me thinks, Two pairs of sunglasses for the price of one! Part of me thinks, But these were the only ones I liked. Part of me says, You could keep one and give away another, without any additional financial cost. Part of me says, quite solemnly, You’re buying one pair of sunglasses, Deva, and zero puzzle books. You’ll wake up tomorrow and you won’t find even one misplaced leftover sticker-piece on your pillow, or under your eyelid, or in your car. Just the sunglasses. And then part of me, a smaller part whose voice is growing up all the time, says, It’s been almost four years, Deva, just punch in your fucking secret code and get back in your car and go home and eat peanut butter.
“No,” I tell the woman with the white braid. “That’s all.”