Jason stood in front of me, expectantly, as I pondered my purchase. His black jacket was smudged with foundation and he smelled like cigarettes, especially when he leaned in to apply the products that I was sampling.
“I’ll take the primer, the powder, the concealer, the brushes…and the eye cream. I don’t need any moisturizer,” I said, finally.
“Great! Just meet me up at the register and we’ll get you rung up.” Jason had some odd tic where he drew his breath in sharply and quickly through his teeth every few words.
At the counter, I went through the motions of signing up for some loyalty card and dumped the free samples that I’d earned into my purse. I fingered my credit card while Jason totaled my order. I couldn’t afford all of this stuff, but I wanted it.
“Okay, Kelly, that’ll be $115 even,” said Jason cheerily as his eyes darted toward the credit card machine.
My face flushed at the total. I felt shameful about my indulgence. $115 could buy nearly two weeks of groceries. I swallowed and slid my card through the machine and signed my name on the screen as Jason made chit chat with me about my job and my life. My name stared back at me from the oddly soothing light blue screen, choppy, pixelated, and more awkward than my regular signature. It was like a cartoon of commerce.
$115 got me a small bag that barely weighed anything at all. The eye cream was the priciest item. I had asked Jason about the dark, baggy circles under my eyes and had quickly added that I’d always had them, even when I was little. I realized that I always explained this unfortunate feature of mine away before anyone suggested that I was tired, or sad, or stressed out, or melting into the earth, eyes first.
“Well, they’re hereditary,” Jason explained, which instantly made me feel a little better. It wasn’t my fault, you see. The bags weren’t there because I’d only slept a few hours a night for years or because I cried too often about things that I can’t change. “But this cream will keep that area moisturized and minimize the darkness by…” Jason droned on, spouting what I knew was probably pseudo-science dreamed up by the cosmetics industry.
My eye cream. It sounded so grown up. Of the things that I purchased that day a few weeks ago, it would turn out to be the one that I use most often. When the cream dried, it would stiffen slightly, making the skin underneath my eyes feel tighter, making me feel a little bit cured somehow.
I owned eye cream. I was someone who bought a product called, “eye cream.” This spur-of-the-moment purchase at Sephora wasn’t just a 4 ounce pump of white goo but a rite of passage.
The baby and I squinted in the morning light and I glanced down at him and winked. Up close he looked big, but he would pace a few feet away from me and I couldn’t believe how tiny he still looked.
“You look old,” he said, out of nowhere.
“Well, thanks,” I muttered.
“You do. You look old.”
“I’m not saying that to be mean.”
“Quit saying, “Thanks,” all sarcastically!”
“Well, what do you want me to say? ‘Yeah, you’re right. I’m old. Think I’ll just croak right here.'”
It wasn’t an angry conversation. I wasn’t even that hurt by his observation. The cracks in the veneer that start to show up on my people my age must look like giant canyons and vast forests of gray hairs. Everything is huge when you’re that little.