Special Guest Post from my talented cunt of a friend:
My name is Tim. I’m a perfectly-normal looking individual presently existing in the pits of Hades, also known as North County, San Diego. Years back, the biggest attraction around town was the Carlsbad mall. Truly, it’s not the most glamorous of places to be nor something worth gloating about. However, when you’re a teenager, too old for miniature golf at the Family Fun Center (Boomers, you 2000s kids) yet not old enough to break into your first R-rated movie, one has limits where their parents’ cash flow is concerned.
And so recently I stopped through the mall to pick up birthday presents for two friends. One present I knew I could find at both Macy’s and JcPenny’s (or simply, Penny’s; who has time for extra syllables these days, I ask you?). The other was a quick gift card. Figuring it was my day off, I got the oil changed in my Prius (yeah, I’m one of those people), had the tires rotated, calibrated, corner-stoned, and whatever else one can do with tires beside swing in one, then made my way on my very short to-do list.
After cursing under my breath when someone snatched my unclaimed parking spot, I headed into the mall, passing through the doors faster than my gladiator sandals could (note: I will not wear them in the arena. I should’ve taken the note from Katniss, but whatever), and proceeded to Penny’s. Here, I located the perfume to be gifted, caressing the silk of the plastic wrap, and gauged the price versus the size of the container.
(I’ll stop here to acknowledge I’ve only started wearing cologne this year. The designer logo, whose name I cannot pronounce by the embossed text on the box, made the vial that more expensive. However, I love the stuff. I want to spray it on everything then roll around on said everything. Okay, back to story time.)
I came across this particular lady perfume the other day and thought it would be an appropriate birthday gift. After seeing what Penny’s had to offer, I exited the store to find Macy’s. Here’s where the point of this ramble takes shape.
As a giving person, the largest gift I can give the receiver (pun intended, gays) is my time. I always make time for those amusement park team members, hefting heavy, complicated cameras around their necks, asking if I would like my picture taken. Sure, I say. And I say yes because I know they have quotas to meet on a day-to-day basis. Also, should someone be handing out samples of ANYTHING, I’ll swing by, say Thank you, as they did slave over a hot portable microwave for minutes to create my miniature meal, and merrily stroll along until I find the next free food item.
I do not, however, usually stop and converse with those who manage and maintain mall kiosks.
I don’t wear sunglasses, given my incredibly handsome looks in glasses (sizing up to be the bottoms ofCoke bottles before too long) and I haven’t a need for plastic space shooters and their foam disks (…anymore), or to be sold insurance on the spot, or to fill out some election form about candidates of whom I’ve never heard of until that moment when the clipboard flashes in front of my face like lightning. On this day of my much-sought after birthday gift, I was stopped by a man working a kiosk which sold ceramic-plated straighteners, some terribly luminescent bottles of hair conditioner, and lighted mirrors, detailing every crater and crevice on the surface of one’s face should one be brave enough to take the reflective plunge.
There was nothing which interested me to hand over my credit card, so I simply looked the man’s way and smiled. First mistake.
Hi, do you mind if I ask you a question, he asked, proceeding before I actually answered. What do you use for your skin?
As a perfectly-normal looking individual presently existing in North County, I had my fair share of skin problems. In high school, polished skin reigned supreme. I never had acne as a teen, and it wasn’t until my early 20s that the real problem erupted. Literally. On my damn face.
I hated acne. I hated every tube of stuff claiming it had solutions to my problems, or whatever forum I’d find myself browsing where its contributors had tips and secrets from some magical land called their pantry. I did about all you could do to fight my skin. I tried this, didn’t try that; splashed this one on, but remembered not to pick at that. Try as one might, with certain food restrictions to lessen the blow, and drinking buckets of water to purify from the inside out, I still had acne.
And it’s true, I still get it. At 28 years young, I figure (not planning on it, though) I’ll be dealing with adult acne for the better part of my future. Yet it’s manged now. I have a routine that doesn’t involve sand-papering my face into oblivion (out of sight, out of mind?) and that reacts well with my sensitive albeit blemished face.
So this day, the day in question, I felt wonderful about my skin. It looked great, thus I felt great. And then some perfect stranger, Mr. Kiosk himself, stops me on my way to ask about how I keep my face looking so nice. Who wouldn’t linger on a moment longer in case another compliment was on its way?
Answer: NO BODY.
Oh, I say, I use this stuff from Dr. Gilcrest. It’s available online, too. It’s a foam cleanser.
Mr. Kiosk nods, looking away ever so slightly. And what about dry skin? What do you use?
Great, does my skin look like it gets dry? Can you see my true colors? Is my human disguise weathering, revealing the space lizard hidden within?
Just some moisturizer from Wal-Mart. Nothing fancy. I have sensitive skin, though. Especially around my mouth. I do recall in that moment using my finger to draw a circle around my mouth. You know, just in case he’s wondering what hole in my body I’m talking about.
And what about your eyes? He indicates to his own eyes, drooping upside umbrellas in case I, too, am wondering which holes in his body he’s talking about.
Nothing, I say.
You must be 16, 17, 18!
Huh? I ask.
How old are you?
With that, he fist bumps me. There are a million other things I know to do with a fist, however, bumping is usually left to straight guys saying good-bye or when something extremely pleasing occurs that the energy of that greatness can only be facilitated to one’s fist, then, cordially, knocked against a comrade’s. Camaraderie of the 21st century, I suppose.
I can’t help it, but, after being a fool and leaving Mr. Kiosk with his fist raised, untouched, I meekly bring mine to his and lamely brush his knuckles as if we’re in bumper cars and I’m scared to scratch the rubber.
Another thing I cannot help is walking onward toward Macy’s with a smile framing my face. What awonderful thing to say to someone who takes another second in a mirror, praying, Maybe someday, it’ll be gone. I remember walking a little taller down the tiled corridor, watching my reflection in the shops’ windows, like a kaleidoscope of pride and reassurance I deserve some good days to make up for the bad.
At Macy’s, I find the same perfume and buy it up before the counter girl can find another bottle of blue dye to try out on her rainbow head. I let the paper bag swing in my pace, smiling at random people (note: should you find yourself inside the Carlsbad mall of North County, do not smile at random people. They do not like it. As if I’m going to snatch their synthetic fibers off their backs or ask, Wherever did you get that tattoo of a butterfly from? It’s simply unique!). I trot down one escalator trying to find the second store to purchase the gift card. When I do, I’ve wound my way around the mall, what seems to be miles away from Mr. Kiosk and his giving hand.
I make my purchase, throw the gift card into the Macy’s bag, and decide it’s time to leave. Only, and given my memory for recollection (it’s short; like, Find Nemo Dory-short), I need to stop in (and smell) Bath & Body Works. And what do you know, it’s behind Mr. Kiosk! Maybe he’ll smile after our previous conversation (Heavens, those boys can get it every which way ‘til Sunday) and I’ll have made his day because he’s made mine.
Before I make it past the archway of my new destination, Mr. Kiosk is in conversation with another patron. That’s when I hear:
And what about your eyes?
No… He didn’t just ask that, did he? And wait… he’s not making the same motion under his eyes like he did with me, right?
Oh wait. Yes. Yes, he did.
Long story short, I released that notion of good-feeling and a rather regal boast of pride as soon as I smelled my first candle inside Bath & Body Works. But I have to remember were I to work at a mall kiosk the initial ice-breakers and drab pleasantries of introduction can become robotic. In fact, I remember when he asked what I use on my own skin there was a tiredness resonating on his tongue, like he’s asked that question a million times before. So I get it. I get there’s a sales pitch to make, that your job could be on the line if one doesn’t meet their quota, and that even when you do make a sale or your numbers, you have to do it again tomorrow, only better.
I think when I started this loquacious litany, my intent was to find revenge in the person who brought me a minute of joy only to steal it away faster than it was dealt– but I wonder how I would be feeling right now if I never heard him that second time? Would it still be bothersome to me, enough that writing it out in a fever would bring me the bit of solace one deserves? As if evident enough, I did care enough. And when I dish out compliments they’re not ones to make up the room where awkwardness would have crept in. I mean what I say. Thus, it is my advice to you to say someone looks nice and really mean it. Hell, be a dick and compliment their dress makes their arm fat less noticeable, but isn’t it nice knowing some fabric can hide those Bingo arms? Isn’t it?
I close this as I open this bag of chocolate-covered pretzels. I realize chocolate isn’t kosher in respect to the condition of my skin, but ten times out of ten, the need to squander feelings can only be done with food. Yes, I will enjoy them, and yes, it may make my skin flare up. But I’ll be happy. Isn’t that was Mr. Kiosk wanted, too?
And no, I’m not saving you any pretzels. I can, however, tell you to Google your local Trader Joe’s and wish you luck some asshole doesn’t steal your parking spot. My gift to you.