My gaze floats up to her lips, caked in
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 an irrelevant
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 black
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
My voice catches somewhere in my
throat, and I set my microchip down silently. Finally, I whisper, “And how much is the
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.
Mikayah Parsons ’24 is a staff writer
Grace Davenport ’21 is a staff artist