Prompt Day #237: Invent a “secret Department” for one of the department stores you’ve visited in the mall.
When You Find It, You’ll Know
The girls and I walk into the mall like we do every Saturday after soccer practice. Today, though, I lag a little behind and they don’t seem to notice. They are talking about something serious, probably a guy or a stupid assignment in Biology, the only class I don’t take with them. I don’t mind, I hang back, let them talk. I don’t feel like talking much today anyways, in fact, I don’t really feel like going into the mall. The air feels so cool and fresh. Even though it just rained, there is no heaviness to it. It’s as if the sky has cried itself dry and is determined to start all over.
We head to the food court for lunch but I don’t feel like eating either. Maybe I’m depressed, would I know if I was? I’m really not hungry. I sit with them anyways and watch them eat their cheese fries and tacos. No one is talking now, they stare at their phones, advancing the screens with their thumb on one hand and picking bits of bacon off the fries with the other. They always waste so much food. Maybe that’s why I don’t feel like eating today. I’m tired of feeling like the fat pig every time I finish my food while they dissect their’s apart, eating microscopic bits like grooming monkeys.
There’s no need for a discussion of where to go next; it’s always the same: Macy’s because it’s either homecoming or Prom dress shopping or swim suit season. We’ll spend hours trying shit on and no one will buy anything. We always come back alone or with our moms who shell out the cash. We can’t be burdened with heavy bags all day. My mom never questions this either, she just comes along and pulls out her bank card. I should thank her. I never say thanks, I never tell her how great she is. I should do that.
I wander around the store while they try on their dresses. Shoes, hats, jewelry none of it interests me. I turn to head back to the fitting rooms and notice an alcove that I don’t recall ever seeing before. There’s a shelf full of make-up, a brand I’ve never seen, and another shelf with lotions, shampoos, and powders. The clothes in this area are all washed out colored bohemian styles. They make me think of Stevie Nicks.
I’m drawn in by the strangeness of this new department; completely out of place in this otherwise typical mall anchor store. I start with the make-up. Every shade has a red or purple tint to it and they are all in little vials. In the next shelf down, there are boxes with all sorts of airbrush guns. In the box, there is one larger vial with a brownish liquid. It has a label that says “Shadows”. I look at the other vials. They have names like “Blushing” and “Summer” and “Everyday”.
I move on to the hair and body section. I pick up a random shampoo: “Bug No More”. What the hell kind of shampoo is that and what is it doing in a store like Macy’s? I grab a lotion, and turn it so I can see the label. “Living Skin”. I shove it away from me and step back. I run my hand through my hair. It’s matted and clumped with something, bits of something fall to the carpet. I bend down and pick them up. Glass and clumps of hair matted with blood. I feel a hand on my shoulder and jump.
“Oh, Honey, are you just finding out?” The woman speaking to me is a pale but elegant woman with silver hair done in the high helmet style that old women seem to love. She is wearing a pink blazer and pencil skirt. She certainly could be an employee of Macy’s.
“I” I stutter “I think something happened to me.” I manage.
“Well, you wouldn’t be here in this section if it hadn’t.” She rubs my upper arm and smiles kindly. “I can help you with your hair right now if you want.” She reaches for the shampoo with crippled arthritic fingers but has no problem folding them around a bottle.
“Of course, if you want to wait a few days, your family will have you looking good as life.” She tilts her head as if waiting for an answer.
“Am I dead?” I finally manage.
“Yes, Darlin’. I’d venture to guess you were in a car accident.” She picks a piece of glass out of my forehead. “It’s not unusual for girls who die young to find out this way, in this department. We call it the Life After Department.” She gives me a minute to get it. I don’t respond. “You know, because it’s the products you need for your life after death. It goes on, you know.”
I nod although of course I don’t know. “So now what?” I finally ask.
“Let’s get you cleaned up and dressed. You’ll want to go to your family tonight, comfort them. Occasionally in these very early days, one may even see you, let’s not frighten them too much.”
She grabs some products off the shelf and leads me to the morgue.