Say, What Ever Happened To Vidal Sassoon?
He was making better money now, surely they could afford it she thought as she stood, overwhelmed by the selection and the tubed fluorescent glare of the bulbs. Pantene Pro-V, Clairol Herbal Essences, Neutrogena, Mane ’n Tail-it had been years since she’d bought a bottle of shampoo. She was both embarrassed and excited by the prospect. “A useless expense,” her husband would say, “money’s better spent on something important,” as he would dump out his travel kit-a tumbling battalion of tiny complimentary shampoo and conditioner bottles. This after every sales trip, going on 6 years now. He’d stand there, hands on hips, actually proud of it. Of course he never brought back the one thing she could use, the hand lotion, never really seemed to think about her at all. She’d asked him why once, but he never gave her an answer. The whole damn situation had grown to infuriate her.
She snapped open lid after lid, squeezed the bottle and secretly sniffed. She didn’t want anyone to see her of course, it seemed terribly inappropriate. The smells were intoxicating. Citrus, tropical, floral, and “clean,” she just didn’t know which one to buy. She stood staring, biting the right side of her bottom lip, contemplating. Vidal Sassoon, where was the Vidal Sassoon? It all came back to her in a rush-it used to be her favorite. She looked up and down the aisle. Nothing. Yes, Vidal Sassoon, an ex-boyfriend of hers, must’ve been ten years past by now, used to love it-insist she use it and only it. She remembered the smell and sensation, her lungs heavy with the swelling must of a hot, humid shower. It had to be Vidal Sassoon.
Her impatience mounted as she searched the shelves. When it became obvious that no bottles were stocked, she looked closer at the price tags mounted to the shelves. Her eyes raced over the prices, her fingers sliding the current plastic tabs aside, revealing old, out-of-date price tags. She searched the chaos for an underlying logic but none emerged, with a desperate few products correctly shelved above their tags. Annoyed she continued on, still quiet, yet more frantically. Still nothing. She needed to know where on the shelf it was at least supposed to be. Suddenly-a bolt of pain. A wince. The hiss of air sucked back in through her teeth as cluster of plastic tags fluttered like drunken moths to the linoleum. A quick flush of blood from a small gash across the meat of her small knuckle, right above her middle fingernail. Inside was a seething wildfire, but she uttered nothing…she simply put the fingertip into her mouth, the metallic taste and stink of iron as she continued to search.
“Finding everything all right?” asked an older woman in a blue smock, an employee, wearing an older wedding ring.
“Yes, thank you,” she said. She caught herself wondering if this woman still loved her husband and if she had ever strayed from her vows. She didn’t know if the woman’s age made that more likely or less likely.
“You okay?” the woman asked, noticing the wound.
“Yeah. No .I just cut my finger is all. It’s nothing.”
“Are you sure I can’t help you?”
“No, really, I’m fine. Thank you.”
“Okay, well, let me know if there’s anything I can help you with,” said the older woman before finally leaving. She wondered if it looked so obvious. She thought, I should just ask her, maybe they have some in the back but couldn’t bring herself to do it. After a few minutes more she gave up—settled for something that, at least in her mind, smelled similar.
She was biting her lip again, still thinking about the check-out girl as she opened the garage. Taut, meaty curves. She could tell the girl was unhappy with her body, as are most at that age. As she rolled the big trash can out into the street she thought of the girl’s lips, terrific lips, pink, sparkled gloss, pretty smile, and her tight curls pulled into a playful tail. As she waved to her neighbor, who was also setting out her trash can for the pick-up tomorrow morning, she felt sure that someday the check-out girl would look back at a photo of herself and think look how cute I used to be.
She checked the answering machine, no messages. That meant she was still supposed to meet her husband on the curb outside of the baggage claim tomorrow. She offered to meet him inside but he quickly fired, “no sense paying for parking…why, just so you can meet me at the fucking baggage claim?…money better spent on something important.” She still didn’t know what was important enough to buy. She pulled a pint of ice cream and her shampoo from the grocery bags. She left the ice cream on the counter to get soft, and took the shampoo for a hot shower upstairs. I mean, it’s not like I bought something from a ritzy-shitzy salon…this was a good price, for a decent bottle of shampoo, she thought as she sat on the toilet. She spun the roll, grabbed a few long squares, wadded them up and wiped. One ply, she fumed, the son of a bitch can’t even be good to his own asshole. She slipped into the shower and lathered her entire body with her new shampoo. She washed her hair 3 times, slowly washed her entire body twice. She turned off the shower and plugged the drain, made suds with the shampoo as the tub filled, refusing to think about next month’s hot water bill. She remembered her Vidal Sasoon ex, the way he used to clamp his hands around her neck. She thought of the check-out girl, her lips. She slowed the water to a steady trickle, ran her legs up the tiles, let the spout drain down on her, into her-the weight of the damp air filled her, breathing fast, sloshing water, tiny wheezes as condensation trickled down the mirror.
Her ice cream, another secret indulgence, another “pointless purchase,” was soupy now—closer to a milkshake than ice cream-just like she liked it. During her last diet she’d tried making protein milkshakes, but gave up when she realized her husband was cutting the milk with water “so it would stretch further.” Every meal she cooked involving milk was ruined, tasteless pap. She often watched him eat his morning bran with the milk-water, wondering how he could choke it down. He simply worked his crossword, never noticing, never once considering the taste, just mechanically shoveling it in. The more she thought about it, the worse it got. Instead of enjoying her ice cream, she ate it with swelling entitlement. She finished it with a big sigh, and lay in her robe on the couch. The couch he wanted. The cheaper one. Everything she saw reminded her of his compromises. I bet he never paid full price for anything in his whole miserable life, she thought. What once seemed sensible even if a little frugal, now carried only regret-what was once security now felt like trapped domination. I should leave the shampoo and the ice cream right on the kitchen counter, she thought, that would show him. She knew things couldn’t continue like this. I mean, what is that cheap bastard gonna buy, the moon? She decided: she was going to leave both the shampoo and empty ice cream tub on the counter, make him ask her. She imagined him asking, and when he did, boy, she was going to let him have it, tell him everything. She was sick of this.
About an hour later she crept out to the street, smuggled the empty carton and what was left of the shampoo into her neighbor’s trash can. The truck would be by before his plane landed, but it was just better to be sure. If either the shampoo or ice cream somehow ended up in the street in front of their house, she might need a plausible explanation. It was just better this way. In the morning she would wash her hair with something from the linen closet, one of the scores of tiny bottles from the Sleep Inn, Econo Lodge, Howard Johnson, Comfort Suites, or Motel 6. After all, she couldn’t have him smell it on her.
He flossed with a small, stiff, colored piece of paper torn from “Local Attractions,” the complimentary guest magazine published by Econosuites—a coupon he planned to use at the breakfast buffet in the morning. He rang the front desk—requested a USA Today, a free razor and shave cream kit, and a 6:35 wake-up call. He decided there was no need to phone his wife as the plan hadn’t changed. Instead he turned on a Baywatch rerun, stretched out naked on the bed, and worked the last of the free Econosuites hand lotion on to his cock. He mechanically tugged as a lifeguard’s breasts bounced in slow motion, and smirked as he thought ha, see that only a sucker would pay for a dirty movie
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