Rosaline pretends to peruse the aisle, faking interest in the various products. From hundreds of different, expensive band-aids to cleaning products for cuts. Her mama always scoffs at the marketed band-aids. “You are your own band-aid, mija. Those scabs your body produces, those are your all-natural band-aids, not these five-dollar knockoffs.” But Rosaline always wanted the knockoffs because they had cars and princesses on them. All-natural band-aids didn’t have Disney princesses on them that you could show off to your friends. All-natural band-aids were boring.
Rosaline moves on to the next aisle, prolonging her trip. Ah, the card aisle. An overpriced, impersonal card for every occasion. Rosaline would gag if she received a ‘happy anniversary, honey’ card. How unoriginal. Picking up a birthday card, she smirks at the dad joke: How do pickles celebrate their birthday? They relish them. Her friends always teased her for her terrible sense of humor. Putting the card back, she turns to leave the aisle.
A boy with a red vest smiles at her. The sticker that says his name is Max is tilted. “Miss, can I help you find anything today?” he asks with his best customer service voice.
Instinctively, Rosaline shakes her head quickly. The word no hangs in her mouth.
“Alright,” he smiles. “If you need anything, I’m here to help.” With that parting phrase, he walks away, off to serve the next customer.
Shaking slightly, Rosaline drags herself to the Feminine aisle. As she moves one foot then the other, the feeling that stone after stone is placed inside her backpack increases. When she finally makes it inside the aisle, she hutches from carrying the weight of a boulder.
With stiff fingers, she clumps down on the first test she sees. Her mama always says her hands resemble a claw machine when she’s nervous. If the aliens from Toy Story were here, they would oooh and ahhh. Giggling from her awful joke and the absurdity of this moment, she rushes as if her pants were on fire to the check-out station.
She places her single item on the counter. Her hands are shaking, so the item clatters a little. The thump sounds like the first toll of a bell tower. She holds her breath, waiting for the successive tolls to come.
“This all?” The cashier asks as she scans the item, the beep a shrill scream.
Rosaline nods her head, her eyes still trained on the fuzzy carpet. The weight of the boulder gets heavier; it starts to crush her lungs.
“Cash or credit?” The cashier asks, unaffected.
Rosaline withdraws a crumpled-up twenty from her pocket. The claw releases the bill just like it does in the games.
The cashier flattens the bill and tap-tap-taps on the screen. “Thirteen seventy-eight paid with a twenty means your change is six twenty-two,” the cashier says in a monotone voice. Pulling a five and a one from the till, she lays it on the counter. “We’re short on change right now, is that okay?” Again, the same monotone voice.
Rosaline nods quickly and shoves the bills into her pocket. She starts to turn away when she remembers the test. Slinging her backpack over one shoulder, she struggles to unzip the bag. When her fingers finally grasp the zipper and pull it open, she throws the test in and hurries away. One foot, then the other. The boulder is heavier now; it chokes her.
The bell dings as she pushes the door open. Goodbye! It shouts.
Gasping yet unable to breathe, Rosaline stumbles. Somehow, as the world is tilting and spinning and blurring, Rosaline makes her way to a bench. When her body plops down, Rosaline rips her backpack from her shoulders. But the boulder remains. It remains there as the world gets smaller and smaller, shakier and shakier, and infinitely harder.