Unravel (Colorado Springs)
11 June 2017
I had my hands full of Macy plastic bags. I had spotted the exit and was on my way out – when one of the ladies at the cologne aisle locked eyes with me. She was brunette, buxomed and a beautiful Greek nose. “Did you find everything you were looking for?”
I smiled. “Most of it.” Then I stopped. I turned to her, “Do you happen to sell Dunhill cologne? The last bottle I bought was in Hong Kong – and I can’t seem to find anyone in Colorado that sells it.”
Her dark brown eyes went upwards as she was thinking. Then sadly she shook her head. “No. We don’t stock Dunhill.”
I shrugged. “Okay.”
But she was the eternal sales woman and she threw out there, “Are you looking for something that is more woody or…”
“Woody,” I said quickly.
“How about this,” and she turned to pull a sample bottle from behind her. And away we went as she went brought out several bottles with coffee beans to reset my nasal palette.
It was time to pay and she had talked me up to take a size larger than the travel size because she said she would give me a discount. And then I went ahead and asked the obvious question I had been waiting to ask.
And I knew that maybe she wouldn’t want to answer directly. Most people in the age to Trump like to say if you ask where they are from – they will say America. Just like when I was in Hong Kong – I always said when a Honkee taxi driver asked, “Where are you from?”
The cabbie would look in his rear view mirror and ask again, “Where are you from originally?”
And I relented and would say, “USA.”
“Cash or credit.” The Macy’s sales lady asked.
There was an awkward pause as I dug out my wallet from my pocket. “Where are you from?” I paused. “I mean if you don’t mind me asking.”
She stopped everything and looked at me directly. “No I don’t mind. I am from Afghanistan.”
“Oh okay. Wow how long have you lived here?”
She also went motionless and looked directly at me. Almost like she was piercing my soul. “I would rather not say.”
I shook my head apologetically. I should haved started to unwind what I said but I plunged ahead. “I understand. Sorry for asking.”
“Do not be sorry. I am not sorry you asked.”
“You must be bored here in little ol’ Colorado Springs.”
“No, it’s beautiful here. And my family is all here. I brought them when I came.”
“Were you in the military?”
She nodded. “Yes I was an English translator in the war. The military snuck me and my family out.“ She waited a second or two before adding, “We had nothing left when we came here.”
“I was in Pakistan – Islamabad and Lahore.”
She raised her hand in-between us. “Are you trying to say that Pakistan and Afghanistan are the same? Because it’s not.”
“No. I was in Pakistan on multiple occasions during the war…”
“…And?” She said it like she was throwing at a period to my thought.
I had no specific direction anymore. And I suddenly could see I had nowhere to go from here.
She finally typed on the Point of Sale system and read off how I much I owed.
“Do you ever get a chance to go back to visit?”
She looked at me, “Afghanistan?”
She was quiet. “No, there is nothing left.”
I slid my card down the spine of the credit card / debt card reader.
“Your card has a chip?”
I sheepishly nodded and then shoved the card into the card reader. After I put my PIN number in she handed my new Macy’s bag – one of suddenly four I was holding on to.
Suddenly her demeanor returned to Macy’s sales clerk. “Thank you so much. And looking forward to you coming back.”
I mumbled something off with an overcompensating smile.
While walking out into the mall area, consolidating my plastic bags across my digts on my left hand, I wondered about all she had sacrificed to work at Macy’s. I wondered what those eyes that bore through me had seen. And how did a woman with beauty, body like hers – pushed her way forward in the midst of war to choose a side – our side – the Americans - and think she could make a difference.
Then she translated while watching it all unravel.