EVERYTHING MUST GO!Flyers and pamphlets and signs and clothes that were too tight around the hips the first
time around scream:
SUMMER CLEARANCE SALE! EVERYTHING MUST GO!
Those bleeding, blaring red letters make it sound like a propagated ultimatum
With an or else… in invisible parentheticals lurking behind the cash register's lofty chrome pretense
There is a clerk, smothered in aromatic advertisements for
What seems to be the entirety of the makeup department, smiling benignly in her
Stream-lined blouse, propped up serenely behind signs that scream like your by now accosted nostrils
75 PERCENT OFF!
BEST DEAL ANYWHERE!
HURRY, THIS UNFORGETTABLE OFFER ENDS NEXT WEEK!
Smiling, she is, as if to say, "Well, not to reek of desperation, in any way…"
Somehow we get a hold of the infamous price gun, that day,
That girl I work with—yes, the one with all the notorious piercings—and I
We do the only thing that makes sense
To two true, blue, passive-aggressive teenage girls in the sticky summer air of a summer job with nothing else to do (save 50 percent on complain...)
We take the store at gunpoint, we shoot up the garish, pastel old lady leisure suits with elastic waists that stretch to premature assumptions,
We turn on the cheerful euphemism after euphemism that hardly cover the Pretty-Plus Miss section
Then we storm the Men's, neck after unapologetically hideous neck tie that has faithfully accompanied man after man
Found dangling from the ceiling of
Stifling chromatic cubicle after cubicle to his final meeting,
Returned faithfully by widow after widow with hungry eyes in brash flower-print sundresses with absentminded price tags swinging and too much perfume
We open fire on those fragrant, seductive genies of impulse-buy and an excess of glittery blue eye shadow,
That crawl out of misty green bottles with a rub, and a spritz, and a "come hither"
We label them for what they are: cheap,
Two girls in red-striped blouses and HELLO, MY NAME IS tags on an armed crusade for suburban truth (there is none)
Undaunted, we wade through shoes without feet
Boxes without shoes,
And noncommittal little footies strewn on the floor
The acrid smell of rubber soles,
A reminder of the certain lack thereof
Of soles without souls
Even that does not stop us on our quest to label and define
Proudly, we stalk our victims, giggling incognito among mothballs
On twirling metal elliptical orbits of last year's forsaken polka-dotted fads and 80's throwbacks
We attack unwitting mothers with strollers and bleary eyes and engorged diaper bags
With the precision of snipers and the laughter of children
And then the kicking, cooing legs of restless, priceless infants sportingly sport price tags,
As their mothers' chipped manicured hands claw halfheartedly at the targeted backs of their legs,
Just above their Birkenstocks and rolled-down socks,
With Mona Lisa stares into the distance, like the memory of a touch…
Or perhaps a forgotten item on life's shopping list
And now that we've robbed the cradle and the minivan alike,
We press the weapon of mass bargain-hunting, cool, to our own brows
Laughing as we label, for greater ease of price comparison
Then abruptly, she turns her face of studs and bars, bars that you could hang wrinkled, discarded, once-worn clothes on, and wants to know, "So, how much are you worth?"
I laugh it off, like consumer violence, like sale stampedes, but she proceeds—
"No, really. How much would you sell your soul for?"
I respond with a vigor and defiance shoplifted from punk rock albums in plastic safes and wish I too had a nose ring to go along with my words
"Not for anything in the whole wide world. Not for free skinny jeans, or limousines, or the moon on a string, or my face on a glamour magazine, or for Johnny Depp's lovechild…"
And with words like these, we could only be seventeen and frivolous and free and so we smiled
And I believed my self, my words stickered and shelved,
But then came you
Then you walked in through the automatic doors with the air of the alluring outside world and of someone with enough money in his pockets to buy him the moon
But you didn't want the moon
And damn it, you had me at 99.9 percent off the ticketed price, one time, one offer, only
For you, and you only
I hate you for making me make innuendos as classy as the ravenous widows in flowered dresses and spritzed at the wrists with Husband #9
"I would take it all off for you!" (How embarrassing)
Not to reek of desperation in any way…
For pressing me to the lofty chrome pretense where the wooden cashier watches impassively, cheap department store perfume drowning out all else
And your arms that were too tight around the hips the first time around
THIS UNFORGETTABLE OFFER ENDS TOMORROW!
And so you kiss me beneath the muted, flickering institutional lights,
Bumping against the sign that warns, "You are now entering the Women's Department"
"HELLO, MY NAME IS " clatters to the cheap linoleum
And I notice that you taste like lie after unapologetically hideous lie, so sweet
You tilt my chin with a perusing hand, peel the price sticker off my forehead,
A nonretractable act of purchase and possession, you cannot return me
Nor can I return to the swirling elliptical orbits of last year's fashions and
Giggling momentary allies with nose rings and
Gurgling toddlers strapped into metallic, barred shopping cart seats,
Who kick and kick and would run if they could
But would never really get anywhere
YOU WILL NOT GET A BETTER OFFER ANYWHERE!
And you sweep me off my feet at closing with a snaggle-toothed broom with all the gum wrappers and crumpled receipts and all the stupid things that people forget,
Wrap me up, and take me home,
The stoplight-red of the sale signs above continue to shout, admonitory now, implore
Let us not speak the name of desperation in invisible parentheticals, but—
EVERYTHING MUST GO