#8 - Seven of Nine

      "What do you think of these boots?" she asked me.

      The boots were tall, green, ugly.

      "Pretty nice, I like 'em."

      "Do they make my head look too big?"

      They didn't. Her head did, her hair cut did, her tiny eyes did.

      "Nah, no way."

      A paycheck can make a liar out of anybody. I'd been working at the Gap for a month now. I was getting good at lying to customers. It wasn't encouraged; it was demanded, telling the truth would be signing a letter of resignation. They tell you this on the first day, it's part of the training.

      The woman bought the boots, just like the overweight man bought the shirt that was too small and the high school chicks all bought the 'princess' t-shirts.

      "Looks good, I like it"


      "Yeah, matches your... jeans."


      "Does this tank top make me look like Jeri Ryan?"
      "Yep, definitely Jeri Ryan, definitely, I was just thinking it, I was about to ask for an autogr..."
      "Jeri Ryan from Boston Public, or from like, Star Trek?"
      "Oh definitely Boston Public, definitely."


      It was like it didn't matter what they saw in the mirror, as long as there was a 19 year old telling them, "You go get 'em tiger, you crazy, good looking, son of a bitch.” You felt bad the first week, and then the manager tells you you're doing a great job, and you feel even worse. Then after week 2 you just sort of get numb to it. By week 3 you're so bored you need it.

      It wasn’t the idea that this person wasn’t “good looking”. Most people are good looking in their own way, and I wished that I could tell them this. But this wasn’t my job, these people wanting to hear something that wasn’t true about the ugly clothes they were wearing, and it was my job to say it.

      "Does this v-neck cardigan make my eyes look like African cobras, ready to strike?"

      "Oh yeah, oh hell yeah, just a couple of, coiled up, angry mother fuckers."


      * * *

      Last Thursday, a new stock boy started out back, Casper. He hated the Gap, and all its bullshit, he wouldn't last long.

      We would sit on the loading bay and smoke cigarettes he stole from the convenience store across the hallway of the mall. His girlfriend had given him a chain for his birthday, he hated it, so did I. He asked me if I liked it.

      "Yeah, looks good."

      It didn't, it was ugly.

      "Shut up, don't use that sales floor bullshit on me, it's fucking ugly."

      "Yeah alright, it looks like a salamander was chasing his tail around your neck, caught it, and then died."

      The September air was cool, and this sudden truth hung around like a little step brother. I couldn't remember the last time I'd told someone what I was actually thinking. It felt good. I stood up and flicked the cigarette into the parking lot.

      "Fuck it. I'm going to quit right now."
      "Fuck yeah man!"
      "I'm just gonna go up to the manager and quit."
      "Do it! Tell ‘em to lick yer bag ‘er something too."
      "Uh, alright, I’ll think about it."

      I walked back inside towards the manager's office, thinking about how to phrase "lick my bag" in the most interesting way possible when I saw Jeri Ryan holding up a sweater. I stopped. She really was quite beautiful. The sweater she was holding was not.

      "Ms. Ryan?"
      "Oh... yes?"
      "That sweater resembles a picnic blanket that someone left out in the rain for like a million years.”
      She paused, "Yeah, I guess it sort of does, doesn't it?"

      I nodded.

      She left.

      I quit.

©2009 Broken Chair