Written in Fall 2008…
I am in class- late again. 8:30 is next to impossible for me to make on time- which is sad because this professor starts each class with a different poem and I like poems. It certainly is cold in ruralton today- low thirties. They say we are going to have a rough winter. Rough winter, rough skin- my lips are severely chapped… So, I have been thinking a lot about chapstick and how I can’t find my favorite balm. It reminded me of a funny story from when I lived in New York- a relatively benign story of theft… the only one I ever told my mom, because it was funny enough to tell my mom this past mother’s day. I’m not sure she thought so, but everyone else at the table had a good laugh. I was drunk, get off my back.
Picture it: winter in New York City, about six years ago. I was living on the Upper West Side at the time and went out one night to pick up some groceries. I am pretty sure that my diet at the time consisted entirely of crusty bread, brie cheese, and alcohol—so I must have been out of bread or cheese or booze. I walked up Broadway to the store. Up the escalator, grabbed a basket and started sauntering around like I owned the place—I forget the name- Flahogan’s? I was taking my time, checking out a display of Burt’s Bees. There were a lot of chapsticks (I know- chapstick refers to a specific brand, but I can’t think of a better word- I won’t use balm because balm denotes a tin, not a tube) and like any good product display should, it alerted me to the fact that my lips were chapped and could obviously benefit from the undeniable lip-softening magic of beeswax. I now know that the only thing that truly works magic on chapped lips is Bag Balm. Yeah, farmers use it on their animals and guess what? IT IS MAGIC.
I picked up a chapstick- it had a prophetic red cap- a warning?- and I put it on my lips, rather liberally I might add. I have outrageously full lips, so I need a lot. Then like any punk twenty-something would, I just pocketed it. My M.O. back then was really something like “I will just do what I want until someone tells me not to or I get in trouble.” It was just a chapstick- fuck it, who really cared, right? So, I continue with my shopping. I notice people checking me out- I know I look good. But then it becomes bothersome and I remember thinking, “God! Why does everyone in New York City have a fucking staring problem?” Staring drives me nuts! I must have been in the store for at least another twenty-five minutes before I decided that I had indeed found the best loaf of bread they had to offer.
I proceeded to the check-out… still getting checked out… by everyone. The cashier rang me out. I am pretty sure he didn’t take his eyes off me the entire time. I was way out of his league. Jeez buddy- take a picture it’ll last longer. I am going down the escalator- moving extra-slow i think. I turn to the right to check myself out in the mirrored wall. OH. MA. GOD. I pull the chapstick out of my pocket and read it – “Lifeguard’s Choice?” Lifeguard’s Choice!? Curse you Burt’s Bees for even marketing such a product! It was straight-up, opaque white, lifeguard from Caddyshack, totally 80s, zinc oxide. Oh, my mistake- I didn’t realize it was the eighties and I was at the beach. My lips were covered in the shit and because I was operating under the assumption that it was clear when I applied it, it went beyond the bounds of lip and it was in a word- ridiculous. It looked like clown make-up. Middle of winter, New York City—not a lifeguard or a beach in site. Karma, you bitch. I laughed all the way home.