The girl with wide-rimmed tortoiseshell glasses says she needs her space. In the supermarket, she shops alone. Before pulling a can of beans off the shelf, she wipes the buggy germs onto her tight yellow dress and all the men on the aisle watch and drool.
She packs her meat into fruit bags because the juices will run everywhere if she isn’t careful. She prices a lobster just to hear the market vendor mispronounce the number nine.
“Non Owe Thray,” he says.
The vendor is a serious disappointment. Nothing about him has changed, except now he doesn’t try to hide the blood on his apron.
The girl with tortoiseshell glasses asks the manager for the location of the restroom.
He scratches his wiry salt-and-pepper mustache and asks the bag boy to escort the young lady to the back of the store. He flops open the folding doors and leads the lady in. She is told to climb an obscure set of stairs near the back of the warehouse up to the employee bathroom.
“It’s a family place,” he says. “No real nice things.”
The girl with tortoiseshell glasses taps her way up to the top and flings the door open and shuts it behind her. She turns on the sink and washes her hands in many, many different ways.
In the big half-empty mall, the girl stops at a kiosk to look at jewelry. She wants the real stuff. Handmade riggings to hang by the ear. Or the neck. Her nose fogs up the glass.
The Indian in the middle of the circle of jewelry offers help.
“Is anything not made of plastic?” she says.
“This is good jewelry,” he says.
“This is kid stuff.”
“There’s a Freedman’s by Eff-Why-EEE.”
The girl with tortoiseshell glasses knows better. Husbands shop at Freedman’s, not wives. Maybe one day she will go looking for a husband rather than cheap, plastic kid’s jewelry. She remembers that it’s all just “stuff” and goes to the bathroom to wash the glass counter off her hands. In the mirror, she counts the holes in her face.
There are about 19. They are as big as dimes.
At the optometrist’s, the girl—not wearing her tortoiseshell glasses—gazes sleepily into the gray phoropter. The optometrist rubs her back with his big dark, hairy, ringy hand.
“You read well,” he says.
“You can see well. Your vision is perfect. You’re cured.”
“You say that every time.”
“Because you have perfect vision every time.”
She leaves the phoropter and the optometrist gives her the tortoiseshell glasses. He pulls out a binder heavy with pictures of frames.
“You want something modern,” he says.
“I want something real this time.”
The optometrist taps the side of her head with a pen. “I can’t sell you these anymore. They don’t sell these anymore. I told you this.”
She pulls the tortoiseshell glasses off and rubs the smooth frame with the tip of her thumb. The material is perfect for everything: for bending, for plucking the nose, for biting, for being warm against her forehead. She sits them back on the table.
“They are kind of old,” she says. She slides them towards the optometrist. “What should I do with them?”
The optometrist slides them back.
“You keep them,” he says. “I’ll get you a good frame. Something the men will like.”
The girl without tortoiseshell glasses smiles. She likes whatever the men like. It will be a week before the new frame with non-prescription lenses comes in.
She goes home and washes the phoropter off her hands. She washes the phoropter off the rims of her eyes and the bridge of her nose and tries to sleep.
At the supermarket, the girl with lightweight black plastic frame non-prescription glasses prices a lobster because this time she wants to buy two. The price has gone down.
“Eight Owe Wan,” says the vendor.
The girl is satisfied. She notices a difference in the man. He still has blood on his apron—trash wadded in his matted hair—a pimple tucked between his right nostril and cheek—though something is different.
“Can I have two lobsters, please?”
The vendor opens the vat and pulls two struggling lobsters out of the water and beats them over the counter. He puts them in boxes. He tapes them—prices them.
“美好的一天,” he says.
The vendor slips the boxes to her. She feels grit and slime under one. The hairs on her arm stand up. At the front, the manager looks inviting. He will let her use the restroom again. The bag boy is bagging. The cashiers are beeping.
The manager walks up and twitches his salt-and-pepper mustache and asks if she is OK.
“I’m fine,” she says.
He looks at the boxed lobsters. “Big date tonight?” he says.
The bag boy is watching. Closer.
“You sure look different today,” says the manager.
“New glasses,” she says. She is thinking of the restroom. Of washing her hands. Of getting the lobster stink out from between her fingers. Of the smell of butter-pecan hand soap. She would sniff her hands until the scent is gone.
“Your eyes are very pretty,” says the manager. “Can I do anything else for you?”
The cashier beeps both the lobsters. She takes a twenty and is told to keep the change. The other men are staring. The bag boy is watching, waiting, his nose is oozing. The next customer’s groceries are not getting bagged. Items are falling over the bag boy’s hands. The manager is waiting, probably for a compliment in return.
The sliding doors at the front are sliding. The girl with lightweight black plastic frame non-prescription glasses runs with her bagged lobsters towards them. She says she needs her space.