Shop Girl

Yesterday after I bought something in the men’s Banana Republic, I shot across the street to check out the stuff at the women’s store. My fresh new purchase, delicately swathed in white tissue paper, sealed with a smooth Banana Republic sticker, slept peacefully in the white shopping bag as Mama touched almost every bit of fabric she possibly could, just to get a literal “feel” for what was available.
But no matter how pure and non-shopliftersque I looked &#151 and I assure you I did, what with my sassy new haircut and happy-go-lucky smile inspired by the fresh-clothes fumes &#151 I was still convinced that the guard by the door was watching me as if I might stuff something into my crisp white bag. (As if I would dare disturb my new purchase’s nap!) I made sure to flash him my most engaging smile, a real prize-winner, just so he would know I was a good girl.
Still, I couldn’t help but think that everyone thought I was there to take something. As I gently rubbed the silk of a twin set between my fingers, the salesgirl thought, Aha. She’s pretending to check it out like she’s really going to buy it. But I know she’s going to shove it into her bag when I’m not looking. As I foraged through the sale racks upstairs, the dressing room attendant thought, Even though her shirt is sleeveless, I know she’s got something up her sleeve. She’s going to cram that flimsy little number into her bag and twist off the tag as she does so. She’ll probably cough so I don’t hear the rustle of the tissue paper.
I had no intention of stealing anything. I mean, I learned my lesson more than two decades ago, when I was caught shoplifting a travel-size folding toothbrush from Clover during a day of shopping with my mom and sister. (It was so cute, though! I couldn’t help it. Little toothbrush that fit perfectly into an adorable hard plastic container shaped like a miniature suitcase. And the petite toothpaste was to die for!) But still, I thought they thought I was there to steal. I wonder if they thought I thought that. Who knows.
What I do know is that, just to show them that I didn’t steal something, I sauntered over to the round table by the front cash registers and lingered there for a while to smile at and admire the display, unfold one of the sleeveless turtleneck sweaters (a really great cut, by the way), hold it up to my body, blithely check the price, nod my head in appreciation, refold the sweater slowly and lovingly, gently tuck the price tag back inside, and smooth its surface lovingly with my fingertips … smile up at the guard who was checking out my ass, stroll to the door, even pausing to gaze back at the sweaters one more time as if I might just change my mind and buy one, and then smile wryly to myself as if to say, Oh, but I really shouldn’t!, and then push open the door to the street.
I walked up Fifth Avenue, swinging my fresh white shopping bag, humming a nonsensical little tune to myself, smiling at no one in particular and everyone in general, feeling like I got away with something.
It wasn’t until I got home, though, that I truly felt safe.
And it wasn’t until then that I laughed maniacally and recklessly pulled out all the random stuff that I’d crammed into my crisp white bag when no one was looking.