The Girl with the Pierced Nipples was back in the store yesterday.
It was that slowest part of mid-afternoon and I was on my laptop, so when she walked up to the counter I started to raise my head, but I only got as high as her chest before saying, “Hi! The usual QuickPick and a pack of Marlboro Menthol 100’s?”
And from somewhere a voice said, “Exactly!” as those familiar barbell piercings rubbed against her thin white cotton shirt with her every inhalation and with her every word. So I pulled the QuickPick, grabbed her pack of cigarettes, and went back to watching the show with the piercings… and the bouncing… and, of course, with the thin white cotton shirt…
“It’s an ankh,” the girl’s distant voice suddenly informed me in a tone so matter-of-fact-like I was sure it must be connected to the situation at hand in some tenuous, yet-to-be-determined way. But how?
“My necklace,” she said more insistently. “It’s an ankh.” She proceeded to point at a huge and garish green Egyptian hieroglyph necklace swinging precisely midway between her breasts and which had somehow completely escaped my attention until just that moment.
“An a-a-n-n-kh?… Hmm…” I tried to muster up a facial expression conveying, you know, “Tell me more” – that perfect mix of confusion and interest that would keep the conversation going. And I slid the cigarettes across the counter to her just as she launched into an explanation of her great spiritual energy, and that’s when the real show began.
You see, the Girl with the Pierced Nipples packs her cigarettes harder and longer than any person I have ever witnessed. I’ve considered calling Guinness. Why, I’ll bet those cigarettes can only be about three-quarters of an inch long by the time she’s done whacking them against the heel of her palm for four, five, maybe six minutes.
The trick is always to keep her in the store while she does this.
Bap! Went the pack of cigarettes. Bap! And then the piercings… and more bouncing… and, of course, the thin white cotton shirt. And it was one of those eternal frozen moments that just don’t come along all that often in life, and I felt weightless. Carefree. As though there was no “I” in me to worry about all of the… the… well, whatever the hell it was “Katy” normally worried herself about.
Bap! “And I’ve always felt this, like, you know, connection with the ancient Egyptians…” Bap! “…and my psychic says it’s probably because, like…” Bap!
The rattle ruined everything. I knew that rattle. I looked over to where we keep the cold remedies and sure enough, there was Robitussin Lady – wearing sunglasses and what for all the world looked to be a full-length, glitzy blue and silver ball gown – nearly falling backwards into the rack of pills.
I interrupted the Girl with the Pierced Nipples. I asked, “Why would somebody who doesn’t have the sniffles buy ten bottles of Robitussin gel caplets every single Friday?”
The Girl with the Pierced Nipples looked back at Robitussin Lady, who just then was trying to cradle ten bottles of her namesake in her arms and walk up to the counter simultaneously. She was at least six feet away, though, and that gave me a good five more minutes to spend with the Girl with the Pierced Nipples.
“She’s partyin’!” the Girl with the Pierced Nipples said. “Robitussin caplets are hallucinogens.”
Google agreed. Robitussin gel caplets contain something called Dexomethorphan or DXM, which, when taken in ridiculously high doses, acts as a dissociative and low-grade hallucinogen.
The Girl with the Pierced Nipples – who as it turned out, possessed shoulders and a head and even a face – looked pensive for a moment and then did this conspiratorial, Susanna Hoffs thing with her eyes. “Hey… Is she buying ALL of the Robitussin?”
* * *
“Hey, baby!” At three o’clock, on the nose, Dana – who is my wife – walked into my shop for her daily Wrigley’s sugar free spearmint gum and small bottle of orange juice.
I had it already bagged up and ready to go when she walked in.
Dana said, “Do you know you have a dead hippie with pierced nipples lying in your doorway and clutching a bottle of Robitussin?”
The truth was that no, I couldn’t see down that far from behind the counter. It made sense, though, and I’d been wondering where she had fallen.
Dana grabbed her change and turned to walk away.
“It’s called an ankh!” I shouted after her.
Dana waved without turning back around.
I said, “Anyway, you shouldn’t be looking at another woman’s nipples! How would you like it if I started talking about some hippie chick’s nipple piercings?”
Then, there was only me again. I climbed back up on my stool.
Just another day in my underground snack shop.