by Carole Lee
Shopping with Mr. Vagabond is like winding up a Jack in the Box: I know something is going to happen, and I know I’m going to need a sedative afterward. And yet I do it anyway. Through the years, I have learned a thing or two. If I can’t see it coming, I can at least get even afterward.
Our first Christmas, we had a plan. Get into the mall, split up, get what we needed and get out before any elves or hairy old men in red suits did something rash. Like singing. Or spreading cheer. There are enough contagious things going around during the holidays, and the CDC says there is no cure for communicable ho-ho-ho-ing.
He went his way, and I headed through the department store toward the makeup counter. Makeup counters are scary enough under normal circumstances. During the holidays, they become a festival of frenzied shoppers and clerks with gravity-defying eyebrows. Also noteworthy is the promise of a special gift (read: all the stuff that no one bought last season). Women covet free, frosty purple lipstick, even though it was unappealing in the Spring Collection. There is no rational explanation, besides the free plastic tote that accompanies it.
I wedged my way through the eager masses and up to the front of the herd. A Stepford Clerk who smelled of Essence du Jump for Joy approached me with a smile that warranted its own marker on the UV index. Gracefully adjusting a bra strap (mine, not hers), I made my request.
“Perfectionne a la Beaute’ -- economy size, please.”
Her smile wilted slightly. I never have been able to navigate those fancy words.
Just about the time she returned with my purchase, I heard Mr. Vagabond’s voice booming across my right shoulder.
“Hey! You’re not allowed to touch me there!!”
The mass of once-giddy patrons parted like the red sea, abandoning their free purple lipsticks and plastic totes on the counter. On lady scurried off with only half her complimentary makeover completed. Silence fell over the department. Mr. Vagabond stood, looking victimized and glaring at me. Stepford girl gasped and dropped the glistening golden miracle jar on the floor.
I no longer shop there.
He’s a large child, really.
To preserve the holiday spirit, I waited. We women can keep the little things simmering for ages. It’s a talent.
Months later, while standing at the counter of his favorite auto parts store, he regaled the cute female clerk about his awesome, super-modified Jeep. He was mid-sentence, ordering yet another part that he didn’t need, but really wanted, when I casually interjected.
“Just let Me know when you’re ready, baby, and I’ll go out and start the Jeep for you.”
For those of you who have never owned an old Jeep, I should explain. I can neither drive, nor start it. Operating his Jeep requires a level of active participation, coordination and length of leg that I simply do not possess. He prides himself on being the only person who can manage it.
I thought he was going to die. Or kill me. Or both. The girl behind the counter almost looked scared for me from behind the smirk that she couldn’t hide.
He no longer shops there.