Girl Walks Into CVS

I go to CVS with the dual purposes of a) using the total of $22 in coupons from my last Ensure Plus run and b) maintaining a (tenuous) grip on my sanity. There’s something wrong with the end of that sentence, idiomatically, it just doesn’t sound right, but I’m too tired to go back and fix it. Coupons are fun, and they’re even more fun when a) approximately 20% of your caloric intake comes from Ensure Plus, b) you would not be able to consume any of said calories without your meds, c) CVS happens to be way better than Walgreens at supplying your meds, d) CVS sells the flavors of Ensure Plus you want, and e) CVS is close to both your dorm and your house.

Gif of the character Cassie Ainsworth from the TV show skins, holding four candy bars, giggling, and saying, "I love food."

True or false: This post is rapidly devolving into a multiple-choice test.

True or false: This is secretly an ad for CVS.

True or false beef jerky is 10% off, so order yours today.

Sort of true, very false, technically true, respectively. I’m really, really lucky in a lot of ways, and one of them is this: over the past five months, I’ve barely had to leave my house. I’ve barely had to go to any stores or run any errands or interact with people I don’t know face-to-face, and as a result, I feel a lot less disabled, because I’m not doing the hard things. But then, periodically, I surface from the quarantine fever dream, like when I go to CVS (True or false: The more you spend, the more you save), I’m reminded of how all the little challenges add up. Challenges like, say, driving, because unless you’re in the middle of nowhere, driving is a social activity. The other people just happen to be behind huge slabs of metal and glass, but that doesn’t make it any easier. 

Driving also requires a certain degree of executive functioning, by which I mean a) where is your car in space and b) how fast is it going and c) how fast should it be going, according to the signs and d) what social conventions dictate how much above the speed limit you can actually go, which, I have learned, is generally a positive number ≤5 or maybe ≤7 if you’re angry and e) is your turn signal on and f) why is your turn signal on and g) does that mean you should have turned and h) is that where you’re meant to be going and i) why is the other car honking at you and j) come to think of it, where are you supposed to be going and k) are you going anywhere at all?

It’s supposed to be a vertical alphabet. Most drivers, I imagine, don’t go through these items one at a time. They juggle them all in their heads: that’s executive functioning. But I try to stack all the pieces up and they keep falling and this is why I am such a terrible driver.

Gif of a stack of blocks and a ball in front of them. The ball rolls forward, knocking down the stack and scattering the blocks. Then the animation reverses.

So I drive to CVS, and that’s hard, and the mere fact of being around other people makes my stomach quiver like a slowly dying fish, and I buy the beef jerky and some protein bars and I stare at the little tubes of lipgloss and think, huh, capitalism, and I think about how, if you look at it closely, most of capitalism = shiny objects.

Gif of a light-skinned girl with shoulder length blond hair looking at the camera, with CVS aisles in the background. As the camera moves in, six different hands with different makeup brushes reach towards her to put makeup on her face.

True or false: It’s better to shine than to sparkle.

I look at all the candies, the candy corn and the sour patch kids, or maybe they’re cabbages, and banana-flavored peanuts, and the light is all trickly and sterile. (True or false: The virus is transmitted by light.) There’s a woman wearing a hijab exactly six feet in front of me, speaking into the phone, a language I don’t recognize, simultaneously lurching and melodic, no matter how many languages I learn there will always be more – true or false: Aramaic is mutually intelligible with Hebrew; true or false: Everyone hates Esperanto – and how I wish I had brought my anxiety meds, but then again, this is a pharmacy, so they probably have them anyway and true or false: I lost my phone oh please don’t tell me I forgot my phone, and then I squint at the lemon drops a little longer.

True or false: When I was a kid, I loved lemon drops. 

Gif of a bowl of clear jiggly slime with plastic lemon slices on the top. A pair of light skinned hands reach into the slime, and then come out.

True or false: Swedish fish aren’t actually Swedish, but lemon drops are.

Animation of a drawing of a fish bowl with a red Swedish fish swimming in the water.

True or false: Swedish fish aren’t actually fish, but lemon drops are.

True or false: $15 off + $5 off + $7 off = slightly more than whatever it is I’ve shoved in the basket. The correct answer is “true,” and the cashier says, “So you want me to apply all of them, then,” meaning the coupons, and I say yes, and then she says, “So you have $4.17 left over.” And I say, “That’s okay.” And she says, “Why don’t you grab something else?” And I say, “It’s okay,” and I’m starting to feel dizzy, because people are waiting and my forehead is tingling and the virus is carried by light. And she says, “Why don’t you grab two of those bars,” and she points at the aisle with the protein bars, and so I go and grab two of them and she rings them up and I owe her $0.14 but she says, “It’s okay if you don’t have it,” but I do so I pay her and she puts everything in a bag for me even though I brought my own.

Gif with a line drawing of a girl frowning and holding her head in her hands. Wavering lines are radiating from her head to indicate anxiety.

It’s only once I’ve reached the car and seen my reflection in the window that I remember the t-shirt. I got it in the mail a few days ago, from RedBubble. It’s purple. The text on the front reads, “disability is not a bad word,” and I realize that is the variable that changed. Because I’ve been to that CVS a thousand times, and I get nervous and do things wrong and am clumsy always, and sometimes people get annoyed, and sometimes people are kind, and today, the cashier was particularly kind. And she would have taken off $0.14, which, admittedly, is not much money, but it’s a lot more than nothing. Maybe she was just that type of person, who would do that, or maybe it was the shirt.

This is the opposite of Harry’s invisibility cloak, I suppose. My disability – or disabilities – are invisible, and suddenly, they’re not. The shirt doesn’t say “HI I’M DISABLED” (though I’m sure such a shirt exists, and honestly, that seems like the kind of thing I would wear), but you don’t see many people with shirts that are even remotely related to disability. So I have to assume that they have to assume that I have some connection to the matter. And I wonder what it would be like to run that experiment. 

A girl walks into CVS wearing a plain purple shirt. A girl walks into CVS wearing a purple shirt that says disability is not a bad word. A girl walks into CVS wearing a purple shirt that says this shirt was supposed to be blue. A girl walks into CVS flapping her hands, walks into CVS talking to herself, walks into CVS with her service dog behind her, walks into CVS over and over until the pieces come together because I don’t care what Autism Speaks says – the world is the puzzle, not me.

Gif of an optical illusion made of blocks. As the blocks move, it is clear that they are broken up into three parts, but at one point, the animation pauses and they appear to form an impossible shape.

True or false: If the shirt fits, wear it.

True or false: The beef jerky was really 20% off.

True or false: Actually, communism is shinier.

True or false: This has nothing to do with Sweden.

True or false: My dad just walked in the door and said, “Where’d you put the car keys?”

Gif of a hydraulic press clucking a small analog alarm clock.

Categories: Blog


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