Youth in Jars by Shanon Gillespie
The Writer’s Corner features poetry, essays, short stories, satire and various fiction and non-fiction from SCAD Atlanta students. To submit your own work for the Writer’s Corner, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Hi,” said the shop employee. “Welcome to Fig & Flower. How can I help you?”
Sophie’s shoulders lowered from just below her ears. She saw the store was nothing like the beauty places Hannah shopped at. Stepping further into the store, the stripped heart-pine floors squeaked beneath her feet.
“I’m looking for new skincare,” Sophie said. “I think I need to get a bit more serious about how I take care of my skin.”
“Absolutely. Are there any brands that you like or want to try?”
“No. I don’t really do this.”
“That’s not a problem. What do you currently use on your skin?”
The employee smiled, waiting for Sophie to fill the silence with the rest of the details of her skincare regimen.
“Just coconut oil.”
“Alright. Well, what effect do you want from what you use?”
“I just want to age well.”
“Don’t we all?” The employee smiled in the plastic way that retail workers perfect, and waited for a laugh from her.
“My mom really likes a vitamin C serum she uses. Do you have something like that?”
The employee walked to the first display shelf and handed her a bottle. She dotted a little on the back of her hand and looked at the employee.
“It’s nice. I guess.”
From there, the employee walked to every display and handed Sophie a bottle at each one. The oil spots ran together on the back of her hands, and she could no longer remember which belonged to which bottle.
“I’ll take those,” she said.
As the employee packed the bags that were no bigger than a modest gift bag, Sophie hoped she could remember all the steps. And that she wouldn’t be disappointed by the products she chose based on liking their boxes.
“What were the instructions again?” Sophie asked the empty room.
Flipping her cell phone screen side up, she scanned the article she’d found earlier that day. Patting the counter, she found what she had been searching for and lifted a brown, glass bottle into the glow of the cell phone’s screen. The light from the phone was lost in the dark of the room. Bringing the bottle closer caused two lines to appear between her eyebrows. Seeing the furrows reflected in the mirror, she said, “We’re doing this to avoid wrinkles, not cause them.”
Flipping the cell phone face down, a beam of sharp light shot into the room from the flashlight.
“Ah! I was looking right there.” she said, a little louder than she’d planned.
She leaned against the door. There was no rustle of fabric, no murmur of surprise. Then, a huge intake of breath with a slight snore at the end.
She lifted the bottle into the beam of light and began to read the instructions on the label, again. She’d chosen this line of skincare because the descriptions were soothing to read. She had not compared their instructions to the instructions she found online. After scanning the first bottle, she set it back on the bathroom counter and lifted the next, smaller bottle to compare its instructions with those listed in the article. She did this for each of the products lined up across her counter.
“Why do none of you match? Does no one agree on how to do this? It’s just washing your face.”
On the word “face” her annoyance caused the end of the word to become sibilant and echo against the tile walls of the bathroom. She paused and leaned against the door again. The breathing pattern coming from their bed didn’t change, and she was grateful for the heavy sleeping of her partner. Realizing this had taken too long, she decided that she had to choose one method and just begin. Bobbing her head from shoulder to shoulder as she considered the options, finally, she chose the article. After all, it did say “Better than Botox” in the title.
“First, pump the serum into one palm and swirl between both.” She spoke each line she read, as she mimicked the instructions.
“Then, apply the serum in long, upward strokes. Long upward strokes? Who wrote this? That sounds a bit naughty. How was there not an intern laughing during the pitch with this wording?”
After following the instructions for each bottle in her lineup, she noticed the residue of each product made her hands slick.
“What am I supposed to do with this?”
Scanning to the bottom of the article, she saw a footnote:
“Be sure to include your earlobes, lips and backs of your hands in the last step to avoid aging skin.”
She looked at her reflection in the mirror, her face glistening with products, and tried to remember the earlobes of every person she had ever met. She couldn’t recall a single one. Sophie applied the residue to her ears anyway.