Caveat Emptor

shopping-606993_1920Let’s step back in time to when I met The Manager. That Sunday was the last day of my girls trip before heading home to reality and colder temperatures. My flight was in the late afternoon, and The Manager was getting back into town around mid-day. We arranged to meet at a hotel near mine, as I was unable to secure a late check-out. I left my bags at the front desk after breakfast and decided to walk around and window shop until our meeting.

My shopping choices were limited at that time of day, but I was buzzing with nerves and desperately needed distraction. I eventually found myself in a boutique mall, filled with stores I didn’t recognize and spare window displays that screamed “out of your price range.” I am unfailingly cheap when it comes to buying clothes and accessories; case in point, I was wearing a black top that I had purchased from the $10 Or Less shop at home. This was my first time wearing it, and as I walked past the shop windows, I felt smug that my outfit cost a tiny fraction of  what the mannequins were sporting.

At the far end of the mall, I came upon a store I vaguely recognized from a conversation I’d had on my trip: Zara, a sort of upscale H&M. I went in to browse the selection. While I was there, the security alarms blared several times as shoppers entered, and no one batted an eye. I shrugged and kept browsing, eventually picking out a few sheer tops to try on. On my way into the dressing room, I picked up a white layering camisole to get a good idea of how the shirts would look with one.

As I lifted my arms to try on the second top, I glanced in the mirror and noticed that my underarms were a gruesome purple-gray color. My eyes widened in horror, and a quick glance at my phone showed me that I had only 45 minutes before I was to meet The Manager. While racing to throw my clothes back on, my mind pieced together the likely chain of events: the cheap top I was wearing was leaching dye onto my skin. It had become increasingly warm while I walked, and the friction and heat and sub-standard clothing must have combined to give me what I dubbed “alien pits.” I remembered seeing a grocery store between the mall and the hotel where I was headed, so I rushed out of Zara, hardly noticing when the security alarms went off.

On my way to the grocery store, I realized with further horror that I was still wearing the layering camisole under my shirt. I had accidentally stolen a tank top! Feeling frazzled and sweaty, I found the grocery store and made a beeline for the baby wipes. In the store’s bathroom, I stripped down and scrubbed furiously at my underarms, making a very slight impact on their disturbing color. Time was flying now, but I still needed to make a decision about the camisole and its imposing, bulky security sensor. Knowing that I wouldn’t be wearing it with the sensor there, nor would I be returning it, I stuffed it in the trash can, got dressed, and headed to meet The Manager.

In his original post, I mentioned needing to splash water on my face when we got into the hotel room, and this backstory may shed some light on that need. The whole experience had left me so off-kilter that I simply had to get it off my chest, so I immediately confessed my recent ordeal, much to The Manager’s amusement.

In hindsight, the way I met The Manager was singular in the history of my year. We knew almost nothing about one another, simply pursuing sexual connection without strings or foundation. As it turned out, my brain and body pushed back against such a shallow bond — first by the mental lapse of forgetting to remove the tank before fleeing Zara, and later by imbuing our time with unintended emotional connection that led to a 2-month relationship. It appears that I’m not designed for shallow and I’m quite fond of strings.  I am, however, less fond of bargain-basement clothing than I once was. Caveat emptor, friends.

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