When Entering a Bath and Body Works Was a Meeting with the Divine

You were flanked on either side by girls wearing the missing half of your best friends forever necklace: a broken heart, two slices of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or three silver puzzle pieces that read soul sisters

You were probably wearing a skirt your mother begrudgingly let you leave the house in, though not before giving it one final tug as you blew out the door. 

Your friend would be wearing a purple cardigan that brings out the color of her eyes and that cardigan, the gummy bear earrings framing her face, the scar on her chin, all make you want desperately to hold her small hand. 

One of your friends would certainly have bangs, which the others envy, and which would encourage each of you to get and then regret getting bangs in turn. Of course you love what she loves, and she loves what you love, and all three of you are utterly unimpeachable in your taste, your style, your form. Though one or more of you cannot afford designer clothes; cover the off-brand labels of your tank tops or t-shirts with careful folds.

Your bellies, still rounded with baby fat, are probably full with slices of cookie cake and coca cola, and as you enter the Bath and Body Works you or she or all three of you toss your empty soda cups in the nearest trash can, run to catch up with the group because we have to enter altogether

And when you finally enter the Bath and Body Works it is a dream—the way the woman in the slick ponytail, so tall in all black greets you at the door. Her red smile is the eternal present. 

Britney plays on the radio and you are proud to be young. Proud to have bought your first training bra, to be recently applying cherry flavored lip gloss in the girl’s room between classes. 

You stick together as you move through the aisles, tapping each other on the shoulder to look over here, look over there, have you tried this one? Smell here. Carousels hold bottles of pink or cream-colored lotion, the outsides decorated with roses, watercolor drips, tumbling vines. Lavender-scented salts in silver-foiled pouches. Pastel bath bombs wrapped in chiffon bags roll out across the floor. You make circuit after circuit, your eyes blurring with the fluorescents. 

Soon all three of you are coated in every kind of scent: the delicate aroma of sweet pea, which goes on your skin thin and pink like a bridesmaid’s dress. Then, cucumber melon, the preferred scent of the girl who gets straight As without even trying, whose desk is always immaculate, who wears her nutmeg colored hair in a big, yellow scrunchie.

Vanilla brown sugar, which is a group favorite. It smells like a cookie, which is to say it sounds like something warm and soft someone would like to bite into. Breeds hunger. 

Paris amour, because if it is French it is sophisticated and worldly. Makes you feel twenty six, which for some reason is the magic number. Twenty six—when you imagine you will be still young and dewy but have flown in a plane to several foreign countries, will wash your whites separate from your darks and will think nothing of it. 

Then there’s pink cashmere. Hibiscus. Japanese cherry blossom. Black amethyst. Twilight woods. 

Twilight woods: the smell of all your desire: the scent, you imagine, of women who wear smoky eyeshadow and take jobs in the city far, far away. The scent of women unafraid to put up strong barriers. 

Twilight woods would be the scent of a woman unafraid to block every last ex-lover, ex-friend, and toxic cousin-in-law from facebook. She would most likely quit facebook altogether—would have never logged on to start with, not needing that kind of approval. 

She would let love come to her, wouldn’t need to lift a finger. She would sit at the far end of the dark bar, harboring the dregs of a martini. 

A woman who wears twilight woods would know the right way to perform a blow job, would know how to make a Victoria sponge cake, and would eat only one slice, before giving the rest to neighbors. She would take long vacations in the mountains, return with her fingernails stained by oil paints. A twilight woods woman, you are certain, would have more than one mirror in her house and she would be unafraid to look in them.

You and your friends pop the lavender-hued top off the twilight woods body mist. The outside is decorated with the thin forms of amethyst trees. You take turns spraying it along your bare arms. Closing your eyes and lifting your chin as you walk through the spray. The scent sticks to your skin. It gathers in your hair. You smell like apricot nectar and mimosa petals. You smell like Tuscan cypress and mixed berries. You smell like a fairytale.

The woman in red lipstick starts to eye you and your friends, and having no money, you take each other by the arm, stuff another sample strip in your purse. Take one last look at the white tile, the older women carrying little fabric baskets to the checkout counter, the cashier’s bubblegum popping on her lips. Breathe in deep. Breathe in deeper. 

When you leave the Bath and Body Works the three of you are a soft, glittering cloud.

Tori Rego is a queer writer from Charleston, South Carolina. She is currently living in Chicago and would like to bake you a pie. 

This piece by Tori Rego is included in our MALL RATS anthology! Purchase a print or digital copy in our shop.

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