For the second time I can remember, a customer, a woman, around 40 years old, came in to return pants that her husband would no longer be needing, because he had died. This one's name was Bette.
The pants were bought back in February. Her husband passed in July (she used “deceased,” the most formal, clinical, detached word she could come up with), and the pants were being returned on the third day of October. All the tags still on.
After asking for a driver's license (the official 90 day return limit had long been surpassed), the register was going to put the $44 back onto the card that was used.
“Which card was that on?”
I look back at the original receipt. A Visa, ending 0729.
“...Oh. That's my mother-in-law's Visa.”
Is that all right, or...
“I'd rather have a gift card, to tell you the truth.” We can do that.
“She'd just give it back to me anyway. Save her the trouble.” I nod.
Here you go. This gift card is good at Sears, Kmart, and Lands' End, in-store and online, no fees, no expiration dates, unless we go bankrupt again.
“Do I need to keep these receipts?”
Legally, we have to give them back to you, just for your records. But you can throw them out if you want.
She laughs. It sounds like a cry, but she is smiling, and... really, don't all laughs sound like crying anyway.
I want to say something. I want to help. I want to heal. I want to resurrect. I want to hug. But maybe this is just a time when I shouldn't be starting so many sentences with I.
She leaves, and I'm left with my thoughts. I look back at the loosely-folded pants. The tag has a picture of a young girl with flowers in her hair, with the caption “For The Future.” It's about Repreve™, the 100% recycled yarn used to make them.
A few minutes after she's left, the register tardily prints out coupons, meant for her. $15 off men's apparel, 10% off fine jewelry. I've always known these registers were sentient, but I didn't know they could be that cruel.
After a ten-minute-long hour, another customer comes to the counter. Her hair is white. She is returning a pair of her husband's pants because he wants a smaller size.
Life is short. But it's supposed to be longer.