Niketown, Your Town

by

06/26/2008

6 E 57th St, New York, NY, 10022

Neighborhood: Upper East Side

December 2001. Like every other New Yorker, it still feels like the towers just fell. Bush said spend, Bloomberg called upon you to stimulate the economy. Niketown, Your Town. The makeshift commercial plays in your head as you peruse the store; it is after all one of your favorite places. Just do it. Besides, it’ll motivate your fitness students when you come in with new T-shirts. You scoop up three: cobalt blue, red, and a sparkling white, each adorned with miniature Nike swooshes.

“Those homosexuals.” At least that’s what you think you hear spew out of the fat, twenty-something cashier, several feet away.

Her team member, a buzz-cut blond chimes in, “Well, I knew a kid who was, and it wasn’t a choice for him.” He continues to fold tees with delicate creases.

“But when you’re older,” Buffalo Girl says, then tugs at the skin tight black jeans, “you grow up, and know the difference between right and wrong.” Rolls of fat protrude from her midsection, overhang the jeans. She gathers your well-pressed finds into a large ball of fabric.

“How much are they?” You ask, still in disbelief over their apparent conversation. Maybe you want to pretend you’re not hearing what you think you hear?

“Eighteen each,” Blond Guy answers.

“We were created to procreate,” Buffalo Girl adds then zaps each tee with her scan gun. “Otherwise, it’s a choice.”

Your eyes burn, you close them and retrieve your wallet from your Nike belly bag.

“It’s just wrong,” she continues.

You picture yourself in fifth grade again, at Saint Gregory Elementary School’s hallway with a sign taped to your back: WRONG. You command yourself to shake off the visual.

“God created Adam and Eve,” she adds, “not Adam and Steve.”

Jesus. You ask yourself how many times you’ve heard that one.

Eve pushes your T-shirts toward Adam who refolds them–or is he Steve?

“Excuse me?” You pull out your American Express card, which you’d swear you’ve used a zillion times in this store.

“Yes?” She cocks her head to the side and supports one arm on her hip.

“Did you say wrong?” Your exhale feels like an eternity.

“I wasn’t talking to you.” Her eyes widen as if to ask: WTF?

“Funny,” you say while making sure your dark eyes register to her dark eyes the fuck in WTF?, “because I heard you loud and clear from across the room.”

She cups the giggle with her hand. “Well, I said–”

“I heard exactly what you said.” Yes, her eyes are as dark as yours; you squint to try and make out what’s inside. Not much; fear, maybe?

Deep exhale: “It’s not a choice,” you add. She grabs your AMEX; plump, yes, but her hand is not much darker than yours. You realize now, more than ever, that the human being who stares back at you wouldn’t take kindly to being told that she chose the color of her skin.

Blond Guy maintains his mute state while taking care to fold your tees.

“We didn’t say that.” She forces your plastic money through the machine. The movement reminds you of the sword draw exercise you always give your fitness class. She slaps the card onto the counter; its underbelly, your signature stares at you.

“So you didn’t say it’s a choice, and it’s something wrong?” You will yourself another deep exhale for the boy inside the man who hates to call attention to himself. She nods.

“Well, I’m gay.” You smile inside as you say it. “And I can tell you for a fact, it’s not a choice.”

“Really.” She looks directly at you with pursed lips then slams the receipt on the counter next to the credit card. She gives a wide-eyed glance to her blond accomplice who continues his silent, tee-folding exercises.

“Yes, really,” you counter. “And you should be more careful what you say in front of customers. Believe it or not one of them standing right before you could be gay.” As you sign the receipt, you make certain to put bold loops in the two “R’s” of your name: Russell Ricard. Blond Guy carefully, yet quickly, shoves your crisply folded T-shirts in the plastic bag.

You maintain eye contact with Miss America who sizes up your signature on the receipt with the one on back of your credit card. That’s right, bitch, you think to yourself, remember my name! You smile as you see the brilliant-colored tees bleed through the Niketown bag. You can’t wait to wear them and give an awesome fitness class.

You scoop up the credit card and receipt. “Have a nice day,” you offer, surprised that you add a wink. She obliges you with a tiny harrumph then looks the other way.

“Thank you, sir,” Blond Guy affirms, with a smile, as he hands you the shopping bag.

“You’re very welcome,” you respond and return the smile. You swing the bag to and fro as you stroll toward then burst through the revolving doors.

 

Russell Ricard received his MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. He lives in Forest Hills with his partner and two cats where he is at work on his first novel.

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§ One Response to “Niketown, Your Town”

  • Esther O'Leary Winter says:

    Hi Russell,

    Not sure if this is you but I hope you are doing well. Love the short story. Take care,

    Esther

§ Leave a Reply

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