D. NOLAN JEFFERSON
People might have looked at the car anyway because it was a looker. A ‘70 Chevelle Super Sport, the color of Dijon mustard, low, squat and bold in it’s stance. Black stripes on the hood and deck lid. Goodyear curved in white typeface on wide black tires, the front of the car with the split bar grill cutting through the air, triumphant as Winged Victory. Car nuts got it. They knew. She was a beaut. To others it was just some old car from the olden days which had since given way to smooth, aerodynamic blogs missing the flair of angles or corners or fins. Cars nowadays try to cheat the wind. Elude it. Slip through it like an arrow shot from a bow. The Chevy did not care about your wind. It pumped leaded gasoline through a carburetor into three hundred and ninety-six cubic inches of American-made, iron block V8 and spat it angrily out the back by way of dual chrome tailpipes. It had no desire to slip through the air because it didn’t need to; it flat out stomped into, through, and out of it. So those in the know appreciated the car and nodded when they saw it’s girth taking up space in parking lots and mall garages, and in driveways and at red lights. Those who did not, didn’t.
But people looked today.
This grown man, just shy of six feet tall with inky black skin stepped out of the car, popped the trunk, and took out a kick-push scooter. He draped a messenger bag across his body and nonchalantly rode into the pharmacy. Blowing pink bubbles, he sailed down the store’s linoleum aisles, gliding past shelves stacked with cans of Pringles and neat rows of colorful Starburst candies, heads swiveling from other patrons as they shopped for antacids, Sharpies, hair dye, dryer sheets, and pregnancy tests. He stopped in the makeup aisle and eyeballed lip gloss while murmuring folks gathered and craned their necks from a safe distance. People like that, whatever he? it? was, didn’t dare set foot in town. Not here, not in Person. Women’s hands shot up to cover their gasping mouths and grown men’s baseball caps were pushed up and back in astonishment on the crowns of their balding heads, perched just so, defying gravity.
The man who drove up in the yellow Chevy realized the attention he garnered. It was nothing new. Just as the makeup on the racks in the aisle was nothing new. Boring. Basic. Ordinary. This man was decidedly not. The lip gloss would work because he would make it work, though it wasn’t his preferred first choice. He was resourceful and assured in his ability to make the best from what was available to him. No signs of the goods he picked up in Paris, or even Chicago. But here he was back in Person, at the very dime store where he once innocuously slipped a tube of Max Factor in a shade called Tuscan Bronze, up his shirt sleeve before floating out the door as a nine-year old on his way to school. The store had changed—hell, he had changed, but Person? Not so much. And certainly not the people who gawked and clucked their tongues at the man pondering beauty products. Not with that face.
A mousy white girl named Becca who traded live Dave Matthews Band bootlegs with her circle of friends she met online when she wasn’t working at the store, or taking classes at night towards her degree in child development hovered over the cash register. She was brought up to exemplify the golden rule and she did exactly that when the man in the full beard walked up to the register, blowing bubbles, and placed a single box of lip gloss on the counter.
“I like…” her voice was weak and trailed off a bit before clearing her throat in an effort to be heard, “…your dress. It’s very pretty.”
The man smoothed his hands down the bodice and over the ruffles of the off-white fabric. She’d remember later how surprised she was when he said: Thank you. That she hadn’t expected his voice to be so deep. “It really like, resonated,” she tapped out on her phone in a text message to one of her DMB pals. “Like a movie trailer narrator,” she added.
“Vera Wang,” he said. “Last season. I got it for a song.”
He smiled and placed a pack of gum on the counter.
“And this, too.”
Becca tried not to stare but, like her fellow residents, couldn’t help but be drawn into the man’s face, eyelashes like butterflies; his neat, close-cropped beard framed his mouth with lips painted a shade of purple so vibrant, it was as if they had their own power source; fine lines of black edged his eyes, each lid iridescent in gold, violet, crimson, green, and teal, depending on where you looked when he blinked; an explosion of color, as if his goal was to use every color from the box, in some dissonant fashion but somehow it all worked. Like a model, Becca thought, a high fashion model from Europe. Or outer space, her sometimey boyfriend Wayne would add that evening over hot dogs grilled outside their apartment.
The man paid in cash, dropped both the gum and the gloss in the bag that draped across his body, and left Becca with a ciao as he motored back across the parking lot. And in sneakers, no less. People watched him, the midnight-toned man with the full beard and face made up like it was applied by airbrush, wearing a wedding dress kick push on a scooter that he returned to the trunk of a muscle car. Then he slid behind the wheel, turned the key, revved the engine, and chirped the tires as he drove up and out of the parking lot of the pharmacy in a town called Person.
D. Nolan Jefferson is a librarian at American University in Washington, DC. A California native, he has earned MFA degrees in Film from Art Center College of Design and a MLIS from Louisiana State University as a Project Recovery scholar in New Orleans, a program established to help rebuild libraries after the storms of 2005. He is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at American University and won the AWP Intro Journals Project (2017) for his short story, “South of Eight” which was published in Tahoma Literary Review. He enjoys tacos, short fiction collections, and fellow introverts.