Standing in the middle of Macy's, his head starting to hurt and his hands shoved into his bare pockets, he doesn't have a clue what to buy for Olga. What does she even like? Between classes, she's always spitting out her hardened gum for a fresh piece, and after wiping the moisture from her lips she uses a half empty tube to apply a thin layer of gloss. He had gotten a little of it on his own lips, just once, from a kiss behind the art building; it had tasted like pineapple. So there was that, but why would he get her something she already has?
He decides to follow a stranger who reminds him of Olga. Maybe it's the cut of her hair, the way it partially obscures her face. He followers her with caution as she spins a rack of earrings, as she tries on sunglasses, as she zips and unzips a variety of colorful shoulder bags.
At the perfume counter, the girl finally seems to be interested in something. She sprays two strips of paper, raises each to her nose, and makes a comment to the saleswoman behind the counter. The saleswoman laughs in agreement. Of course, the saleswoman appears to say, then reaches a hand out toward the display shelf.
"I'm interested in that one," he says, once he gets up the nerve to approach the perfume counter. Ten minutes have passed since he watched the girl stand where he is standing now. Avoiding eye contact with the saleswoman, he points, because he has no better way to identify the one he wants. The box is lavender, wrapped in cellophane.
"This bottle is forty eight dollars," says the saleswoman, one manicured finger tapping the top of the box.
"Oh," he says.
"But the travel size," she continues, "is seventeen."
Not long after, she is folding tissue paper around the small box and slipping it into a glossy bag with braided handles. Every way he tries to hold it feels awkward. Outside the department store, as the crowd moves past on the sidewalk, he shoves the box into his jacket pocket and folds the glossy gift bag flat, then bends it in half, and lets it go into the dark mouth of a trash can. He spots his bus approaching the stop on the other side of the street. Maybe, if he hurries – but there's so many people in the way. Keeping one hand in his pocket with his fingers curled around the box, gripping it tight, he starts forcing his way through, cutting diagonally in front of strangers, repeatedly mumbling apologies. He doesn't notice that the current of the crowd is what is moving him closer, that they are pushing him along.