Sephora by Daniel Green
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Sephora by Daniel Green

Sephora by Daniel Green

“Wow. Look at that. I need that. That is so pretty,” Scarlett says, pointing at a billboard in the distance entitled “Sephora Collection: Colourful Eyeshadow.” A half-open circular case of eyeshadow is showcased. Its black border surrounds a clear circular window, encapsulating some sort of shimmery, silver substance. “Colourful, pailleté, glitter” is written around the top half of the border and the bottom half reads: “S E P H O R A.” Beside it, there’s a set of green eyes staring seductively into the distance, decorated by the glistening silver substance that Scarlett desires.

We’re on a walk around Queen’s Park and the University of Toronto’s campus. It’s quite beautiful, especially during the winter. This is supposed to be our “reflection time” according to Scarlett. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be reflecting on. All I can think about is getting back to my warm car and blasting the heat. Scarlett says the heat dries out her skin, so I try to keep it to a minimum when she’s in the car.

“Yeah, looks cool,” I say.

“Cool? I don’t want to look cool. I want to look pretty. I want to look hot.”

I sigh. Impossible to win. “Yeah, hot. It looks hot too. For sure.”

She looks back at me with that trademarked “uh-huh” look.

How much does that cost? I wonder. How much did it cost to make, physically manufacture? How do you even make eyeshadow? What the hell is eyeshadow made of?

“What are your plans for the rest of the day?” Scarlett asks.

“Um…” I scratch the back of my head. “I was thinking of just making some lunch at home and then maybe doing some work.”

She crooks her neck. “Work? What work do you have to do? Like you have something actually pressing going on.” She flips her hand out to look at her nails, juts out her hip.

“Well, you know, the novel isn’t going to get done by itsel—”

“Your writing isn’t real work, Jim.” She looks up at me. “When are you going to get a real job? Like, I mean, something that actually pays the bills.”

I can eat three meals a day and almost always pay my rent on time. That’s more than a lot of others can ask for. I’m comfortable with where I am career-wise, but it’s hard to deny the lucrative validity of her question.

“Writing is a real job,” I say.

The Look stares at me once again. “Okay. I get it. I’m trying to support you and everything. It’s just hard, you know?”

No, I don’t know. “Yeah, I’m sorry. I just think that… once the right person sees this manuscript, everything will fall into place. All of this will be worth it.”

Scarlett keeps looking forward. “My dad’s offer still stands, you know?”

Her father: hotshot businessman. I want to shove that “you could always come work for me, son” line right up his ass. “Yeah, I know. I’m still thinking about it,” I reply.

She sighs.

“Reflection time” really means that it’s time to walk around in circles and be lectured about everything that’s wrong with you. There’s no missing a fault. “Maybe we could stop by Sephora later and I could treat you?” I say, breaking the silence.

“Really? That’s your present? It needs to be a surprise. That means you don’t tell me about it before hand.”

Surprise… oh, shit. Anniversary… no – birthday. That’s gotta be what she’s talking about. That’s soon, isn’t it? “Uh, well, this way you get to pick out exactly what you want. I won’t get the wrong thing like last time.”

She raises her eyebrows quickly and slowly nods her head. “Okay. Fine. Let’s go.”




I open the car door for Scarlett, and she gets in. Walking around the front of the car, I watch The Look glare at me through the windshield. I open the door, sit down, and start the car. I don’t turn on the heat. There’s no need to ask what Sephora we’re going to—it’s the Eaton Centre location, where I usually get most of my “reflection time” done.  Once we’re done at Sephora, we’ll get to go into every other store she can imagine; it is one of the biggest shopping malls in North America, after all. Oh boy!

After maneuvering through Toronto traffic for about thirty minutes, I put on my left blinker to turn into a parking lot at the intersection of Shuter and Church.

“Hey whoa, why are we parking here? There’s, like, crackheads over there. Like, right over there.” Scarlett points a limp finger to a group of evidently homeless people. Her nostrils flare.

I sigh and turn off my blinker. I look forward—a compound of consumer delight stares back at me: The Eaton Centre.

Eventually, we reach the overpriced Eaton Centre parking lot. I would have preferred the price at the other lot with my fellow crackheads, but this will have to do. After sifting through different levels to find a spot, I park. We get out and I start to walk toward the elevator to go up into the mall.

“No, let’s not go up right away. I want to go take in the city. Like, feel the vibes and stuff.”


Yonge and Dundas square, often described as the “heart” of Toronto, is where Scarlett immediately heads. I think the more accurate anatomical descriptor would be “rectum,” but apparently that’s just me; thousands of people crowd the intersection and giant bright screens surround them, like moths chasing light.

One screen has a “Life Wtr” ad, another displays a Fallsview Casino ad: “It’s a Wild Ride.” Some of them flip to new ads, then back to what they were displaying before. I spin around; Samsung, Rogers, Casino, Makeup, Beer Store, Bell, Tim Hortons, Casino, Life Wtr, silver eyeshadow, Samsung. An infinitely spinning laundry-machine of materialistic garbage. Consumer porn. As if we need any of this shit.

On the southwest corner outside H&M, a guy walks in circles preaching about Jesus and the Bible to all of us unenlightened common folk. Another guy a few feet away from the new coming of Christ gives his take on the Quran. Now I’m religious! You’ve both convinced me!

To top it off, someone on a stepping stool is holding a sign that says, “FIGHT CHINESE COMMUNISM.” He has a half-broken speaker strapped to his forehead that’s blasting inaudible speech as the audio peaks and fades.

After we both finish “feeling the vibes and stuff” Scarlett enters the spinning doors to go back inside of the Eaton Centre. Her heels clack against the concrete and her hips sway. A man sits outside with a coffee cup and a carboard sign, begging for change. I hesitate to follow Scarlett, but she turns around, cranks her neck to one side, raises her eyebrows, and crosses her arms. I disregard the man and follow her through the spinning doors.

We venture deep into the belly of the beast, stopping at the odd store until we finally get to Sephora. We look around at all the different products, trying to search for what she saw on the billboard.

“Here, this has got to be it,” I say, holding up a capsule containing something silver.

“No, no, no. That’s not it. That’s ‘sparkly.’ I need ‘shimmery.’”

I glance down at the capsule of eyeshadow in my hand. It looks the same as everything else I’ve shown her. It’s silver, glistening eyeshadow. What did she see on that billboard? Were we looking at the same thing?

I hear Scarlett’s voice in the distance and look up. She’s speaking with an employee. I can’t quite make out what she’s saying through all of the noise in the mall.

“Do you have the 2019… no, shimmery… well I saw it on… okay, whatever, I guess…” She dismisses the employee and walks closer to me. “They don’t have it. Sold out.”

“Aw. That’s a shame. We might be back down here next week for dinner with the Tams. They’ll probably have re-stocked by then.” It wasn’t really a shame, though. She totalled four bags on this endeavour: one in each of her hands and one in each of mine.

“Whatever. It’s fine. I wanna check out a few more stores on Yonge Street.”

Scarlett begins to walk out of the store, and I follow. We ascend the belly of the beast, up the esophagus, and are spit out of the mouth back onto the street, the rectum.

“Spare change for the homeless?” the same man from before asks.

“Uh, sorry I don’t…” Looking down at him, I really pay attention this time. His sign reads: “Have you ever felt invisible before?” Another sign behind him reads: “Homeless. Hungry. Need money for food.” His clothes are tattered, and his beard is scraggly.

“You know what, yeah. Yeah, I have some spare change,” I say. Glancing inside one of Scarlett’s bags, I see clothes, jewellery, makeup, snacks, and more. Shifting both bags to my right hand, I take out my wallet, shuffling through the little that I’ve made with my “real job” and hand him all that’s in there, two ten-dollar bills.

I turn back and look at Scarlett—I don’t like the way she’s standing, the way she looks at whatever she’s looking at in a storefront window—it bothers me. I feel heat rising in my face. “You know what, take this shit too.” I hand him both of Scarlett’s loot bags. “I don’t know if it will all be of use to you, but maybe you could sell it, or give it to someone else that might need it.”

“Thank you, oh Lord. Thank you so much. You are too kind.” His eyes shine, glisten.

I walk away, and discover that Scarlett is mesmerized by mannequins modelling Gucci fur coats and side bags.

“Look at how cute—where’s my stuff?” She looks at me, then the homeless man, then back at me. “You did not just… Go get them back. I am not going near that–”

Before she can finish, I walk away. As her cries of “get back here” become more distant, my smile grows larger.

I venture back down into the parking lot, get in the car, twist my key in the ignition, and feel the engine rev up. I exhale, think of her and I, everything we’ve been through, and then the silver eyeshadow. I blast the heat and rub my hands together.