In the six months after I graduated college, I was employed full-time via two part-time jobs, one at the library of a community college and one at Dillard’s department store.
At Dillard’s the staff I worked with was pretty cool. I worked in the Juniors section. Our manager was a rotund guy in his late 30s named Bill who also managed the home section. He is the person who first introduced me to Dr. Bronner’s soaps, which I received as his contribution to our Christmas gift pool. I attribute the coolness of our group partially to Bill’s understatedly hip, smart and no-nonsense but not-too-serious attitude. On top of that he was usually upstairs in housewares, so he left us to our own devices a lot.
The store was new and not getting a lot of business. I think the only time we, the Juniors section, were ever really busy during my employment there was during the month of October, when teenage girls swarmed in with their mothers for homecoming dresses. Otherwise, we had a lot of down time together milling around the section making sure everything stayed neatly arranged. No one really ever got catty about whose customer was whose, even though the customers were few and far between and we worked on commission. We were bored a lot though, and sometimes we even strayed away from our duty to go try on clothes, or even over into cosmetics.
Anyway one day when we were done hanging up the new (polyester) arrivals, organizing the markdown section, and cleaning up the dressing rooms, the four of us on that shift were standing around the cashier island, leaning on the counters chatting, and one of the girls, Latonya, took notice of my bare forearm.
“EWWWWWWWWWWW, Mary Claire!?”
She picked up my wrist. “Your veins! Those are your veins?”
“I guess so. What?”
She rolled up her sleeve and showed me the underside of her smooth, brown arm. I held out my white skin next to her black skin. We both had slender, bony wrists with visible tendons. Together we studied them, looking at the opaqueness of her wrist skin next to the translucence of my own, through which the blue branches of my veins were visible. They scraggled and spread upward to my hand before disappearing again under the fleshy part of my palm.
The two other girls working with us, who were dark like her, closed in around us to look. A consensus was reached among the four of us that day, myself included (on account of the fact that I never realized it was weird): another gross factoid about white people is that sometimes you can see their veins.