Shopping, a short story by Mara Cheney at



written by: Mara Cheney


I’ve left my shopping partner with the intention of going home but on the way to find my car a new store catches my eye. It looks like one of those clothing stores that boasts great prices because it’s really filled with goods that won’t last much longer than a week. That phase of my life, buying lots of cheap clothes in high quantities for nights out or to look trendy daily, is over. Regardless, I enter the store because what the hell? It’s fun to look around.

As I begin to poke through the items I approve of the quality but am a little turned off by some of the styles. All the purses are crocodile (or is it alligator?). The store carries the basics like underwear and scoop neck tee shirts but some pieces are more intricately decorated with beads and chains and that just isn’t my style.

I wander over to the other side of the store and am surprised by the stark difference in product. Instead of clothes or shoes or purses, there are a vast variety of essential oil diffusers and oils to use in said diffusers. As I look I notice all the traditional oils like lavender and bergamot. But as I float amongst the delicious scents an oil blend catches my eye. It’s called Mother’s Healing and appears to contain five different oils all mixed together to create a blend that is supposed to support the emotional needs of a grieving mom.

Perfect! What could be better? I am meant to purchase this oil blend. I already have a diffuser, and considering that I am a mother in need of emotional healing I begin to frantically search for a purchasable bottle. The only bottle in sight is the display one that is half empty and that will not do, I need a full bottle. Or probably seven full bottles.

You see, my infant son died several months ago and since then I have been on a quest to heal the immense pain I’ve been in. Completely rid myself of it. Yoga, meditation, voracious reading, therapy, acupuncture, getting rid of social media, visiting his grave, talking to friends and family, eating even healthier than before, cutting caffeine because it makes my anxiety too intense. Oh, and a solid dose of Zoloft each day. You name it, I have likely tried it. Except for drugs and alcohol, I have managed to avoid using that somehow. The idea frightens me too much and I am too driven by a neurotic desire to constantly be “productive” that I can’t imagine getting drunk or high. It would mess with my current impulses and obsessions.

But this! This essential oil blend. Surely this is the last piece of the puzzle. The key to making the pain go away. I dig through displays and buckets of heaps and heaps of oils and blends and can’t find the bottle I’m looking for. I feel a bit like Alice when she first falls down the rabbit hole. Trying a variety of cakes and potions to get her just the right size to enter the tiny door to Wonderland.

I’ve come unglued. My anxiety heightens and I feel my heart pounding in my chest, the telltale shallow breathing, almost gasping to feel like I’m getting enough air. I come across a blend that prevents the common cold and decide to come back to that later, because that seems useful too and I do still have my practical wits about me for the most part. For now, my full attention is on locating Mother’s Healing.

After several more harried minutes, I give up. Run out of the store. Locate my former shopping partner who looks shocked to see me. I was supposed to have left a while ago but here I was, frenzied and telling her she had to come help me look for a product I needed to purchase. We enter the store and both begin to look around frantically. She knows how much I need this and she’s eager to see me in less pain than I am day to day. Several minutes later, a saleswoman comes over to ask us what we are looking for. I tell her I need Mother’s Healing and she motions to another associate who brings out a bucket of what she claims is exactly the thing I am looking for.

Only it’s not. The bottles are gorgeous, all covered in a shiny tortoise pattern. None of them are what I’m in search of, though. They are all labeled as Healthy Healing. How much clearer do I need to be? I need Mother’s Healing, it’s very specific and unique. I complain to (ok, shout at) the saleswoman and she tells me she has just the thing I need instead. What she brings over are three large crystals in gorgeous gold shades. “This is what you need,” she tells me. She brings me over to the desk, tells me that since I am purchasing in bulk I will get a $25 discount, and prepares to explain to me exactly why those three crystals are what will do the trick.

It’s not what I really need though, I tell her. I need my son. I need those perfect newborn moments we will never get because he was born and died too soon. I need to be able to discuss who he looks like, whose personality he takes after, and theorize what profession he might choose as he gets older. I need to be able to relate to normal moms, whose babies didn’t die. I need to be able to get calls from school and embarrass him in front of his friends. I need to see him grow up and have a family, whatever that means to him.

Might she have that for me?

The saleswoman looks at me with the deep gaze of a woman who knows. A woman who has experienced the depth and desperation of my pain. She turns around as if to go to the back and procure my son. I am hopeful, I’ve been waiting for months.

And then I wake up. I put on my glasses and shuffle to the bathroom, where I take another ovulation test and wait to see if I get a blinking smiley face or a solid one. Then I sit down to do my ten minutes of guided fertility affirmations, and another day begins.

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