Two days now, “Romeo & Juliet” has been in my head. Yeah, not the play, the treacly theme song from the old movie version. It’s true I’ve never seen the film; I guess it could be wonderful, but I have to tell you the stills don’t look all that promising. Anyway, I heard the muzak rendition (of the remarkably close-to-muzak original) in a ski lodge restroom, struggling to pull down then back up two layers of sweaty long johns and astronaut-bloated ski pants. The waterfall piano bit cascaded so many times through my brain I finally gave up and checked online to see if I was remembering it right. Yep, “Romeo & Juliet”, 1968. That puts me at barely a year old, so how could I possibly know every inch of this song, down to the obligatory part where the men’s choir comes in and goes “Ah-AH-ah-AAAAAHHHH…”?
Then it hit me: Barbour Drug. Barbour Drug, the small town drug store I rode my purple Schwinn ten-speed to a hundred, maybe a thousand times growing up. The kind of drug store that no longer exists, with muzak speakers playing “Romeo & Juliet” and a lunch counter in the back with grilled chicken salad sandwiches and a big metal citrus press and not a single person you didn’t know or at least recognize from school or church or another store that was the only one of its kind in town.
Barbour Drug, where I picked out a Shaun Cassidy heart pendant, debated over rock candy or Reese’s peanut butter cups; where I bought my first razor (the shell kind that was supposedly easier, one foot hop-balancing, the other awkwardly prehensile grasping the bottom of a lethally slippery bathroom sink) from a terrifyingly popular high school cheerleader working the weekend register, a girl who threw her head back cackling while my oldest brother doubled over laughing, watching me try and fail to casually toss the razor on the counter unnoticed among the deodorant and shampoo already there, then run mortified out the door now that everyone surely knew I’d never before shaved and Steve May had recently called me Gorilla Legs on the monkey bars just beneath Fattis Gattis’s 6th grade classroom window. Barbour Drug, where I bought my first box of tampons, my mother’s station wagon idling, the desperate desire to go swimming with friends finally trumping the overwhelming embarrassment of standing there, pink with humiliation, as the male salesclerk thumbed through a metal box containing notecards of family purchases to be billed later, pausing to obliviously lick an index finger as the line swelled behind me, finally reaching the “W”s and recording “Tampax” in painstaking, glacial print as I shrunk into myself, eyes down in silent prayer no boys would be there when I at last turned around, terrified and 13, the same as Juliet when she died.