Abridged Catalogue of Impulse Purchases (2007–2013)

by Katherine Coplen

1. Square, balsa wood box painted with unicorns, circa 1980
Purple with gold locks and exactly the right size for my growing record collection. Smelled weird. It currently holds four (?) copies of Boston’s “Don’t Look Back.” Lesson: Don’t even walk into a $1 LP sale. You’ll always walk out with “Don’t Look Back.” Or “Tusk.” $7.

2. Cilantro, chives, basil, mint plants
Purchased at midnight from a Meijer in a suburb of Indianapolis over Christmas break. I hauled them back in a box, planted them in jars and stuck them in my windows. They died. Lesson: Use containers with drainage; don’t buy plants at 24-hour stores. $13.

3. Block of sculpting clay
Visions of reliving my high school ceramics class glory died quickly when I stuffed the sculpting clay in my closet and promptly forgot about it. Lesson: Remember where your stuff is, former Best Jar winner. $14.

4. Four betta fish.
One for each year of college. Chingy spent most of his time on my dorm desk and was given a proper send off just a few short months later in the dorm toilet. My roommate never knew he was there. Obama was a bright, beautiful blue fish that came to us right in November 2008 (exciting times called for an exciting fish!). He made it until just after the inauguration. Miss Jackson If You’re Nasty was a gift from a very lovable and very tall visiting Polish friend. She was the nasty one — spent the most time of all four fish fighting her reflection. I don’t have many memories of Condoleezza, and for that, I feel strange, pet owner guilt. Lesson: If you want to remember things about your fish, invest in a fish diary. $26.

5. Five blocks of cream cheese, one 16 oz. sour cream, 6 eggs, lemon, dark chocolate, quart heavy whipping cream.
Two words: sadness cheesecake. Lesson: don’t eat your feelings, unless your feelings result in something really, really delicious. $19.

6. Six world atlases at a library sale.
Heavy. Oddly smelly, and this was before I threw them in the unicorn box. Lesson: Bring a backpack to library sales. $15.

7. Set of bright red acrylic nails.
I am a nail biter. Have been all my life. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve tried to stop. In one case, I made it almost two weeks before I woke up one morning with my hands in my mouth and nails completely gone. I am a monster. My grandmother has the most beautifully groomed nails, and I’ve always gazed upon them with envy. Imagine a world without bleeding cuticles! I’ll be able to read about the latest “nail trends” and participate! (Maybe. Probably not.)

But those things weren’t on my mind when I stopped in a little salon on my way to my parents’ house for dinner one night last week. I don’t know what got into me, honestly. But thirty minutes later, I was bouncing out the door with an odd, heavy feeling on my fingertips and a not-so-odd light feeling in my wallet.

I lasted four days without biting, because — twist! — chewing on acrylic is painful. But I couldn’t type. I couldn’t play piano. So I sat on my couch, slowly and painfully pulling the tips off. Lesson: I am an incurable neurotic and I don’t like coating body parts in plastic. $26 + tip.

Katherine Coplen lives in Indianapolis.

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