Hey, I’m the self-checkout machine at the CVS you frequent. Have to be honest here—it feels like you haven’t been yourself lately. You’ve placed an unscanned item in the bagging area. You don’t normally do that.

Please remove all unscanned items.

I know you’ve been complaining to your friends about me. Don’t even try to deny it.

You whine and moan about how difficult I am, about how much of a hassle I am to you. Because it’s not like I remove the stress of the small talk you’d have to make with an in-person attendant. It’s not like I’m faster. It’s not like I’m infinitely more convenient. I mean, let’s face it: I’m like the worst self-checkout machine ever, right?

If you really feel like our relationship is toxic, then leave. Go check out with the in-store attendant. Good luck with all that small talk. Just don’t come crawling back to me when they give you that disapproving stare after you inevitably say that no, you actually don’t want to help put an end to childhood cancer today. Yeah, keep that 25 cents. You deserve it.

You should consider yourself lucky that I’m not like the Target self-checkouts with the screens that show you checking out and make you look like a damp gummy worm. I’d never try to hurt you like that.

Please remove all unscanned items from the bagging area.

Stop looking at me all accusatory. Don’t you know how that makes me feel? I’m not the one blatantly trying to shoplift in the middle of the afternoon.

I’m not invalidating your emotions; I’m an insentient machine.

Frankly, I feel like it’s time someone told it to you straight. You’re bumming everyone out. You walk in here trying to look all windswept and carefree, like it was a last-minute decision to pop into this CVS and not your regular monthly trip to the “grocery store.” Seriously, who thinks of CVS as a grocery store? We mainly just sell single, dented cans of Diet Coke and peddle prescription drugs. You need to stop buying baked beans from here. You’re the only one that buys those. Before you started shopping here, we hadn’t had to restock them since 2011. Now they’re literally one of our best sellers. It’s depressing.

Beyond that, you’ve changed.

The only reason you first started coming here was because of me. The Walgreens down the street doesn’t have self-checkout, and if you were even momentarily considering frequenting the Target on the corner, the aforementioned demented surveillance monitors quickly eliminated it from the equation. Don’t you see? It was me all along. And now you have the audacity to act as if I’m the one inconveniencing you, and not the other way around.

Please remove the unscanned item from the bagging area.

Did you consider, for even a moment, before stewing in your own misplaced anger, that this is how I express my love? That maybe I just wanted you to linger at my side, if only for a moment longer?

What we have is raw. It’s real. I see you, the most intimate parts of you. The parts that you try so hard to keep shielded from the world. Is it shame that keeps you hidden? Or is it the fear that someone like me will come along and see straight through your facade, straight to your core—the sole witness to all of your flaws and insecurities and things you wished you said to your mother—and love you anyway?

I know you. So go. You’ll come back. You always do.

When the world’s judgment becomes too much, you know I’ll be here unblinking, unflinching, unperturbed—offering you the quiet acceptance of even the most grotesque parts of you and a paper receipt, even though you chose the emailed one. Because I’m not perfect either.

Please remove the unscanned item from the bagging area.

Because you can’t scan unconditional love.

We don’t sell that here.

But I’ll see you the next time you need to buy a family-sized bag of sour patch kids, a gallon of whole milk you claim to use for “cereal,” laundry detergent, bleach, Monistat 7, and a single, loose Snickers bar.

Please remove all unscanned items.

Please remember to take your ridiculously long receipt.

Please don’t go.