|Supermarket Dream Girl|
It was the second time I'd been to the supermarket in less than an hour. It was also Christmas Eve, and the place was still packed, with about forty minutes left until closing time.
This is our local, rather upscale supermarket. Sure, the slutty Safeway that moved in a block away a few years back has all the same features--olive bar, huge deli, built-in brand-name coffee shop, bulk product bins, etc etc--but this place was slightly more expensive, and catered to a slightly more expensively dressed clientele--you know, those people with the I-needed-more-caviar-so-I-just-threw-these-sweats-on look. They'd remodeled three or four years before, greatly expanding the floral section, which was now awesome, the olive bar, putting in more natural wood and track lighting, adding the coffee shop, and raising their prices across the board, among other improvements.
As I said, I'd already been there once that day. That was early-ish afternoon, when I knew I'd better get there and get the olive bread I'd promised to bring to mom's for Christmas dinner--oh, and some nice flowers for her, of course--before they closed for the one time a year they actually closed. Everyone else knew that too, which is why the place was packed. It probably didn't help that the Seahawks had a game going on right then, either, but this is the kind of joy you have to expect in the wonderful holiday season.
Typical of my vacation habits, I'd been up ridiculously late--about 7:00 am, this time--for some reason writing a heartwarming sports story to keep my online clients entertained. Hm, that sounds sleazy, doesn't it? Anyway, I'd had to set my alarm to make sure I could hit the places I needed to hit the next day--Christmas Eve--before they shut down for the holiday, and I'd shot myself up with a straight brick of unsweetened, caffeine-laden chocolate--so, so bitter--after hauling myself stiffly out of bed at 1:00 pm. Wow, this is sounding lamer and lamer as I go on. But I suppose it's best that you know right now that's just how I roll.
Every time I go to that grocery store I harbor the secret thought that maybe she'll be there--the grocery-bagging girl of my dreams. I still can't figure why she works there; with her looks, she could easily get a job as the teasing greeter at any high-class restaurant in town, or, hell, as a model at some local agency; so she may not have the excessive height necessary for a supermodel, but otherwise, aside maybe from a slight pinch of pout at the jowls, she sure had the look. Reed-slender, with long, silky black or just really dark brown hair flowing straight halfway down her back, carrying herself with what the ungenerous or jealous might call bad posture but what I regarded as an infinitely sexy, slight feline slouch, she sashayed around the cash registers of the supermarket like she owned the place; and as far as I was concerned, she did.
I'd never talked to her, of course, aside from "plastic, please" the few lucky times that she'd bagged my groceries (rrrow!). She hadn't done that in quite some time, though, probably since she'd learned early on that, stupid young bachelor that I was, I never bought enough that the cashier really needed help bagging, and anyway, I was silly enough to have a go at bagging my own things whenever the chance arose (and I've yet to break the eggs, woo! Maybe I should turn pro one of these days--again). Wait, that's assuming that she remembered me. Okay, she probably just avoided me on the wise principle of steering clear of hung-over looking guys.
There's the whole repugnance I have of hitting on people at their jobs where they can't get away from me that I can use as an excuse for my cowardice, I suppose. It's probably dumb, but I've known guys who did that--hung out at coffee shops hitting on the baristas, I mean--and it always impressed me as strictly low-class. And they never got any play that way, anyhow.
Not that I'd had the guts to ask more than one or two girls out in my whole life or anything. Hell, most of the times I stumbled into the grocery store on a Sunday afternoon, I was too fuzzy-headed to be prepared for an encounter with such loveliness, much less come up with any kind of appropriate sally. No, as on this day, the day before everyone pretends to celebrate what they tell us is the son-of-God's birthday, I was completely dumbfounded when my bleary, unwashed, unshaven eyes (ouch!) blinked open to find her slinking by me as I tried to maneuver my way out of the floral department at the front of the store without knocking over any vases. Mom's small Christmas bouquet was taken care of, at least.
I managed to catch sight of her once or twice as I went past the front in my rounds of snatching things into my little basket around the store. She didn't even bother pretending to wear the store uniform anymore; she knew she was too gorgeous for anyone to complain--any guy, anyway--about what she wore. On this holy day she'd chosen a light blue, form-fitting turtleneck sweater on top of a slim pair of blue jeans. She looked less tired than she sometimes did. As far as I was concerned, she was absolutely stunning.
Having snapped up my supplies, finishing off with two small round loaves of what I hoped was fresh olive bread, sifting through my basket carefully to make sure I was under the ten-item express-lane limit (I really hate people who heave into the express lines with more than the specified number of items; they're never thrown out, of course, or even treated impolitely, but damn it, they should be), I parked myself at what seemed to be the end of one of the two express lines, which had sort of converged together in a confused tangle to try to make some space for people jamming by with shopping carts. A youngish couple coming in just after me exchanged a few mild "haha, I think this is the end of the line?" pleasantries with the woman in front of me--perhaps middle-aged, face at that point where it was just flattening into loose wrinkles, and trying to hide it under slightly too much makeup--after which she for some reason turned toward me, semi-playfully growling "if I have to talk to just one more person today! Oooh!" to which I responded in my most debonaire, humor-the-crazy-person-in-the-supermarket tone, "I won't say a word"; a clear hypocrisy, but one I knew she'd take, since obviously she hadn't had to talk to me, or to the couple behind me. Fortunately, it seemed to satisfy her, and she turned back to facing forward and getting ready to throw her things at the next available cashier.
So I made my purchases--the cashier was pleasant, as they always are, but this fellow really had a nice tone, and didn't seem at all stressed out by the crowd, somehow--picked up mom's bouquet from the floral department after an awkward pause where I failed to make myself known to the girl I hadn't placed the order with while waiting in vain for the woman who would recognize me to make her way over to the counter before an impolite amount of silence elapsed, and, on my way to the exit, happily got to walk past the girl of my dreams as she gracefully and sulkily bagged someone else's groceries.
Oh, I forgot to mention--as most would, I suppose, but I'm being an obsessive crazy stalker here already, so I might as well get this off my chest--that rather miraculously, as far as I was concerned, she'd come up almost right in front of me to grab an empty grocery basket as I waited in line, and I could almost swear with that eternal optimism of the hopeless wimpy romantic that she half-turned to look at me as she walked away back down the row of registers. Or if not to look at me, at least in my direction. The direction I happened to be in, that is. Toward the main part of the store. Where she'd have had every reason to glance. But still, I'd take what I could get.
No, I'd never said anything to her really, nor even seen anything approaching an opportunity to say something hopefully witty or at least sincere and possibly almost memorable to her in any situation verging on semi-privacy. Not that I would have tried anyhow, I suppose. I still harbor this fantasy that some day she will, for some bizarre reason, come over, bag my pitiful number of obviously-single-and-can't-cook groceries, smile, and coyly offer to help me carry them--in their small, single bag--to my car. This will, of course, never happen as long as the current laws of the universe exist, and rightly so, but that doesn't stop a guy from hoping.
So, all in all, it was a highly successful trip to the grocery store, as far as these things went. I dropped my things off at home, snagged my book, and proceeded on my merry way through the Christmas Eve rain up the ridge to the quirky local breakfast/brunch joint I make a habit of hitting every Sunday, usually with my friend and maybe my brother, but this time of year my brother was off possibly snowboarding, and my friend was spending the day with his family--they open presents on Christmas Eve, the heathens--and had actually gone there with them already that day, in the morning, when decent people have their breakfast. By the time I got there, it was just past two, and they closed at three. The place looked dark from the outside, and empty at first glance, and I almost feared they were closed, even though a taped-up sheet of printed paper in the window made a point of saying they were still open until their usual three o'clock hour. And then I reached the main door, and saw people in one of the booths, and was sure I was safe. I opened the door.
The cook was standing behind the counter, and wagged his hip goatee at me: "Closed." In the middle of entering and adjusting to the interior, though, I didn't really take that heavy message in all at once, until the short, voluptuously sassy waitress who always wears a different too-small t-shirt over her significant bosom and tummy while playfully teasing/insulting us, standing beside him, also wagged her elfish face and added "We close at 2 today."
Gentleman and wuss that I am, I raised no fuss. "Well, merry Christmas," I managed, possibly with what could have passed for a grin, or a look of being about to break into confused tears. She gave me a toothy half-smile and some kind of similar satiric seasonal greeting in return. I tried to nod pleasantly and staggered back out into the rain coming down on the usually busy street. On my way down the sidewalk back to my car, I managed to notice that the sign saying they were still open until three o'clock was referring to New Year's Eve, not Christmas Eve. Damn Eves.
Now I needed alternate plans. Another breakfast place? Nah, all the decent ones would probably be closed as well, and I didn't feel like trying a sleazy one. I'd just bought sufficient supplies for two breakfasts--my usual two-egg, non-fat swiss cheese, two baby tomato, two slices of hand-shredded deli turkey omelettes which I love with a strange sort of food lust, but I needed at least one of those for the day after Christmas, when I'd be stranded at home after taking my car into the shop for the "45,000-mile maintenance" they'd swindled me into, and I figured I probably needed the other as emergency rations for the next day, too, so that meant I needed to make another trip to the grocery store.
I didn't need to, of course. But it seemed like a good excuse; I knew she was there, and that I might get to see her again for a few seconds. God, this is sad. I wondered vaguely while peering at the rain through my half-fogged windshield if I should try to make my own version of the yogurt and blueberry "parfait" type of thing I always get at Mae's on Sunday to complement my usual smoked-salmon omelette--they're so used/disgusted with me now that they get that for me right off without me even having to order it, even though it's a modification of their "Breakfast Sunday," removing that deadly-carb-heavy granola they're supposed to come with, when the menu clearly says "no substitutions." I tip them too much, to cover up for my guilt.
I figured I'd probably better not try it, since I'd tried it once before and utterly, unbelievably botched it: the yogurt I got turned out to be not even yogurt, but some kind of artificially non-sugar-sweetened goo that I ate anyway and then felt nauseated by and will probably get cancer from, and I forgot to heat up the blueberries, so they were flat and green and clammy and felt like eyeballs in my mouth. No, better not try it. Just get the cheese you need and make your omelette and be happy enough with that.
After going by the fast-food drive-up to grab three "Dick's Deluxe" burgers for my planned Christmas Eve repast--hey, I support my beloved local chains, all right?--I headed back to the supermarket, fighting the nagging fear that this was just the kind of situation where a tragic or at least amusingly inconvenient holiday car crash would occur. This mild delirium might have been due to having nothing in me but five hours of sleep, caffeine, the bitterest of chocolate, and two calcium antacids that I'd taken before going to bed at 7:00 am, since my stomach had had nothing better to do with itself after the sushi I'd given it ten hours before than to growl and frolic in its own acids as I'd tried to get to sleep.
But possibly it was due to the slightly giddy, wishfully naughty thought of getting to see Her twice in one day. The traffic lights were oddly in my favor. Hey, there's the video store, that reminds me, maybe this lonely late brunch at home is the perfect chance to watch some movie all of my friends have either seen or sworn never to see, instead of just one of those old pre-Hollywood Hitchcock flicks a buddy of mine got me in a weird DVD compilation he'd happened across in the bargain bin, because I was sure too loopy to be able to navigate through the French novel I was trying to use--fairly unsuccessfully--to teach myself the language after wasting several years of high school and college in flirting with it in classes where none of us really cared about learning it in a useful way. Yep, this was the perfect opportunity to get Weatherman, which my brother had just reminded me of two days earlier by mentioning that he'd hardly recognized Christina Applegate in it--this is the kind of classy conversation we have, see. Oh, except it's called Anchorman, which I can never remember for some reason. Oops, the video store was past, now, but I'd go back by it on the more-or-less way home.
After the supermarket. In I went, with three goals: non-fat Swiss for the omelette, some kind of nice expensive European cheese to make up for the lost parfait (I'd briefly considered finally trying one of the shakes at the fast-food joint, but jesus, I was slacking enough on hitting the gym as it was, and besides, a sugar low in my current state would just about finish me off), and one last covert glimpse of Her Gloriousness before I had to pretend to turn my thoughts to holy, un-sexy things for a day.
Cheeses in hand (I'd grabbed some kind of semi-soft Danish thing, I think), I walked through the crowds toward the express registers for the second time that day. This close to closing time, the place was thinning out, and if I could just get around these two obviously confused people pausing in the middle of the store front aisle ahead of me, I could get to the register with no line. I was dodging them when it happened.
She was heading for me, right down the aisle, the crowds of comparatively unattractive well-off riff-raff seeming in my fervid imagination to part before her like the Red Sea before Moses, except that in that light-blue form-hugging thin turtleneck sweater she looked way better than Moses ever possibly could have, probably.
After the first surprised eyeful of her I sort of looked slightly off to the side, so as not to stare too obviously, but then I realized she was looking right at me, or at least right at my not-so-general direction, ahead and just a tad off to her right as I was on my way out of the aisle to the register. I looked back.
Holy crap, was this eye contact? I swear, I swear on my mother's grave--wait, I probably shouldn't do that, especially since my dear mom is still very much alive and in fantastic shape and will probably and hopefully be so for at least forty more years because I'd be screwed without her--that she was looking right at me, right into my eyes as she strode effortlessly almost toward me through the throng. It wasn't just any look, either; it was a full-on model-on-the-catwalk eyebrow-puckered heart-bursting glower--or so I like to think. In reality, I'm sure it was more of a "what the hell are you doing here twice in one day on Christmas Eve, loser? And get a damn shave" look. Aw, who am I kidding? Really it must have been a "I am so glad to be going on break" look that just happened to go straight through me as she tried to avoid looking at anyone on her way back to safety in the staff area at the side of the store. By the time I managed to look around after she'd passed and I'd got to the register, she was nowhere in sight.
Well damn it, a guy can dream. She totally wants me. Best trip to the grocery store, ever. For me, I mean.