over the counter

She was awful at her job. I don’t know if it was the fact she was new or nervous, but she wasn’t made to be a sales clerk behind the counter of a video game boutique in a strip mall. I could hear her mutter curses under her breath as her human eyes scanned the UPC of my purchase like the alternating fat and thin bars were going to give her some clue, some tiny insight, on how to work the register and complete the sale. Her skin was a soft olive color that the sun donated to her pigment. Her brown hair was up in a sloppy style that sent highlighted ringlets curling around her ears and down the back of her neck. She looked up like she expected me to make some impatient move probably much like every other customer she had to please with her unique style of service. Her effacing smile reviled white teeth with a slight snaggle- a telling sign that there were more important things in her upbringing than cosmetic dentistry.

It wasn’t until she had to call her manager that I noticed what seemed out of place about the anxious young lady. Her dark shirt seemed to conceal it almost too well, but when she turned to the side I could see the familiar form of expectancy. Naturally- as if I’ve been trained or brainwashed in some way- my eyes worked their way down her skinny and smooth left arm to her hand. I didn’t see what I was expecting. I didn’t see anything at all. Not a diamond. Not a band. Not a tan line. The only rings visible on her were dark circles under her eyes that wanted to scream about sleepless nights full of worried thoughts and aches and pains that were probably more physical at this stage than garden variety heartbreak. I could be wrong about all of that, but there was something in her mannerisms- something in the way she held herself that told me her self-confidence was forfeit and she was at the mercy of the world around her. At that moment, for her and her alone, my heart tore in two. I wanted to say something to her. Something to evoke confidence and inspire hope. I wanted to share some sort of passion with her so she would know it was OK. That I was OK and she was OK and in this moment everything was OK. I wanted to come over the counter and hold her and kiss her forehead and let her know that somebody was there just for her.

I didn’t. I picked up a magazine and thumbed through it as her boss appeared from a back room and spoke to her in that special voice you reserve for children or bad puppies. He made apologies to me that seemed foreign and almost evil. He finished the job she couldn’t do and sulked back into his hole leaving her and I again at the counter alone. I looked right at her and caught her deep brown eyes looking back into mine. I smiled. I told her “Thank you” but it sounded more like “I’m sorry”. I hated myself for feeling pity. I hated myself for being so selfish.

I left the store, got back into my car and wept.

how long must i wait?


~ by mlvassallo on August 30, 2007.

One Response to “over the counter”

  1. Thanks for the emails. I got Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Yes, it is good. I traded in some old 360 games for it- best game I’ve played all year.

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