I went to Whole Foods this evening to browse some teas. I would be browsing the beers but I’m detoxing right now. So I get my kicks with teas and experimenting with adding stuff like stevia and vanilla. Spry gum, which is free of aspartame, is also on the doctor’s list of things that are okay to consume. Exciting!
When I entered the grocery store, I walked past the produce section, into the main area where the checkout lanes and cashiers are. One cashier was standing at the entrance of her designated line, taking a little break before a new customer came. I knew where the teas were, but I didn’t know where to find Spry gum. And there she was, just waiting for someone to ask her a question. Though not really. She looked more to be passively contemplating the aisles of food that she served. Not happy or sad about it. Just looking and contemplating.
As I approached her from the side I could tell she was beautiful. So beautiful that I grew nervous about asking her where the Spry gum was. I even thought about not asking her. My heart accelerated by a dozen beats. But I kept walking toward her and, when I was arm’s length apart, took her out of her trance with a question. Voice hoarse because I hadn’t spoken since leaving the house, I asked: “May you tell me where something is? Spry gum. Have you heard of this?”
She smiled and pointed and said “this aisle” without specifying which side of the aisle or how far down or anything. I thought that was weird, but then her smile lingered and we had a connection that seemed beyond niceties. The question and her response became a sudden flirtation. Neither of us expected it. It just happened. This is what I thought after taking my eyes away from her. And then I pulled out my phone to make sure she wasn’t just looking at me like that because I had something in my teeth or nose. According to the reflection of the black iPhone screen, I was good.
I found the Spry gum and proceeded to the teas. At this point she had left my consciousness. Nothing on her, I was just really excited about finding a new tea to try. All herbal teas taste more or less the same to me and I’m determined to find one that is neither rooibos, ginger and tumeric, or mint that flies under people’s radar and is a hidden secret full of flavor and rejuvenation.
I spent about ten minutes looking through the teas. Eventually I decided on Sleepytime Vanilla by Celestial. It’s an ordinary brand, but I was really craving some vanilla and that was the only vanilla-infused non-black tea on the shelves. After that I spent another ten minutes browsing stevia granulars and vanilla extract. I bought the stevia but decided against the vanilla because it contained alcohol and, well, I’m detoxing. (When I got home I used vanilla with alcohol anyways after convincing myself that the alcohol content was negligible.)
With my Spry gum, herbal tea, and stevia I took a last look at the refrigerated aisle for a bottle of something that was allowed on my diet. I found an apple cider vinegar drink for three dollars that contained nothing but apple cider vinegar and water. I couldn’t justify paying that much when I had a bottle of pure apple cider vinegar at home that I could just mix with some water. With no luck there, I proceeded to the checkout lane with the shortest line. It was being tended by the cashier who gave me directions and made me self-conscious about being a spinach tooth or booger nose with her lingering gaze.
While waiting for her to scan the items of the family in front of me, I spent most of my time feigning interest in anything but her. I did look over at her once though after putting my items on the checkout belt. And what I saw was adorable: While having difficulty scanning something, she did a half roll of her eyes and said something under her breath. She did this nervously and, for a second, thought it was because I was standing there. Then I looked up and thought to myself to stop being such a narcissist.
When I looked up, I saw a young man three aisles down and imagined him being attracted to the same young woman I was attracted to. I remembered the places I worked for at a younger age and, almost always, had a small crush on a co-worker, if not a fledgling relationship with complicated emotions. From the outside, it appeared she and him would be good together, though I didn’t catch any signs of jealousy. He never looked up and seemed to think, “He better not try anything with her.” He did look up once, but he was probably just taking a break from staring at the belt.
Shortly after he glanced over, it was my turn to check out.
“Find the gum okay?” she asked with a smile, looking me directly in the eye.
“Yeah,” I said with a haha.
And I was about to tell her I was buying it because I was on a detox but she said something before me. I’m glad she did because mentioning detoxing seemed effeminate in hindsight. Though I forget what she said. I was paying more attention to her dialect, her tone, and the tempo of her speech. I was trying to determine if she was interested in me. I thought she might be so I continued the conversation.
“Did you just start working here? I come in quite a bit and haven’t seen you before.”
“No,” she said. “I’ve actually been working for, uh, seven months now.”
“Well I come in mostly during the day. Maybe that’s why.”
She told me the total of my purchase and I entered my card.
After the transaction I asked her for her name.
“Sarah,” she said.
“Sarah, I’m Rob. Maybe I’ll see you around. I’m in here all the time. Have a good evening.”
“You too,” she said.
I picked up my items, worried she might see a shake in my hands, and walked away.
I thought about her most of the drive home. Were my feelings stronger than hers? Did she feel a connection, too? If so, does she feel a connection with a handful of her customers on a daily basis and I am just a number? I should have asked her to do something after work. But what? I’m living at home right now. That’s not sexy. But maybe she is too. That aside, she’s probably too young. But that’s just an excuse. These are all excuses.
If I see Sarah again, I won’t make any excuses.
Also, I just realized that Sarah is the lover of the protagonist in my screenplay. I don’t believe in “meant to bes” but this is a nice coincidence.