She was doing her job like she always did. She smiled and talked to the customers and I noticed that each customer left her cashier with their products packed into bags and with a smile. Customer after customer, old and young, male or female – always the same result. I reassessed the contents of my cart again and realizing that my pulse had returned to its normal rate I began to proceed to her checkout lane. Only one other person was in line and they were about finished having just swiped their card. I placed my purchase on the belt and removed my wallet from my front pocket.
I walked up to the customer stand and she looked at me with her big brown eyes and said “Hi, did you find everything you were looking for?” And looked at me waiting for my answer. “Hi, yes I did – thanks for asking.” She began scanning my items and I watched her not the register display. She had her pulled back into a pony tail which displayed her long neck and earrings. She looked beautiful unlike any other time I had seen her. Was it her or was it me? A lady with a noisy kid pulled into her checkout lane with a full cart of items and sugar. I was distracted for a moment and when I looked back over to Tessa she was looking at me apparently waiting for my reply. I looked quickly at the register display that showed my total of $19.40 and fumbled in my wallet for a $20. “Sorry,” I said, “just went and visited another world for a moment.” She smiled and said, “Hopefully it was a far nicer place than right here.” I gave her the cash and said “no, it wasn’t”. She looked quickly over at me and our eyeballs connected for a couple seconds then she smiled, gave me my change, and before she could say it to me I said to her “I hope you have a nice day”. She tilted her head to the side very slightly, smiled, and said “Thanks, you too.” I picked up my two bags of items, nodded, and walked out quickly but not in a scared way. I began my conscious breathing – in through the nose out through the mouth – and was outside at the parking lot and then felt all my muscles, ligaments, tendons, veins, – well you get the picture – relax. I stood there a moment then realized I didn’t remember where I parked. Heck, for a brief moment I could not remember what my car looked like.
Once in my car I sat for a moment trying to slow down my thoughts and mind. My mind replayed the transaction over and over. I took a deep breath, held it for about ten seconds and slowly exhaled. “I’m okay” I said aloud to myself and turned the key. As I pulled out of the grocery store parking lot a single thought entered my mind in reply, “no your not”.
At the bookstore, armed with a cup of hairy eyelid peeling cup of “coffee” I began browsing the magazines. I decided to skip current events and economics and was faced with the two-tier section of women’s magazines. Onto the next shelf which was a mix of computer related, gamers, and music magazines. I took another cautious sip of the dark black stomach blistering brew and decided my strategy was a failure when a quick scan of the last shelf of magazines was for collectors, history, sewing, quilting, self-help, and spiritual. Turning around and surveying the store did not prompt me with fodder for a new plan. Any idea what I did? I dumped the horrible black liquid in the nearest garbage can and left the store.
Remember when you were a kid, a teenager? Yeah I bristled at the thought too. As tough as it was we have to admit some things were easier. For example, dating or “going out”. Really it was. Think about it, generally it was accepted as norm that any relationship with someone would ultimately end. Yeah it was grief at times and yes it would hurt but you were not really shocked as you are as an adult that changes for most people once the date progressed to a few dates then it was accepted by both parties – usually – that the relationship is expected to grow, develop, and hopefully lead to the happy ending. That is an awful lot of pressure if you ask me (which I did). Of course commentators, talking heads in media, Hollywood consistently project the 50%+ divorce which is no “big thing”, “take him for everything you can” and remember guys always have commitment issues. But I digress……
Observation is more than seeing, just like listening is more than hearing. I had been picking up my groceries from the same store for five years. For some reason though “that” day was the first time I saw, noticed her. She was not from “here”, she came “here” with her parents seven years ago after graduating from school in the Ukraine. Her name tag was labeled ‘Tessa’ and she spoke fluent English with her Ukrainian accent and her beautiful smile. The store had three checkout lanes and either fate or subconsciously I chose to be in her lane. We spoke, she is always nice, and I apparently oblivious to her – until now. Now – it was if the heavens had opened and bathed her in light with a full symphony accompanying this moment with music. My pulse increased to the rhythm of a Neil Peart solo, I apparently swallowed my tongue because I was aware of two things: a large lump in my throat and the excess saliva filling my mouth. I could not utter a dry sound. My psyche reacted by yelling “composure”, “panic”, “flee” and other conflicting actions so overwhelming I stumbled out of the lane trying to act like I forgot an item [not just my faculties] and fled to a distant aisle to regain my composure. I was a mess and acutely aware of it. I noticed my clothes, my shoes, the contents of my cart, my watch, I noticed everything for what it told someone who would actually see me. But then I cautiously sneaked a peek of Tessa and a smile slowly worked across my face.
Looking at my state in life and being honest with myself I determined the rut breaker would have to be my life outside work. My job was not challenging in the least but I had a nice vague title in a large company that is highly respected in society. I get paid more than some managers in other companies, definitely retail or restaurant managers and yet I put in less hours, have less responsibilities, and less “performance stress”. So, yeah, I’d be an idiot to quit – (but then again many people do call me an idiot so that door is not closed) so my real life needed attention. Heck, more than that it needed to actually be built! Ok so what is next? Significant other? As much as that would be great, I had no life to locate such a person.
First decision is made though, in reference to a significant other candidate, definitely not someone I work with. Too much potential for soap opera type drama. That resolved I tried to figure out what hobby or area of interest I had out side of work that may be a potential arena to locate a significant other. Ok, you are probably wondering if sharing this amount of detail is really necessary in order to tell you what happened a couple days ago. Have you ever had someone tell you something or a story about something that happened and at the end when you should be experiencing the “ah ha” moment instead you stare and share the “huh” moment? Then after discussing the loss of understanding they remember an important part of the story that they forgot to tell and then you have “ah ha” moment followed quickly by “what an idiot” moment for screwing up the story and wasting so much of your time? Ok – I am doing my best to avoid that scenario, you can thank me later.
So what would suffice to be an interest I could explore and build an enjoyable life outside of work? Of course key to being an enjoyable life outside of work would that it would include a significant other. That is the foundation, the walls, roof, etc. (I wonder if that is why the Commodores sang “She is a Brickhouse”?)
How am I going to determine the best fit? Ask parents? No way! You & I know that the average or so-called normal parent will continue the childhood lies of yester year. “Yes darling you are a wonderful artist.” The drawing consists of circles and triangles and what I was trying to draw was a football player. Yeah, I was twelve. The flood of lies flood the mind in reference to piano lessons, baseball practice, or shop. Ask a friend? That for me is unfortunately not possible since I do not have a friend but do have co-worker acquaintances. Internet search? Tried it and let me say that is a truly weird world out there. Go to a bar or night club, nada. I don’t drink so I don’t want a potential alcoholic partner and let me say I draw better than I dance.
I decided to go to a bookstore. Huh? The train of thought was first they have quite a few magazines which are displayed by categories or areas of interest. Secondly, the same approach is managed for books. Why not the library? A lot of reasons but first is the Dewey system for categorizing books is problematic enough – definitely not user-friendly. Gee what does 201.123 have to offer me? By the way I made that number up so if it happens to be linked to something about naked yoga, sex for seniors, or anything else embarrassingly similar it was completely by accident. Honest.
My eyes were closed but I could see the brightness of light. The warmth of the sun made its impression on my face as it grasped me. A moment, one rarely noticed, never mind enjoyed, was mine – then. Yes it is correctly noted in the past tense. That was the moment I learned the news; a moment where a carefully nurtured principle of life was once again proven to me. The principle is when you are at a place of happiness or perceived bliss something will dash it away – quickly – and bring your spirit crashing to a brand new low. Cynical? Pessimistic? Realist? No matter what you may think of me and this principle the fact remains it indeed happened.
I wonder if the secret to avoiding this cruel principle is that we are to never to consciously or subconsciously recognize the reality of pleasant contentment. If you acknowledge the experience then you promote enjoyment which attracts the unseemly characters of despair. This is at least my current working theory of the matter; but I digress.
It was two years ago when I had decided that I needed to “spice up” my life. For several years I had the familiar rut of job, TV, computer, bed – repeat. Raised either knowingly or not that an adult’s value is perceived by others by one’s occupation and marital status – I knew I advertised “lost” since I was in a dead-end job with no significant other. If you are male and divorced by the way society deems that it was your fault. Guilty unless proven innocent and you will have to carry that burdensome unjust label with you everywhere you go. If you are a single male past the age of 26, you have commitment issues and are self-centered. Married males you are considered part of the norm but you are not out of the judgment booth. Does your wife have to work? Oh so you can not provide for your family? On and on it goes, but again I digress.
The point being I knew I had to break out of the rut. Lacking athletic abilities and the social gift of gab it took some time to really determine exactly how I would break out.
I can remember it as if it happened yesterday. Two days ago I was going to a local Starbucks for my early evening drink when I felt the wind cut through my coat stabbing me with a painful cold gash in my torso. The pain went straight into my bones and for a moment I stopped and grimaced at how brutal Winter had become. Sure it was December and being that I live in Ohio I should expect Winter to be cold but it was now much more than that. When and why did Winter decide to act so harshly to me? I had not betrayed the season, ask anyone who really knows me and they will tell you that I always looked forward to Winter appearing and bring with him the cold, snow, and winds. I looked forward to it every year; in fact it was the time of year I did the most outdoor activities. I enjoyed sitting outside sipping a cup of hot coffee while reading or just appreciating the scenes of Winter finally arriving.
Not anymore, because Winter has decided to no longer wrap me in its cold embrace but instead to take swipes at me and or pummel me. It seems I can not wear enough layers of clothes to now protect me from Winter’s change of heart toward me. Why the change of heart? Is it because I now own a snow blower? Is it because I now have a fireplace in our living room that I enjoy having large fires producing warmth and the pleasant aroma of burning hardwoods? Is it because I am over forty and Winter is prejudiced towards what he considers old people?
Winter has become a bully to me and many others but I will not be a fair-weather friend. I will still enjoy watching it snow, seeing the white flakes fall from the sky forming a blanket across the earth, homes, cars, and anything else that is outside. I will continue to appreciate the beauty of its complete white blanket a top untraveled land. But I will now have to do enjoy this from a chair in front of the fireplace while sipping my coffee.
With dreams, aspirations of being a writer, author I guess I need to “publish” my material so that someone may read it and hopefully enjoy it. While the experience and satisfaction of writing a short story, a simple post, a chapter or whatever may come is based on what is of interest to me; the reward of course is that someone else would also enjoy it. I need to write, “publish” if I ever hope to experience the reward.
So here I go….