All This Still Doesn’t Mean My Heart’s Not In It
You call me on my way home from work to tell me we’re all out of toilet paper and that I should pick some up before I come home. “But I just bought some last week,” I say. “How can we be out already? Did you check the cupboard?” I ask. “I checked the cupboard,” you say. “The cupboard on the right underneath the sink?” I ask. “We’re all out,” you say, “and I’m tired of taking a shower every time I have to go to the bathroom, so could you please stop and get some toilet paper, please?”
I stop at the nearest store I see, a health food co-op just two blocks from the house even though I know I’m going to have to pay a good extra couple of dollars for the convenience but I don’t want to drive out of my way, I’m hungry and I’m tired and I just bought goddamn toilet paper last week. I’m waiting in line at the register and behind me is this girl with short bleach blonde hair, black tights and a tight black shirt eating chocolate sun drops right out of the bag. She looks like a young Hitchcock ingénue, dangerous and destructive and irresistible and I can’t take my eyes off her, tell her she can go ahead in front of me even though we both have just one thing to buy and she’s already eaten half of hers, but can’t imagine if I went first having to walk out before her while she’s still inside, which is to say take my eyes off her of my own accord.
“Are you sure you’re not in more of a hurry?” she asks, glances down at the toilet paper in my hand, what would indicate if nothing else a forthcoming voidance of my bowels.
“No,” I say. “It’s not for me.” But then who is it for? “Let’s be honest,” I could say. “You and I both know who this toilet paper is for and of course it’s for me, don’t even know why I said it’s not for me just now when of course it’s for me,” I’d say, to which she’d be obviously impressed because who does that? Who just confesses their bowel movements to beautiful strangers?
“No,” I say. “It’s not for me,” and smile sheepishly. After all, she’s just something to hold on to with my toilet paper when I go home and kiss you good afternoon. I stare at her and think this is something to hold on to, think remember this, catalog her short blonde hair, tight black shirt, chocolate sun drops eaten one at a time for a time when I may need something, something like this, because it’s always better to have something like this to remember than nothing. The line behind us has gotten too long. The cashier rings a little bell to summon another cashier, this cashier who points to me and says, “I can help the next person in line.”
She is technically the next person in line as the person ahead of her is just finishing up paying, but I’ve already invited her to go ahead of me once and it would be hammy now to do so again, which would, in other circumstances, possibly be cute and fetching, but my aim here is not to recruit, not to gather. I am a scientist studying specimens, researcher, snooper, sleuth and spy, and must remain impartial at all costs. I go ahead to the newly opened register.
The cashier has no respect for my scientific inquiry, hassling me with a barrage of questions inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, the grand scheme of things being her, wherein I don’t especially care for cash back and all I’d really like is to see her slip another chocolate sun drop between her lips and notice, this time, whether or not she chews or just lets the chocolate dissolve in her mouth (my money’s on dissolution as chewing seems too prosaic for the likes of her).
Her cashier is engaging her in conversation, so easily engaged, and already my cashier is handing me my receipt and my toilet paper, waving his hand to the next in line even though my girl is still talking, still talking with three people in line behind her, the remaining chocolate sun drops balled up in her irresistible little hand, leaning against the counter, hip thrust in the direction of the door where I’m inevitably headed, no pretense anymore to linger and stare.
I leave the store and into my car and already she’s fading, try to catch one last glimpse of her but it’s such a nice day and she’s standing in front of the window and all I can see is the glare and my own car, think now if only I could get just one more glimpse I’d be fine, could let this go and know I’d done all I could but there’s no waiting for her and she’s gone now and you need your toilet paper so I drive the two blocks home, where you’re just coming out of the bathroom.
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Portland Fiction Project
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