It was a struggle to manage the heavy glass door. The handles were oddly positioned, and the door was intent on closing before I was inside. One of those hidden camera stunts, perhaps, where unsuspecting people are humiliated on television while attempting something as simple as entering a bookstore.
So he had already been watching me by the time I spotted him. The book clerk. Not that I knew he worked there, not right away. He looked like a customer who happened to be browsing the shelves near the entrance. Not exactly attractive, but with a dorky sort of charm about him, and a nice smile.
Once it registered that he was an employee, he began to approach me to ask if I needed help, other than with the door, but was overtaken by a swift saleslady who swooped in from a side aisle. Maybe they have an in-store contest? The employee who greets the most customers wins salesperson of the day?
The not exactly attractive dorky guy was resigned to follow me from aisle to aisle. As if he was concerned I might be a shoplifter. Since clearly, I give off that vibe. (Picture Peter Brady, all grown up. That’s me.)
To be fair, there may have been something suspicious about the way I was looking around for a place to put down my backpack. I just needed a chair or a stretch of counter, or surface of some sort that was not the ground, so I could unzip the side pocket and stash my sunglasses, and my keys, then dig for my reading glasses. This may have been interpreted as odd behavior, and perhaps he wondered if I was going to slip a book in there while I was at it.
Or… he may have simply been interested in me.
Each aisle I entered, he would appear. Rearranging a couple of books. Straightening a shelf. He was slender. Scraggly scruff on his face. Thinning hair. Jeans falling down below his butt, which was cute. Gray boxer briefs.
We practically bumped into each other as I approached a little doorway leading to the next room. He was coming through at the same time. Flashed me the nice smile, flustered.
I found him mildly annoying, but was flattered all the same. It was tricky getting a good look at him, though. Every time I glanced his way, he was watching me. While he was ringing up a customer, I stood at the nearby display, hoping to study him without being detected. Not a chance. He actually turned his back to the register to smile at me. Warmly, this time.
Alright. Guess I may as well speak to the guy. I brought my two books up to the counter. As he waited on me, he was doing a little happy dance, singing to himself. Then a deranged person came into the store and took up his attention entirely.
It was only after I left that I wondered if maybe I should have asked for his phone number. A scruffy faced dorky book clerk might be the ideal person to ask on a date. It’s been a while since I closed my account on the computer dating site I’ve used in the past. Wouldn’t it be better to stumble across a guy in a book store, a guy who appears to be interested in me? That would make a much better answer to the inevitable, “How did you two meet?”
When I got home, I did a little research online. To see what I could find out about him. The bookstore had a website, and a Facebook page. I found a photo of him. That was helpful, actually. Couldn’t find his name, but I knew his initials. They were printed on the receipt he had handed me.
The idea of going back to meet him properly was becoming more appealing, the more I thought about it, and I did think about it. I wondered if he was hoping I would be back. I pictured his reaction the next time he saw me struggling with the glass door. I began to imagine that we were already boyfriends.
That was six weeks ago.
The door presented no obstacle. Smooth entrance granted, there he was, behind the register. He’d gotten a hair cut, which looked good, and he shaved off his scruff, which did not. His polite greeting said he did not remember me. I had waited too long to return, probably because I was enjoying the possibility and was in no rush to find it was not based in reality.
There was no following me from aisle to aisle. The one time we did cross paths, he smiled the way he would smile at any customer. Not a trace of whatever interest he showed the last time. Same when he rang me up. Merely polite.
A chatty co-worker said his name. Okay, so now I had that, if it was worth anything. Back at my desk, I found him on instagram.
He is a painter. In fact, the garish acrylics lining the walls of the book shop were his. The kind of images you might find sprayed on the sides of buildings on the lower East side of Manhattan. Intentionally discordant, filled with nightmarish creatures. Not at all my taste. His instagram posts were mostly of his work. I scrolled through pages of them. Finally, a candid shot of him. With his girlfriend.
Good lord, he’s straight. In the six weeks that I had been imagining my courtship with a scruffy faced dorky book clerk, I felt reasonably certain that he was gay. Why else would he have shown so much interest in me? Unless he really did think I was there to steal a book!
Now that is funny.