Sunday, July 12, 2009


Pulled into a parking space at the convenience store. Got out of the car and strolled toward the entrance. As I did so, I repositioned my tan Grand Teton National Park cap (my wife brings me these as souvenirs from her yearly girl-group ramblings) with the bill tilting upward – a gesture of openness, which is to disguise my pathological introversion.

I passed a female clerk sitting out front on a bench. I'd say about 37 years old. Longish, dirty-blond hair. 18 1/2 years ago, I imagine she was quite the looker. Looked okay now to me. She was smoking. She was smoking existentially.

I gazed at her as I passed, intending to speak some uncharacteristic bon mot. You know...fulfilling social expectation. No, that's not quite right. This particular occasion, I really felt drawn to her. Maybe it was the way she dragged like Sartre's mistress on that cigarette. It wasn't to kill time or to find pleasure. It was to ward off emotional a smoke bomb against mosquitoes.

She glanced up at me in a flash. Then down again. Well...I'm REAL good at hallucinating stuff, so I probably misread that space between glancing up and down. But I'm pretty sure I caught the look of a sigh in her eyes. That she kind of liked what she saw strolling past, but she was just too damn metaphysically wore out to even think about it.

Went inside. Made my purchase. Went back outside. Still sitting there, and this time I didn't feel quite right looking at her or trying to pry a conventional, even nonverbal response. Just strolled past her. Either owing to the results of peripheral vision or telepathic ingestion, I picked up a stronger vibe of yearning. Pretty sure she didn't even look up at all. But I read her heart in that moment as I walked past.

Got in my car. Fired up my own damn cigarette. Backed out of the space and then swung past her as I made my exit. She was staring full-on at me as I drove past.

A glimmer of sadness was in those eyes. I wasn't hallucinating. She wanted someone.


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