Nothing will likely come of this, but it makes for an interesting little story, so I will share it in these pages.
I was at Trader Joe's today. I bought some flowers, along with my usual unexciting fare--kale, yogurt, everything low sodium for my heart so I can withstand this stress. They were $3.99. I was in line, reflecting upon how this was one of the rare times I had gotten flowers at Trader Joe's and not had to contend with at least one woman remarking to me that this was odd. Presumably, because I am a man, look fit and athletic and all of that. (Women, doubtless, who would tell you they are intersectional feminists, but think nothing of casual, constant sexism in their own lives.) Of course, there was that more depressing time when a woman, seeing me with a book, remarked, "You don't see many men reading anymore." Maybe because the publishing industry puts out garbage that no one on planet earth could honestly care about and blackballs and hates the genius who would change everything? But I don't get into that. Time and place.
I was second in line, and I'm looking at this beautiful cashier. You wait to be summoned, as you know, if you've been to Trader Joe's. She was looking at me. We made eye contact several times. Which was possibly quite meaningless. I'm tall, she was tall, you are looking over people and you tend to see the other taller people. She was closest to the line, and when her register opened up, so too did the one behind her. She gets ready to checkout the guy in front of me, and I look at him and think, "Eh, fucker," but he kept walking to the far register! Which is really what he should have done, but I wouldn't have done it if I were him in this instance.
The tall checker made a joke, which was funny, about getting passed on by. And immediately we commence talking. She asks me how my year was, and I say, to be honest, dismal, and I smile. She says the same, and we agreed that 2020 had a nice symmetry to it, and an element of clarity on account of the perfect vision pun aspect. She asked what I was going to do tonight, and I said I would be at home seeing if the latest Twitter mob had descended upon me to try and end my life and career, on account of the latest thing I had published. She told me she would be reading a book about totalitarianism, and I responded by saying that was awfully cheery.
You can tell how people engage the world--if they even do--by their eyes. Understand eyes, and you can see them dart, absorb, process, look, then looker deeper. You can watch eyes factor. By which I mean, play a role in their environment, be a kind of brain bridge to thought. Alive eyes say a great deal. Alive eyes with depth of field say even more. From a person's laughter, you can get an idea how they are with people. Some laughs boom, so laughs snort, some are to express "I liked that." Some are nervous, some strain too hard in an attempt to help the possessor of the laugh find belonging. But some people laugh as a means of connecting. Their laugh reaches to you, envelopes, it is a kind of sonic manifestation of what used to be called having a nice way about you.
She said that her next year would probably be better, and mine, too, and I remarked that, well, then again, if it's a year later, and I'm here in this line, and she's at the register, and it's not gone that way, we will have to have an awkward discussion, and then what will we predict? She said that could be the subject of our avant-garde play, and I said we'd have to lose the Trader Joe's bit, because the avant-garde has no truck with the corporate world! She was smart, she was funny, she was smoking hot (red hair). I have no idea her age--thirty,maybe. As I left, I asked her her name, she asked me mine.
So. I'm outside half a block away, and I think, right, fuck this. I get out the receipt, and on the receipt I write my full name, my website--I mean, we were talking books/reading--my phone number, and happy new year, and I marched back into the Trader Joe's, walked over to her register where she was ringing up another guy, put the receipt on the counter, and said, "Some reading material for you."
I'm not a line guy--and I have never given anyone my number--and I have literally not so much as more than shaken a woman's hand since 2017, but that was pretty good. I'll probably never hear from her, but I am glad I did it.
In part because these matters are usually so grim. One must realize, too, that it's so rare I meet anyone who does not bore me out of mind in twenty seconds. The other day, I was talking to a woman from Harvard. And she kept saying to me that her motto--I guess it was a New Year's thing?--was "do onto others." She said it like six times. And I'm picturing this kind of Biblical bukake party, with Jesus and the disciples seed-blasting people in the face while they exclaim--grunt?--"I do onto you!" and Mary Magdalene and her crew shout, "Do onto me!" I couldn't take it anymore, so finally I said, "It's 'unto,' not 'onto,' they're different words."
She expostulated. Because of course she did.
"You're wrong," she said. "They're not."
Wonderful. This is what we are dealing with.
Ran three miles, walked five.