So, working at Dennison's Grocery isn't so bad of a job if you're a broke, imaginative, nineteen-year-old college sophomore. There are lots of people to stare at and form false conclusions about and a steady stream of horribly written romance novels to entertain myself with between customers. Reading those novels is like watching a poorly made horror film and being appalled and highly amused by the fact that someone actually put time and money into writing the illogical plot and directing the painfully untalented actors. Like driving by a car wreck, I cannot look away. I cannot peel my eyes away from the atrocity on the page! I will always be enchanted by imagining just how many idiots and liars had to come together to write and publish some of these romance novels. Such as Thug Luv II: Treyvon's Release which I am reading now as I stand behind the register at the checkout counter.
Yes, Treyvon is finally being released from a maximum security prison he was in for the murders he committed as a drug lord. No, his baby momma Asia has not been faithfully waiting for him to get out. Yes, I try to hide what I'm reading from the customers and my boss, except when I feel like startling an unsuspecting Caucasian.
But, honestly, I'd rather not have anyone see what I'm reading because they might think I'm serious. Why wouldn't a young black girl such as my self read a lovely urban erotica romance novel? Really, I flip past all the actual "erotica" because, number one, it's vomit inducing, and number two, it's too much for my virgin eyes. I keep the book hidden discreetly under the counter because it's not like there needs to be something else for strangers to judge me on besides my skin color. Unless I don't really like you, then I don't give a damn what you think. But if I like you, I'd rather you not think I'm a stereotypical hood rat.
Believe me, it's not that I'm ashamed of my race…exactly. Well, I mean, what I'm trying to say is that 'Black Culture', as they call it, is predominately a hip hop, gangsta rap, represent-your-hood type of thing, which I personally don't like. What's to like about brothers and sisters who are being told to enjoy and take pride in thug life? There's no getting ahead as a drug dealer. You live by it, you get locked up by it, then you die by it. I can't agree with young boys who grow up thinking that's all they could possibly do with their life, that their future cannot be prosperous and legitimate. Because, you know, following the law would not be keepin' it real! And being caught by the police for doing something illegal would be because black youth are being targeted by The White Man! Suuuure.
I'm not stupid, I know there is still racism out there and it is still harder for a black person to get ahead in America, but please, don't construct your own fences and your own barriers. I could cry. But I won't. There's nothing I feel I could do or say. I could murder Lil' Wayne, but that would not be practicing what I preach.
Now that I've said all that about racism, prejudice, and judgment here comes Ho-ish Hannah.
"Hey Sydney," she winks suggestively at me as she unloads the items in her basket onto the conveyor belt.
"Hi Hannah," I give her a fake toothy smile. Today, Wednesday, is Hannah's shopping day. Every customer has a day that they routinely come in to buy food to restock their refrigerators and pantries. The day that a customer chooses to buy groceries is very helpful in understanding what type of person they are. In particular if you shop on a weekend. That either means you have a very busy work schedule during the week or you are a loser with no social life so your weekends are wiiiide open. If you shop during the week that supports the idea that you are too busy partying on the weekend to even consider grocery shopping. Hannah is a weekday shopper. I, uh, I'm a weekend shopper, actually. Think what you'd like.
I begin to swipe her usual items over the scanner. Two heads of lettuce, tomatoes, LeanCuisine dinners, soy milk, pomegranate juice, salad dressing, a cucumber, lube, whipped cream, condoms, and Star magazine. She buys this assortment every Wednesday. Did I mention she's thin, blonde, and, uh surgically enhanced, if you know what I mean? I'm as tall as she is, around 5' 6'', but definitely not as thin. I eat carbohydrates from time to time so I have a nice round booty, full thighs and a nice, naturally occurring chest. Not that I can really accentuate my figure in the Dennison's Grocery uniform complete with beige apron. I keep my black hair in a short, messy, layered bob with side swept bangs so I love to wear colorful dangling earrings. I'm wearing my silver growling lion head earrings. Very modern motherland.
As I bag Ho-ish Hannah's items I glance at her as she flips through a TigerBeat magazine she has pulled from the shelves near the checkout counter. She turns the magazine towards me so I can see a photo spread of the Jonas Brothers. She points to one of them and grins saying "He's sexy, huh?" I raise an eyebrow. She is not pointing to the nineteen-year-old lead singer nor the guitarist who is a few years younger. She is pointing to the youngest band member who is obviously 12 years of age.
I look at her and blink. She looks at me unblinking, her big blue eyes not conveying that she is a shameless pedophile. She continues to smile as she puts the magazine on the rack. She looks back up at me smiling as I silently look at her, hoping she is kidding. She is not. My silence does not alter her smile. I blink again.
"Your total is $42.39." Ho-ish Hannah pays using a wad of mostly single dollar bills and leaves.
So, I judge the customers. Harshly. But how wrong could I possibly be? I return to chapter six of Thug Luv II and start up where I left off. Just when Treyvon had come home hoping to get some I-just-got-out-of-prison sex with Asia (barf!), a customer came up to the register. Mr. Gavin Caselle, to be exact. Not "Mr." as in he's married but "Mr." as in I, Sydney Lenton, once had a minute itty-bitty crush on him until I realized he was an old gay man, "Mr." Well he's not that old, but he's still possibly gay. As you can guess, I know all of this because of what he buys and when he buys it. At first I couldn't see these things because I did not have the ability to blatantly look through his items. I wasn't a cashier yet. I had just started working at Dennison's earlier this year and I was a lowly stock girl at the time. Shelving cans of peas, corn, and smoked oysters (barf!).
One Friday evening while minding my own business stacking tomato soup cans into a pyramid, I felt a sharp pain in my ankle. Kind of like the pain you feel when someone rams a shopping cart made of steel into your foot. I hissed in response to the pain. When I looked to see who the blind idiot was that shattered my ankle, well my ankle wasn't really shattered it just felt that way, it was Gavin. There he stood, with his eyes bugged out of his head and his mouth agape, shocked at what he had just done to my ankle, apologizing profusely, and he was so handsome. He had twinkling light green eyes and long black eyelashes. His short black hair was smooth, shiny and soft looking, like it had just been washed and blow-dried. His lips, goodness, wonderful pink lips. He also had that five-o'clock shadow going on and to top it off, a beauty mark! A little dark freckle above his lip at the right corner of his mouth. He was dressed casually in a gray screened t-shirt with a silver dragon on it, nice fitting dark jeans and dark blue Converses.
"Oh my gosh! I'm so sorry! Are you okay? Uh, Sydney? I'm so sorry!"
"How do you know my name?" I was sincerely surprised.
"Well, your name tag."
"Oh." Bright one.
"I'm Gavin. Is your ankle...?" He had a furrow between his dark eyebrows as if it pained him to say that I was hurt. For a moment I thought about saying he would have to escort me to the hospital and sit by my hospital bed holding my hand until I was fully recovered. However, it didn't hurt as bad as it looked.
"I'm fine actually. I don't think I'll need surgery."
"Good," he gave a little smile. "Um, you're sure?"
"I feel like I definitely owe you something."
"Uh." I'm sure I was drooling at that point. His eyes darted around my face, noticing the slobber dribbling down my chin, I bet.
"Like, maybe, dinner or something?"
What? Is he hitting on me? I can't believe he would hit on me!...Cool!
"That would be very...apologetic."
He laughed. "Yeah, it would. So, do you work here every evening?"
"Well, then let me know when you'd like that dinner. Any night you'd like,
I can pick you up when your shift is over."
"Okay. I'll let you know."
He nodded, smiling. I went back to the soup pyramid I was working on. I glanced back at him to see him running a hand through his hair. Then he turned to look at me again. I giggled like a school girl. Cute. He smiled and went about his shopping. I didn't even notice my swollen ankle as I skipped through LaLa Land the rest of the night. That's how it started. A promise of a dinner together. But now for how it ended. I thought about it the whole week. Oh, the sweet anticipation! What would I wear? And that week I got more good news. One of the cashiers, a retired woman named Ms. Daisy, had died! I was thus chosen to replace her. No more can-stacking, I was a cashier now. Yay!
That Friday night Gavin showed up.
"You're a cashier now. Congratulations!"
"Yup." Now I had the chance to study this specimen of a man. First one must observe his shopping schedule. Friday nights indicates a loner with no social life. No, not Gavin. He's just a...homebody. Frozen pizza, frozen tv dinners, beer. Ah, a bachelor indeed! "Um, I'm going to need to see your I.D. for the beer and all."
"Oh, here you go."
Aha! A chance to get even more info. Let's see. Gavin Caselle. That's a sexy name. Italian? His address: 2120 Pine St. Apt. D. Just in case I need to call a cab to pick me up late at night, nah mean? Hahahaha...Yeah right. So, he must be at least 21 since he's buying alcohol. He looks like he's a college student. Maybe a grad student. Date of Birth: 2-17-1979. So that makes him, uh, carry the one...he's 29 years old. He's twenty-friggin'-nine-years-old?! That's a skip away from 30! When I was in second grade he was, like, a senior in high school! Even now I'm barely legal. I'm just a little 19 year old girl. Maybe I'm just overreacting. I have a knack for over thinking things. It's not that big of an age difference. Ten years. I'm a pretty mature person, where it counts.
I handed him back his license and started scanning the other items. Toothpaste, grapes, cat food? He has a cat?
"So, you have a cat." I stated dejectedly.
"Yes," he beamed, "Her name's Belle."
I have no idea what look I was giving him because I was talking to myself in my head. What grown man has a cat? Oh, a sensitive man. A sweet sweet man. Sweet like some sort of, well, a fruit. But that's jumping to conclusions, I thought. That really is unfair. Just because he owns a cat named after a Disney princess doesn't necessarily mean that he...
"I'll take this, too." Gavin tossed Cosmopolitan magazine onto the conveyor belt. One of the blurbs on the cover read "10 SHOCKING TRUTHS ABOUT GUYS & SEX!"
He's gay. GAY GAY GAY! That was how I found out that he was an old gay man. The end. But just to rub it in my face, after he paid for his groceries he turns and says to me, "I still owe you that dinner." What do you think I said?
"I'm really busy, actually. I'm a pre-med student so, you know how it is."
His lips bent into a little disappointed frown then. "Maybe next time." He winked at me and exited the store. The dude winked at me. How creepy is that? Well I wasn't totally lying. I am a pre-med student. But I'm actually smarter than I look so I was already done with any schoolwork. I just couldn't bear to sit across from him at a table and look him in the eyes and know that it was all just so impossible!