He was the type of man no girl wished to run into at night alone. Towering over her at around six feet, his stare made her immediately uneasy.
"Evening," he said, and with a quick glance at her nametag, he added "Jessica."
"Evening," she replied automatically.
"How is your night going Jessica?"
Ugh. He's one of those customers. Jessica thought. The ones who stretched the idea of forced socialization for the sake of a minimum paying job, into the realm of immediate on first-name basis terms of friendship. He was one of those guys who appreciated the placement of a girl's nametag on her left breast so that he would have a legitimate reason to let his eyes glance in that direction. A customer who waited in your line, even if there were a dozen other cashiers with shorter lines than yours. A customer you plastered a fake smile on for while he was in front of you, but breathed a sigh of relief when he was out of the store and you no longer had to pretend he didn't make you edgy.
"It is going good, and how about yours?" she responded, lapsing into her customer-service voice habitually. She reached down to scan the only item he had put on the conveyer belt, a pack of spearmint gum. Really? Just one item? She thought, well maybe he is paying with his debit card and he just needs cash back.
"Better now that I have seen your beautiful face."
At that she let down her guard a little and couldn't help the blush that stood out prominently on her light skin. A compliment was a compliment, regardless of the nature of the person giving it, and she seldom received them at all. Most of the time she heard of the other cashier girls bragging about being hit on all the time. Skinny Susan with her blonde hair or big-breasted Jamie with her low-cut shirts were the normal targets, not her. Of average height and weighing what she should if she were a foot taller, eyes the color and luster of wet mud, long straight brown hair she usually wore in a ponytail to keep off her easily-forgotten face, beautiful was not one of the usual adjectives used to describe her. Normally it was, That Jessica Miller is so sweet, Or kind, or thoughtful, in other words, the types of compliments that didn't bring attention to her physical appearance and focused more on her personality.
Distracted by her musings, she realized she had forgotten to respond. "Uh, thanks," she said, glancing up at his face briefly. He was staring down at her intently, like a butcher would inspecting a piece of meat. That's it, Mark is walking me to my car tonight. "That will be 99 cents please."
She ventured a quick look to see how her line was doing. There was an older lady next in line who did not look happy. She had already arranged her groceries in the traditional system adopted by many senior citizens of items grouped by weight, temperature, location in the house and level of importance. The lady was glaring at the man in front of Jessica, her checkbook already out, her pen ready. Of course she is paying with a check, that way she can critique every move I make as she demands I double each bag with both paper and plastic.
Instead of a check, the man in front of her opted for her next least favorite way to pay: large bills that required her to count out change. He placed his twenty on the counter and must have seen her brow furrow because he felt it was necessary to explain himself. "Sorry, I use cash to pay for everything. Can't be too careful these days you know?"
She nodded her head as if in agreement, but couldn't help raise her eyebrows in skeptisism. He wasn't fooled she saw the situation how he did, because he decided to enlighten her on his views. "You see, a friend of mine-he's a philosophy teacher- says that ..."
Her mom was constantly telling her, "You're an open book you know, you wear your feelings right on your sleeve." She couldn't help it. She had always admired those girls who were able to hide their feelings so well, creating an air of seductive mystery about themselves.
"Alright, and $19.01 is your change, have a good day sir," there, obligated interaction finished. As he held out his hand for his change, he seemed to almost intentionally brush the side of her hand with his fingers.
"And you enjoy the rest of your night Jessica."
His intense gaze seemed to be trying to swallow her whole. She fake smiled half-heartedly but furrowed her brow in uneasiness. She saw many people each day and forgot most of them, but she had a feeling she wouldn't be forgetting him anytime soon.
"Make sure you double each bag in both paper and plastic," the next lady in line demanded. "The last time I was here, one of you clumsy cashiers caused my eggs to rip through and break all over my doorstep."
Jessica sighed and checked the time, still two hours to close, this was going to be a long night. As if to make her more eager to leave, an especially over-played slow love song came on the traditional Grocery Mart radio. The fluorescent lights overhead seemed to grow brighter-the types of lights that made up for the store's lack of windows so customers were able to lose track of time and spend longer shopping. She picked up her familiar rhythm of scanning items so her beep beep beep synced up with that of her other fellow cashiers.
"Sup gangsta?" Mark materialized at the end of her checkstand, shrugging out of a yellow parking lot safety vest.
"Hey Mark, you are closing tonight right?"
"No, I'm off right now. I'm gonna go home and crash, I just had to push in all the carts left in the lot, I'm so tired."
She tried not to seem too disappointed, but naturally she couldn't hide her feelings that well, especially not a person she sawalmost everyday at work.
"Why? What's up?"
The lady in front of her cleared her throat loudly, apparantly she didn't like her cashier's attention diverted anywhere but on her all-important grocery shopping experience.
"Nothing, just some customer was being a Creeper is all and I was going to see if you would walk me to my car, but it's no big deal." Creeper. The label created for those individuals who either acted creepy or just gave a person the creeps, and Mister Spearmint Gum had definitely earned that title.
Jessica could tell Mark had just dropped by to say goodbye to her before he left, and she needed to get back to cashiering before her customer had a heart attack.
"I'll be fine Mark, you take off."
"Alright, but you should see if Johnny or Stephen will walk you, I think they are closing."
"Sure, that's what I'll do." She smiled at Mark as he left, but as soon as he was far enough away she let out a small sigh. This is what a boyfriend would be good for. Most of the time she got by without a boyfriend, but it was situations like these where she regretted not trying harder to be in a relationship.
"Alright, your total comes to $214.48 please." She waited for the woman to write her check and smiled at herself, there was one guy she wouldn't mind walking her to her car. She allowed her thoughts of her crush to take over, maybe thinking of James will keep me from watching the clock until my shift is over.
The next customer, a woman in her early thirties, had a mixture of two sets of ceramic bowls, plates, and cups. "Make sure you package them so none of them break."