So I went out for my monthly trip to the grocery store (I was running low on beer … and beer nuts) and as I passed by aisle 3 … wow. The cutest Chinese girl imaginable was there bagging groceries. Or perhaps she was Japanese, or even Korean … I can’t tell the difference, and I’ve accepted the fact that I never will, and I really don’t care anyway. It’s beside the point, which is that none of the groceries I have ever bought in my life have been so fortunate as to have been handled and bagged by a female this attractive. Nor, for that matter, have I.
As I passed slowly by the check-out, her eyes caught mine, and I quickly looked away, embarrassed. But I felt something, and as I stood in the produce section idly squeezing the avocados, I realized what it was: a connection. Yes, I knew suddenly and without a doubt that in that brief moment of awkward eye-contact, the generically Asian-looking check-out girl and I had made contact, had recognized something in each other that, however undefinable, or should I say inscrutable, was deep, real, and meaningful. I subtly looked backward at aisle 3; there she was, scratching her nose and looking up the bar-code for organic broccoli. I knew my life would never be the same.
I walked to the magazine rack and pretended to read Sports Illustrated while surreptitiously looking her over. She was short, like maybe five feet. I love short women because they don’t frighten me, so I’m going to say she was more like 4’11”. Ooh, typing that gave me a little thrill. Her skin was the light-brown hue of a young chestnut, and looked firm and plump, like a berry about to burst. Her eyes were almond-shaped, in the Oriental manner, giving her face a charmingly askew look, and as she got on the phone to call her supervisor for customer assistance, she smiled apologetically at the customer for her inability to ring in his purchase, and when she did her face glowed with the beauty of a neon sign obscured by Tokyo fog. Her bosom … did I mention her bosom? It sat high, poking perkily through her polyester smock, the faintest hint of cleavage visible as she bent down to pick up the phone after dropping it. I felt something again. But this time it wasn’t a connection.
I knew I had to speak to her. I would gather together some groceries, head to her aisle, and then … what? What would I say? I hurriedly ran through my repertoire of ice-breakers: “Do you have any raisins? No? How about a date?”, and “I know you’re not a grocery item, but I would love to check you out”, and “Does this rag smell like chloroform to you?” They’re all classics, and have served me well, but they seemed wrong for this situation somehow. Resorting to a canned introduction would cheapen the beautiful moment we would share as two soulmates thrust together by fate over toothpaste and plastic bags. No, it wouldn’t do. I resolved to simply be in the moment and speak from the heart.
But first I had to create the right image. I ran to the bathroom to make sure I looked presentable. Unfortunately, my lips were blotched red from too much wine last night, and my remaining thatch of hair was sticking up in several directions at once. I washed and smoothed, tucked in my shirt, untucked it again, undid a second button, redid it, then stopped to take a deep breath. At that point, I knew I was panicking, so I decided to lie on the floor of the toilet stall to perform some relaxation exercises.
After persuading the security guard that I had not, in fact, been attempting to peer into the stall next to mine, which unbeknownst to me contained a young girl and her father – I told them I had been having a small seizure – I found my grocery cart and began to fill it with items that would, when being rung through, present me in a positive light. Fair-trade organic coffee beans, to demonstrate my social conscience. Leafy green vegetables, showing my scrupulous concern for my health. A high-fibre cereal, proof of my regularity. A mix of frozen Asian dinners, to indicate my worldliness and awareness of the richness of her culture. And a package of extra-large prophylactics, ribbed for her pleasure, of course. Well, it was time.
There was a bit of a line at her check-out, as she was by now standing by as a manager tried vainly to repair the errors she had apparently made processing her customer’s order. A soccer-mom in a track suit with a cart overflowing with groceries and children impatiently clicked her tongue against her cheek, while her youngest son picked his nose and stared at me. When the line failed to move after another minute, she craned her head around to look for another open register, and she noticed me, and the scant few items in my basket. “You’ve only got six items,” she observed. “Why don’t you go in the express lane?” I smiled politely at her and shook my head. She looked irritated. “But you only have six items,” she insisted, “There are three people ahead of you with hundreds of things. What kind of idiot wouldn’t go in the express lane?” People were starting to stare, and I could feel my face going red. “I’m sorry,” I told her, pointing at my mouth, “I don’t speak English.” She pulled her kid’s finger from his nostril while looking at me incredulously. “What do you mean you don’t speak English?” she said. I hesitated, then said, “Could you please excuse me? I’m having a small seizure.”
After much waiting and time, my moment finally arrived. With surging heart, I emptied my basket onto the conveyor, perhaps somewhat too enthusiastically, for my organic fair-trade coffee beans bounced off the belt and knocked over Asia’s water bottle. “Sorry,” I tried, reaching for a witty remark, “I guess I can’t handle my beans.” I think she found it funny, but it’s so hard to tell when Asian people are really smiling, because their eyes always look like their smiling. Except for ninjas’ eyes. As she began scanning my items, I pressed on. “Do you come here often?” I asked. She looked up at me. “Well, yeah, I work here, so … yeah,” she said, and kept scanning. “This is my favourite store,” I informed her. She nodded. I kept going. ” I really like the avocados here.” She began scanning the items with increasing haste, and to my consternation she didn’t even pause to take in the extra-large condoms. She finished while I was searching for something to say. “Air Miles?” she asked. I was desperate, down to my last shot. With a devil-may-care grin, I leaned in and asked her “Does this rag smell like chloroform to you?”
After I again finished explaining my seizure problem to the security guard, I was allowed to leave, under the condition that I not return that day. If not for the interference of that petty little mall-cop, I think I would’ve gotten through to my check-out girl eventually. I was definitely making progress, but was thwarted in my attempt to throw my card at her. It is my hope that she may, while perhaps googling grocery store business online, stumble across this entry and read the contents of my heart. I am not so young as to be naive in matters of love, but I know the feeling of two hearts entering each other’s orbit, and this … this could be it. Asia, if you are out there, try to see past the sad middle-aged man who was wrongfully accused of harrassing you in your workplace, and see me as I really am: a sad, middle-aged man who desperately needs to get with you. Call me.