I couldn’t make out what she said, but from the reaction of the cashier, I suspect it was glib. She fixed her collar and paid for the chamois. She glanced at some perfumed called Mystical as she walked out the door past an incoming police officer.
I couldn’t get her out of my head for days, thoughI could remember nothing specific about her except that her hair wasn’t too light and she had long fingernails painted red.
My friend Bob and I were talking over a couple of Buds and some grilled rattlesnake and I tried to explain to him what made her special.
“So let me get this straight, you see some chick in a big chain department stoor, you don’t say a word. Basically, you noticed her butt wiggle and then she was gone?”
“It wasn’t that tawdry.”
“Well, what was it is if you can’t remember anything about her, you didn’t hear her voice, and you can’t even remember her face enough that you think you’d remember her?”
For a minute, I hated Bob. I tried to polish all the soot off my scorched fantasies of this woman, but it was too late. Bob had turned the magical into something plastic. Something without a breath.
A couple of days later Bob gave me a ring and asked how I was doing. There was this mockery hanging in his voice begging me to bring up the woman at the store. But I just said bye and hung up.
I watched suds refuse to parade down my drain. They waited in that midway-place between the sewer and the sky and one by one refused to die without a silent soapy pop.
While they popped, I used a bit of bleach bleach and cold water to pull up a stain from the counter. Then, with my fingers nearly frozen and completely waterlogged, I sat down to read some haiku by Buson.
I was too distracted by the way my hands reeked of dishes and bleach so I gave up trying to read and headed back to the store.
As I walked past, it was the same cashier as the other day spanking down items on the counter and tallying up absurd numbers to share with strangers. The sheer meaninglessness of all of this was plastered on her face, and I knew there was nothing I could do to save her.
I loitered for a while, bobbed in and out of different departments looking for nothing and no one.
An hour or so later, I left when I realized it was true – she wasn’t there.