Flip flops singing their song as he dredges through the rain. He wraps his fingers around the cold metal door handle and heaves it open forcing himself to continue inside. Keeping his head down. Thinking to himself, ‘maybe I should have brought my hoodie.’ He did, after all, always feel somewhat more safe with it. ‘Just keep walking’ he told himself. He notices people moving past him, careful not to look anyone in the eyes. Meticulously staying impersonal and separated from each of these strangers. He notices eyes on him as he walks past. Thinking maybe he should have avoided this hell of a place after all. Why do these evil beings congregate here on a Wednesday afternoon. Do they have nothing better to do with their lives than sit in a food court?
He continues on. Dodging, deflecting, giving polite smiles to anyone who seems to pay him too much attention. Still never looking them in the eyes. Flip flops still singing their familiar tune. Reaching his destination he makes a sharp turn into the store and darts toward the back, hugging the wall as he goes, trying to avoid being spoken to still. As he surveys the wall of t-shirts the familiar voice appears beside him. “Let me know if you need anything today…” She began. Her, he did look in the eyes. The craving for meaningful contact sprang forth in his soul. He desired to have an actual conversation.
The last time they’d spoken she had confronted him on his enigmatism. “So, What’s up with you,” she had remarked. “I can’t tell if you’re happy or upset or… I’ve got no idea what’s going on with you.” The boy was a bit taken aback. Astonished by the mere fact that she had noticed him more than just in passing. And even more so that she felt compelled to question his inscrutable nature. Of course, the boy’s rapier wit kicked in and he managed to mumble “I’m ok.” realizing shortly after, however, that this girl had made the effort to come and speak to him. He felt he should perhaps have given her something more than that pathetic and ever so smooth line. Nevertheless, she continued despite his absolute butchery of her attempt to start conversation, now sharing personal information with him; telling him about her weekend. Forging an admirable attempt at a one-sided repartee to the best of her abilities. He tried to give her more than the simply appalling failure he had opened with. Discouraged by the fact that decimating conversation seemed almost an art the way he accomplished it, he sank back into his soul. Battling with himself, he caught the words, “I’ll be over here working if you need anything.”
Prior to that encounter she had made other attempts to get him to talk to her. She’d always walk up and give a compliment about the shirt he was wearing. Or to say that she liked his hat. Always thwarted by his shyness which many mistook for rudeness and uncaring. She seemed to be more intrigued by his seemingly morose mood and taciturnity.
Shifting weight back and forth between his legs he stares up at all the shirts; though not really paying attention to the shirts at all. If he were being honest he’d have to admit that the sole purpose for his presence was to speak to this girl. He’d hoped to try and make amends for his prior shortcomings. He’d planned out what he’d say. Not in the mirror like people do in movies. That doesn’t happen in real life. Just in his head.
So, hearing her sweet voice beside him his heart gives a quick flutter and he begins to smile. Turning to her he says, “Alright.” …’Really’ he thinks to himself. ‘That’s all you’ve got? Alright? Gah, You Are freakin’ pathetic.’ She backs away still making eye contact. “If there’s anything you want just ask. Ya never know what I might have stored away somewhere.” He turns back to the wall of shirts. Feeling sorrowful as he sees her disappear behind a shelf in the corner of his eye. And so he thinks to himself –fearful that she may have finally given up on him; that she finally decided maybe she didn’t want to be friends or talk to him after all — even though he was plenty warm, ‘Man, I wish I had my hoodie.’