You asked me if I liked Van Gogh.
“What?” My eyebrows rose.
“The Irises,” you said, motioning to the purple flowers sifting down the conveyer belt. I grabbed them because they were cheap, and would give me an incentive to let in some sunlight once in a while. “I love Irises. I love that Van Gogh painting at the... at the...”
You searched for the word “Getty” as you scanned my frozen peas. The “G” got stuck in your mouth and I smiled when you stuttered.
The first thing I noticed about you was the way you waved me over to your express lane, even though your light was off and I had more than 12 items. I pretended that it was because you thought I was pretty.
“Have you seen it?” you inquired about the exhibit. I nodded that I had, a while ago though. A bagger comes over and asks paper or plastic. An old Hispanic woman ignored the closed lane sign and started putting her items on the belt behind me, but you didn't seem to mind.
In that moment I could see us driving to your boyhood friendʼs wedding in Santa Barbara, the one you met in Troop 19. In the car, you tell me about the time when you both accidentally smeared Poison Ivy over your legs as I kick my feet up on the dashboard and joke that you must not have been a very good Boy Scout.
Celeste frozen pizzas (five for four dollars), off-brand grape jelly and three bottles of red wine followed the peas. I silently thanked my past self for putting the Ben and Jerryʼs back on the shelf.
The second thing I noticed about you were your eyes. Wide and reflective, blue- gray against tanned skin, magnified by your round-rimmed glasses. They matched your collared button-up. They seemed to shine.
Those eyes met my own and held my gaze. I felt that thing, that stupid flutter in my midsection like the moment a roller coaster plunges into free-fall. You grinned; I tore my eyes away and started rummaging for my wallet.
“How is your day so far?” you inquired, as if you could sense that a friend had cancelled our brunch plans last minute and I instead spent the morning scrolling past smiling faces on my phone.
“Oh... pretty good,” I lied.
“Well, I hope it gets even better.”
I could see us in my apartment. Youʼre lounging on the couch reading The New York Times on your phone. I comment on my shabby appearance, fishing for compliments, and you playfully suggest I stop wearing my nightwear as daywear. We come to this store together and buy ingredients for an ambitious home cooked meal. Later on you laugh at my ineptitude as I try to chop an onion. I nick my finger with the knife and you take my hand and run it under hot water. “How does Dominos sound?” you ask. We devour every slice in bed while watching true crime documentaries on Netflix.
I could see us. I fantasized that you were a gentle soul.
A teenage boy with blaring headphones came up behind the old woman, whose eyes did a full roll before landing on the closed lane sign, annoyed, as if she had never seen such gall. You caught my eye again and stifled a laugh at the irony, and this time I did not look away, because I was swimming in you.
“Light is off,” the old woman said, motioning to it with a nod of her head.
My light had been off too, but the darkness was getting old. I wanted to talk in more than just pleasantries again. I wanted to say, “Me, too.”
I wanted you to ask me to go with you to the Getty to see Van Goghʼs Irises.
“Cash or credit?” I got instead. The bagger handed me my items and I began to panic. The teenager lowered his headphones to argue with the old lady and his music swam into my head, the beat thumping like a heart attack. My hands shook as I handed you my debit card and our life flashed before my eyes. Donʼt let me leave! I begged you telepathically.
Stop. Another voice landed in my consciousness. I could not identify its source. This voice had weight. It was murky, warm, moist like pumpkin bread like but also a fever. It sunk down my esophagus with my next swallow of breath and dribbled into my stomach like thick drops of rain and suddenly I was full. Rooted. It felt like, maybe, it could have come from the part of the brain that makes you back off the high dive, or reconsider auditioning for the school play. From the place that says sorry to bother you; only if you have the time; no I donʼt mind. It felt like watching a contemporary dancer floating and flowing, body contorting with precision and passion when you can barely touch your toes.
The voice could have come from the place between your shoulders and neck that melts after a deep breath. From the heaviness you crave all day in your eyelids the moment before consciousness disappears, enveloping your body in stillness but also softness. It felt like the way your heart glows after running ten miles when you said you were going to run ten miles. It felt like a long drive on empty surface streets at night after one hearty glass of wine, with the windows down and the city skyline chasing you with the perfect song playing on the radio and youʼre not quite ready to go home. Youʼre fine, it told me. Youʼre doing just fine.
The old lady behind me pushed her cart forward and our time was up.
The third thing I noticed about you was that you were wearing a name-tag, but for the life of me I canʼt remember what it read.
Melanie Thompson is a writer, actor and director. A graduate of Emerson College, she has been featured in various films, TV shows and commercials. Her shorts and screenplays have been recognized in a number of festivals, including WeScreenplay’s Shorts Contest, the Diversity Film Festival, and the Top Indie Films Awards.