13 Mar

Departments (Part 2 of 2)

“Can I help you find anything else?” she called after you.

Poor girl. It wasn’t her fault. She didn’t deserve to be the victim of your breakdown.

You saw an empty cart in the aisle and seized your opportunity to make things right by grabbing it and wheeling back to the glasses. “You know what?” you said, “I think I’ll get these now.”

“Oh. Okay.” She couldn’t hide it: she flashed you a look that said, “You’re weird.”

But you smiled at her and then you perused the cookware. They had that hard anondized stuff that Heidi was always talking about. You grabbed a ten-piece set, the Rachel Ray line.

Then you moved on. The OXO Angled Surface Measuring Cups looked good. You threw them in your cart. You added the Simple Human Utensil Holder with Removable Spoonrest. You needed some order in your kitchen.

But you also needed some sophistication, so you grabbed an Oneida 8-inch Mesh Strainer and a Rachel Ray fondue set. Was it tacky? The orange highlights were maybe too much. Perhaps the Chantal brand? In fact, maybe the Calphalon brand hard anondized aluminum cookware was a smarter buy than the Rachel Ray one.

You switched, opting for uniformity. After all, the stuff in your kitchen needed to match.

You were feeling better already. “Out with the old,” you muttered to yourself. And you headed toward the Accents Shop, where you picked up a couple of fancy pillar candleholders along with a Fresh Picked Peony- and an Anjou Pear-scented candle.

But then you saw the store employee who helped you earlier. She was talking to another employee, who was looking at you now. The implication was clear. You were a spectacle.

You didn’t need to be reminded. So you ducked around a corner into a clothing aisle and found yourself in the Misses section. Looming overhead were 12-foot pictures of women modeling Skirtinis and Shortinis and Strappy Tanks and Bootcut Jeans. They had relaxed smiles, skinny arms, pronounced collarbones. They were so beautiful.

You thumbed through the various racks housing Eyelet Trimmed Polos and Embellished V-Neck Tanks and Layered Tunics. You’d never heard these names before. There was an entire vocabulary you didn’t know.

Maybe it was your fault that Heidi left.

You wanted to drive back to the dentist’s office and apologize to the hygienist, tell her you had taken her advice and bought the toothbrush.

“I’m sorry,” you’d explain to her. “You look like this woman I was gonna marry. She left me three weeks ago.” She’d wonder if you were just trying to pick her up. And though you’d want to, you’d just walk away, proving to her that your intentions were honorable, that you were a good guy, that you just wanted to say sorry.

But then maybe she’d come after you. Maybe she’d say, “Wait!” and utter a sincere thanks and give you her phone number and say, “Maybe we could meet under better circumstances.” It would be just like a romantic comedy, the kind where apparent dating failure turns into a happily-ever-after with the most unlikely person – the one who disliked you the whole rest of the movie and who at the last moment realized that true love was waiting right there, right under her nose.

For a second, it seemed possible. You even began walking toward your cart, thinking you’d fish out the toothbrush. But then you looked up at the giant model in her Shortini, smiling ten feet above you, and it was utterly clear that you were surrounded by fantasy. None of it was true.

So what was there left to do but go home? What was left but to walk out of the Misses section, past the clerks waiting at their registers, towards the sliding glass doors marked with signs that warned, “Not an exit” and hope that they’d slide open for you?

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