I find myself at Barnes & Noble more often than I don’t. In the case of this story, I was there to buy a copy of the William Friedkin’s film Sorcerer, because Best Buy surely wouldn’t have it. Best Buy hasn’t stocked anything that’s even the slightest bit obscure in the last five years, but do you need twelve copies of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone? Or how about a Lethal Weapon 2/Under Siege Blu Ray combo pack? If you want any of that, Best Buy has you covered. Ask for anything that might contain subtitles though, and the employees will shriek, turn into bats, and fly away.
I like to watch people at Barnes & Noble, because, as soon as someone enters that store, their shell of pride just crumbles down. People are so vain and self-aware throughout their entire day, and then they get to a Barnes & Noble and suddenly they’re lying on their back in an aisle, reading Batman: Earth One and shutting out the tiny sounds of anyone excusing themselves to walk past them. People will slump over at the coffee shop area and dump everything that they’re carrying with them out on the table, plug in their computers and phones into any available outlet, and nearly start taking naps. It’s like a hotel for people who are exhausted of the parking lot they just walked from.
Books have a really calming effect on people. Books aren’t requesting that you dance or that you even pay attention hardly. A book will just sit there, unassuming. The book is the shy introvert at the party of mediums, and you’ll probably find them sitting and petting a house cat at the far end of the couch, instead of trying to worm their way into any conversations. “You want to pick me up and read me, or do you just want to chill? It’s cool either way, really. I’m a book. You’re not gonna miss any plot details if you leave me unread for a few more minutes.”
I had made my purchase, and had gone to check out another section when I saw a brunette girl watching me from down the aisle. She was cute, with the kind of long bangs that work better in theory than they do on any actual person, and seemed to be dressed up for something. She gave me a shy wave, and I, a person who deals with people, looked at her dumbly without saying or doing anything.
She walked up to me before I had the time to flee or grab a weapon, and asked me “Are you him?” Now, in retrospect, there are a few better ways to approach someone, all of them including names or details. Because, technically, yes. I am “him.” Specifically, also, maybe a yes. Depends on your criteria of what makes up the “him” you’re looking for. If she was looking for a general “him,” then she was dead on target.
She, probably sensing that my brain was not processing this social interaction quickly enough to make myself any working part of it, added “From the site?” Once again, a very possible yes. I am a part of many sites, and she was either about to have the wrong “him,” or make me feel very famous.
The gears inside of my skull began to crank, and it produced a “What?” from my mouth hole. I watched the gears in her own skull crank, and suddenly the look on her face went from one of hope, to one of disappointment. I was not the “him.” I had revealed myself to be an entirely different “him” than the “him” she was looking for. Her own “him” was still out there.
“Oh, I thought you were my OkCupid date for a second,” she said and everything immediately became clear, because no matter how many times you meet a possible romantic interest from the internet, the first few seconds of the date are a mutual regaining of the memory of how proper, human speaking works. She was supposed to meet an OkCupid date, and was looking for them, which was reasonable. The only thing that slightly confused me was why they decided to meet at a bookstore for their first date, unless the guy asked her “Do you want to maybe get coffee and then kind of ignore each other for a few hours as we look around?”
“Oh, no. I’m sorry,” I said, apologizing for the fact that I had even existed in a spot where, in her brain, logically, her new date should be. I tried to add something clever, but all I could sputter out was “I’m not.” If I was 007, I would introduce myself with “I’m…, oh, I’m sorry. No, you go first. Haha, okay. Hey, okay, I’m James.”
And then, in a voice that seemed to mimic the tone of the first fifteen minutes of Up, she said “No one seems to be.” And then she abruptly walked away.
This means a few things.
First of all, she either had no idea of what her date is supposed to look like, or there are a lot of people that could’ve resembled her date. I can fathom that second option. I’m a tall, skinny, white guy, and Barnes & Noble is flypaper to my kind. We’re drawn to, and get stuck there, squirming and complaining about the prices of Moleskine notebooks. But why someone would go out with a person that they have no definite visual representation of is baffling to me. Maybe there’s a thrill in it that I don’t know about, like treating dating like it’s a scavenger hunt. “Find something you’re attracted to.”
Secondly, (and this is the saddest part,), this means that I’m not the first “him” that she’s asked. Previously, she has been rejected by a random person, or multiple random people. And she’s about to possibly enter a romantic situation with someone, which means that there’s a chance for an even fiercer rejection to occur. It was as if she was in a training course for being told “I don’t think this is working out…,” before she encountered the real thing.
I never found out if she met the “him” she was looking for, but I hope that she did. “I had no idea what he looked like, so he could’ve really been anyone there,” is a great way to begin a story for your kids