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Missed Connection Monday--Week 2

January 7, 2019

 

Lady with pointy nose at the wholefood market newton
 

I was walking into the supermarket when I had noticed you. You had on these nice little cute brown boots they were the hardest. Nice silky meduim tan hair, you had turned around and looked my way. You appeared off as a bit shy. It’s hard to miss you, best detail is of facially of course. Your nose is just right. I was thinking about such before I went in shopping if you do recall as of two weeks ago please let me know. It’s the nice handsome fellow that squeezed on by before closing. I would like to get together some. Please feel free to write me an email of you want to connect. Great day miss lovely. 

   Another winter storm approached New England. Schools had been canceled for the next day. Alison Dibell prayed all morning that her employer would come to its senses and close early. She didn’t hate her job as a footwear designer at Krater Leathers. The perk was making her own boots before releasing it to the public. And the ones on her feet felt glorious, even after a long morning of standing at her high drafting desk. Anxiety made her fidget as she drew on her tablet. She needed to leave early to prepare for the Snowpocalypse that seemed to threaten every year—every month in winter. A trip to the supermarket before shutting herself in her apartment was in order. 
   She looked outside the wall of windows as the snow drifted gently over the Boston skyline. After blowing out a breath, she clicked her email once more. She’d turned off all notifications, only allowing herself to check at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Any extra time dedicated to email review and response would sink her into a rabbit hole. But this day was different, this day called for vigilance. 
   Nothing.
   After logging off her email, she returned to designing a new ankle bootie. A D’Orsay style sure to make women feel sexy and rebellious. It was an edgier design than her employer was used to producing, and there was nothing in the market when she searched online. Regardless, it was her job to create what consumers couldn’t find. Yet, she had concerns. Would they go for it?
   “Did you hear?” Alison heard from behind her. She turned around to see her colleague, Braden, looking at her. “They’re closing early and we’ll be off tomorrow too. Of course, they’ll expect us to work from home.” 
   “My son is with his father for the week.” Alison twirled her stylist between her fingers. “He’s already out of school. My ex will have to figure it out.” She smiled but still felt concerned. Her ex, James, wasn’t exactly the most punctual and prepared. But when it came to their son, Grier, James was on it. And James didn’t want another thing for them to argue about. 
   A ding sounded from her computer. “This is it…” Braden’s eyes lit up brighter than his computer monitor.
   Alison turned and clicked her email icon. There it was—freedom. She wanted to spend a couple of days on her own without Grier, without taking a personal day. All personal, sick, and vacation days were saved for Grier, or on the happenstance of her own illness or a needed mental health day. It wasn’t easy being a single mother to an eleven-year-old boy. He demanded a lot of activity and attention. 

 Because she didn’t get enough alone time, she planned to flip through magazines, pin inspirational pictures in her favorite app, and eat cereal,  frozen meals, and ice cream. But, first she had to get herself to the supermarket. 
   Wouldn’t it be lovely if she could pick up a hot man too? Select him from a top shelf—hot man with a perfect body and even better personality. She chuckled at the delusional thought as she returned to save her design before leaving.


***


 

   A snow squall blinded Francisco “Frank” Salcedo as he walked toward the supermarket. They canceled classes at his graduate program at the local university. There was no food in the house he shares with two roommates. From experience, a storm warning required a trip to the store to buy food— staples, his roommates called it. He hated cooking. There was nothing worse than having to cook a full meal for one person. 
   Purchasing a dozen frozen meals was easier, cheaper, and faster. If his mother in Mexico City knew how terribly he ate, she would have demanded he return home for comida casera—home-cooking. But Boston suited him. His English had improved, despite his stilted writing and atrocious spelling. But he studied hard for his Masters in Marketing. He’d still hadn’t decided to return home. However, he knew for sure he wouldn’t work in Government like his father, and younger sister, who’d always tried to follow in their father’s footsteps. 
   When he passed through the automatic doors of the supermarket, a blast of heat hit him in the face, melting the snowflakes that had clustered in his hair. He remained in the heat for a few minutes, changing his cold face to a hot face, reveling in the warmth he preferred, wishing he were in Puerto Vallarta at this moment with his friends for the holidays. He heard the automatic doors behind him and he turned to see if he was in the way. From the corner of his eyes, he spotted her—the woman he’d seen shopping. 
   She shook her hair, freeing it from the hood of her winter coat. The golden highlights shimmered under the overhead fluorescent lights. Without looking at him, she made her way to the shopping carts, wiping the handle down with an antibacterial wipe. He marveled at her conscientiousness and preventative care from germs. She looked like the maternal type, nurturing and loving. 
   He appreciated her kind face—from her pointy nose to her soft eyes. When she turned the cart around to enter the store, she gave him a curt smile, crinkling the corners of her brown eyes. It was a polite and apologetic smile. And for the first time after many encounters, she said, “Hi.” It was the first time he’d heard her voice.
   “Hello,” he followed her into the store. “I was warming up. They have the best heater.” Once the statement slipped out, he cursed himself for the ridiculous opening line. 
   “Well, it doesn’t beat the heater at the automatic car wash,” she smiled. His confused look must have made it clear to her he didn’t quite understand what she meant. She shook her head. “Nevermind. Stay warm,” she said before peeling off. Before he could say anything, she turned into the first aisle. Cereals.
   He needed cereal too. And surely, she’d need milk. Milk was on his list too. He followed behind her, bypassing the fruits and vegetables that came from his homeland. With a basket draped over his forearm, he headed her way. 
   She plucked a cereal box from a shelf at eye level and put it in her cart without checking the label, considering price, or size. Following her around the store would be an exercise in studying consumerism. 
   When he approached his favorite cereal, he saw from the periphery that she turned to him then looked away. She selected another box of cereal. And he quietly observed her.
   He only needed one box of cereal, which he could have picked up and gone on his way, but he felt compelled to stay near her. 
   “Do you ever think these prices are outrageous?” He looked at her, awaiting a response. 
   Before she placed the third box of cereal in the cart, he noticed her left hand. No ring, which didn’t mean much. Many women didn’t wear rings, or they weren’t married but remained romantically attached. “For sugary bits of corn byproduct? Yeah. They’re ridiculous, but my son loves them.” She shoved the rickety cart down the aisle.
   Son? Was her revelation meant to deter him? Another man’s child didn’t scare him away, instead he appreciated how important her son was to her. He pursed his lips and went in the opposite direction.
   Meeting women in Boston wasn’t hard, but at thirty-three-years-old, he was tiring of the scene. Mexico City was one big party place with nightly drinking, dancing, and had meaningless sexual encounters. In a city of eight million people, it felt like he knew all the locals. The same women. The same men chasing after those same women. The same drama. Moving to Boston absolved him of some of that chaos. And spending time with a mature woman who preferred to eat cereal at home with her son intrigued him. 
   He entered the coffee aisle, opening an empty coffee bean bag. He heard a cart jingle a ways away. “Great minds,” he heard in the distance. 
   A smile formed on his lips when he heard her voice again. “It’s not as great as the coffee I get from my hometown, but it’s comparable.” He enunciated.
   “Oh? Where’s home?” She pulled her cart closer. 
   “Mexico City.” He said.
   She nodded as if she weren’t sure what else to ask. Her manicured fingers pulled out a coffee bean bag. 
   Once he was done filling his bag, he gave her passage. He shook the bag, letting the beans settle down before sealing the contents. “Well, good night.”
   “Buenas Noches,” she said in perfectly accented Spanish.
 “Habla Español?” He beamed at her, wishing she did so he could have a comfortable conversation without having to translate in his head before speaking. 
   “No.” She chuckled, shaking her head. 
   I could teach you.
   When she shook her head, tendrils caught in the fur trim of her hood. “I only know the difference between biblioteca and librería.” 
   He laughed. “It’s important to know the distinction.” The beans rattled in his hands as he placed them in his basket. “You can’t imagine how often I was directed to the library instead of the bookstore.”
   “So you’re a student?” 
  “I am.” He smiled at her. “Graduate school for Economics. I hope to stay on for a Ph.D. if I’m admitted.” 
  She smiled. “That’s great. Well, good luck.” After turning her head toward the coffee bean dispenser, his shoulders slumped in defeat. 
   “Gracias, amiga.” He said, wishing they were more than just acquaintances. She didn’t respond as she measured roasted coffee. 
   As he made his way to the refrigerators, he combed his damp strands of hair, cursing himself for possibly appearing like a wet dog. He resisted warm hats and bulky coats, opting for the stylish wool coats enough for Mexico winters but not New England blizzards. 
   The store had filled up with people preparing to stay in for a few days. Lots of “excuse me” and “sorry” flittered about him as he dodged carts and slower patrons. When he finally made it to the creamers and milks, he waited behind many people waiting to get their organic beverages. He hoped she would arrive by his side.
   Any moment. 
   When everyone dispersed like mice in a maze, he grabbed the last bottle of half-and-half. 
   “Oh, that’s the last one.” He heard.
   He looked at her. “Here you go.”
   “No, no. I can’t. You were here first.”
   “I insist.” He looked inside her cart and rested the bottle beside her three boxes of cereal, coffee beans, and five pounds of sugar.
   “Thank you. That’s nice of you.” Her cheeks were rosy, and he didn’t know if it was from the cold or because of him. 
   “Can I get you anything else?” 
   She smiled. “That milk, right there.” She pointed to a series of bottles. A bottle cost almost seven dollars, and he couldn’t imagine spending so much back home. He only shopped in this supermarket because of convenience. Only well compensated patrons could pay these prices. He placed the milk in her cart. “Thank you.” When he turned to grab a small container for himself, he heard her say, “We might as well shop together for as often as we’re bumping into each other.” 
   He turned to her and smiled. 
   “I’d love it,” he responded, calling her bluff.
   When she shook her head, she said, “I’m just being silly. It looks like you have little more to shop for.” Her eyes lingered on his basket. 
   “Oh, this?” He raised his arm. “Actually, I hate pushing a cart. I get ones with a bad wheel or I don’t pay attention and bump into things or worse, people.” 
   “Me too.” Her eyes lit up like the city lights at night. “I got lucky today.”
   I hope so.  
   She turned the cart to leave. 
   “Well, I’m off to get some frozen dinners.” He pivoted away from her. 
   “That’s my next stop, after eggs.” She pointed to the open chillers, which held a variety of eggs and butter and bacon. “But after that, I’m going to frozen foods. My son isn’t home, so I have zero interest in cooking for one.” 
   “Me too.” He shut his eyes and wrinkled his nose. “I don’t have children, but cooking for one is not my favorite thing to do.” Before she took off, he asked, “Can I join you?” 
   When she paused, he prepared for rejection. But then she said, “Sure. You can put your basket in the cart. There’s enough space.” She pushed her things back, giving him plenty of room for his basket. 
   “Thank you.” He was at a loss for words. Weeks ago, he’d never imagined speaking to her. There were so many times he’d wanted to, but he never dared.
   “I’m Frank,” he extended his hand.
  “Alie.” She held his hand firmly. Not only did she give him a warm smile, but her touch was comforting. 
   They talked as they completed their shopping: comparing frozen foods, discussing things to do around Boston, and sharing more about her. Her occupation impressed him and wanted to learn more about her company. Time wasn’t on their side. The check-out lines ran long. Frank looked out the window to gauge how much snow had fallen. 
   When they walked side by side toward the exit, Alie stopped. “It’s great to meet you.” She paused, looking down at her boots. “I guess I’ll see you around.” 
   “I have been seeing you around.” Frank waited until she looked into his eyes. “I’ve been seeing you for months now.” Shoppers passed them by, staring at them. “Would you like to go for dinner sometime?” When she hesitated, he offered an alternative. “Coffee?” 
   She looked outside. “Not today.” 
   “Not today. I mean sometimes. When you’re free.” He looked outside. “And it’s not snowing a foot of snow an hour.” A chuckle escaped him. 
   She smiled. “I’d like that.” She reached into her purse then pulled out a card. “Call me.” 
   Frank took the card, feeling the embossed typesetting on the front. Alison Dibell. “I’ll call you for a date and time, Alie.” He slipped the piece in the back pocket of his jeans for fear of losing it in his coat. “Be safe out here.” 
   “Stay warm.” She smiled and waved before pushing her cart through the snow. 
   Frank looked back to watch her form disappear into the falling snow. The first thing he planned to do when he returned home was email Alie for a date. 

 

The End

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