It was an ordinary day, extraordinary only in the fact that I had made it out of the house; the cats needed cat litter. I figured I'd take the opportunity to stock up on this necessity, fill my cart with enough to keep me going for at least the next three months. As I was heaving the fourth 35-pound pail into my cart, I heard a voice quickly approaching me from behind, "May I help you with that?" It was a man's voice, the acoustics sending shivers down my spine, a sensation I long thought went extinct in my system. I could not wait to see the form attached to the sounds which had suddenly awoken something -- though I was not sure yet -- what that something was. I clumsily turned to face him, balancing the cat litter on my knee while the cart slid out of line from the weight. He moved swiftly, like Edward Cullen from the Twilight saga, grabbing both the litter pail and the cart before it crashed into the opposite shelf which would have had a disastrous conclusion.
Usually such a request from anyone, especially a man, would have immediately deployed my defenses. Help? Fuck you. Fuck you and your dick. But for some reason, I didn't mind the sound of this request, his act of chivalry in aisle nine. He placed the litter pail into the cart effortlessly, like a registered nurse placing a premature newborn into its incubator, and he turned to face me. He must have been only about 8-10 inches from me. In terms of my recent sex life, this was as close to foreplay as I'd been since early 2012.
I nervously thanked him, looking down at the newly buffed floors, dark scuffs still imprinted, still branded into their geometry. I looked up to face him, sheepishly pushing my unwashed hair behind my ear. I knew he'd notice the years on my face, the bags under my eyes, the aesthetics of a woman holed up in her one-bedroom apartment for the entirety of autumn, only emerging to purchase feline necessities for -- what must appear to an outside observer -- at least 19 cats. His eyes sparkled as he giggled and asked, "Got a lot of cats, hey?" I giggled back, not forced like a girl reading Glamour learning to flirt, but a genuine laugh, like something was stirring inside me. "Nah, I only have two. I just stock up because I hate to leave the house." As the words drifted from my mouth, I desperately wanted to grab their sounds and shove them back down my throat. Stupid! Stupid, Ronnie!! His eyes are far too beautiful to ever want a woman who hates the outside world. I blushed. I blushed? I had no idea blood even still flowed beneath my skin. Apparently, I was still alive.
"I know what you mean," he almost sighed in absolute understanding. "Sometimes I wish I could just hide myself away from the outside world, but I have too many responsibilities, what with my volunteering here on Saturdays to take care of blind one-legged puppies with speech disorders, after having morning coffee with senior citizens afflicted with Alzheimer's who have no families, right before I go pick up trash on the I-17, right before I hold a poetry workshop for anyone and everyone looking to express themselves and discover the power inside themselves. Then comes Sunday . . ."
Oh my god. He was almost perfect. He was so busy, out there in the world, touching lives, people, things . . . filthy things. With that thought my anxiety crept in as I thought of all the germs, all the germs on his big, strong hands. Almost simultaneously with this thought he pulled a travel-sized bottle of antibacterial hand sanitizer out of his back pocket like a magician pulling an extremely clean and safe rabbit out of a hat. "Gotta be careful of the germs." I swooned. I had to balance myself on the side of the cart. I was tongue tied. I'd never been tongue tied before. I couldn't get a word out because my brain was fantasizing about him, objectifying him, as if I were a normal person still possessing sexual desires, an interest in connecting on an intimate level with another human being. It's as if he peered into my soul and, unafraid, he played with the feral cats that he found there. I watched him as if in slow motion as his long fingers sensually unzipped his fanny pack and reached softly inside and presented me with a small, flimsy piece of paper: a coupon for cat litter, my brand of cat litter -- buy three, get one free. He took my right hand, opened it carefully, and placed the coupon inside. Our eyes locked as he closed my hand over the coupon, sealing it safe inside my palm. I felt like Rose when Jack was drawing her like one of his French girls. He saw me. He saw all of me. I wanted to be his fanny pack.
"Well," he regretfully began,"I've gotta get going. There's a lot of litter bugs on the highway thinking this world is their trash can, and that trash isn't gonna pick itself up. It was nice to meet you . . . " He paused, waiting for me to tell him my name.
"Uh, Ronnie. My name is Ronnie."
"Ronnie," he repeated my name, the sound of me flowing through the air of the pet supply store like a late-winter breeze carrying hope for a bountiful spring. "What a beautiful name: Ronnie. Well, Ronnie," his eyes winked without his lids moving, "hopefully, I'll see you around again sometime." He paused for a moment waiting for a response, but I was motionless, frozen in that love-at-first site I'd heard so much about, and helpless, I watched him turn and walk out of the cat litter aisle. As he turned the corner, it dawned on me that now, more than ever before, was my moment to jump out of my shell, to take a chance on life, on living, on love. Without a thought to what might happen to the contents of my cart or who might touch it while I wasn't around and what type of germs whoever may touch it while I wasn't around might have that would then transfer to my hands after I returned to my cart and put my hands on the handle that I had so carefully sanitized before touching it when I arrived, I sprinted down the cat litter aisle and around the corner, the tangibility of my urgency blowing through the legs of my jammie pants. He had almost reached the automatic front doors, and it dawned on me that I had never even gotten his name. I stopped at the end f the aisle, in the middle of the store, amongst the rawhides and pet beds, and shouted, "Hey!"
Everyone in the store turned around in unison, and I didn't care. I stood there waiting to see his perfect face again as he slowly turned with the speed of someone who already knew what was coming, as if he understood our destiny long before I ever did.
"Hey, I never got your name."
Of course it was.
Then he smiled. And I smiled. And well, the rest is romantic history.
*Please note that the details of this story are not entirely or even remotely true. No one has fallen madly in love with Ronnie D during her latest disappearance from the internet. Why? Well, probably because she writes ridiculous fantasies like this, or draws ridiculous pictures like that, and then shows her parents the picture she's drawn and asks for their opinion on said picture and says, "it's for a love story," then goes back to work on her stupid love story using their wi-fi. Ronnie D did not disappear from the internet to focus on a perfect, whirlwind romance; she disappeared from the internet because that's what she does sometimes.
In Case You Were Wondering . . .
Sometimes Ronnie D writes funny stuff. Sometimes she writes desperate teenage prose. Most times she just slams her feeble, little woman-hand onto the keyboard in an attempt to feel something, anything.