Aesthetics by Garrett Socol
“Hello,” I said to the freakishly beautiful woman with the wavy red hair. In a navy blue dress and knee high leather boots, she was standing on the express line at Marvel’s Market.
“Hey,” she responded with the warmth of a glacier.
The problem was that I wasn’t on line along with her. It would have made sense if I’d been standing behind her or in front, but I had just entered the market when I noticed this exotic creature, and she pulled me in like a magnet. I was powerless to go anyplace else, see anything else, even hear the sounds of the people around me. She was my only destination despite the fact that I needed fruit and cereal. Considering the situation, my greeting might have seemed somewhat out of place. Still, I held my ground and attempted to hold her gaze. I succeeded at the former, failed miserably at the latter.
This was much more than mere attraction. This was the reason I woke up every morning, the reason I ate, bathed, bothered to go to work, and kept myself alive for three solid decades. This spur of the moment, unorganized pursuit was my raison d’etre, the culmination of thirty odd years of miss (as opposed to hit), and I found my heart racing as I waited for the verdict. There would be a verdict, and I was in paralyzing suspense. I was feverish and relentless and would continue to be, though I did wonder how I’d behave if the verdict came back unfavorably. I didn’t allow myself to look that far ahead. “What are you thinking about?” I asked in a truly pathetic attempt to keep the conversation going.
She turned her magnificent head toward me. “When Americans elect a president, we know exactly how many votes each candidate gets,” she said. “But when the Oscars are handed out, we have no idea who comes in second or third.” Her gigantic violet eyes, now focused on my very small brown ones, were positively hypnotic.
“Were you aware that the flow of the Gulf Stream is 3,500 times that of the Mississippi?” I asked, going for broke.
“The strongest gust of wind in the history of the world was reported in Guam,” she said. “235 miles per hour. But please please please let’s not discuss the weather.”
“Then that’s what we won’t discuss.” I knew I would never grow tired of the way she moved her lips or tamped her hair down with one hand.
“I’d like to know if you prefer frosting or icing,” she said.
“Are we talking taste or semantics?” I inquired.
“Frosting and icing are the same thing, so we’re obviously talking semantics.”
“Of course,” I responded, feeling idiotic. “I prefer frosting.”
“Me too,” she said as she started to place her eleven items on the conveyor belt. “Do you use the letter A at the beginning of aesthetic? Or do you go directly to E?”
“I use the A.”
“Very cool,” she said, finally cracking a smile. “You realize they’re both correct. It’s just a matter of aesthetics.”
“So much is based on aesthetics, isn’t it?” She knew my question was rhetorical so she remained silent and focused on the frazzled check-out clerk. Her name tag read Phyllis. I could tell from Phyllis’s tired eyes that she was at the tail end of a shift, possibly even a double. Phyllis scanned the stranger’s butter, milk, buttermilk, cream, cream cheese, cheese, and jumbo citrus-scented candles.
The object of my desire leaned toward me and asked, conspiratorially, “Do you think it’s possible for a dairy product to induce Tourette’s syndrome-like outbursts?”
“Totally,” I told her.
She paused, froze, stared. “You’re the first man I ever met who believes that,” she said with profound appreciation.
“Well, I do believe it. With all my heart, actually.”
Phyllis, whose dream of being a fashion designer never materialized and second dream of working with berries never came to fruition, packed the dairy in one bag and the candles in another. She couldn’t help noticing what was transpiring a few feet away, and she flashed a maternal grin. The situation reminded her of the time Louie fell in love at first sight at the skating rink. Unfortunately he was looking at Ruth at the time (even though he was holding Phyllis’s gloved hand).
“Would you be willing to try and get through an entire day without saying any word that contains the letter R?” I asked.
“Sounds like fun,” she said. “Maybe this weekend?”
“Saturday would be better than Sunday,” I said, trying to sound as if my schedule was filled with all sorts of fun activities. The next question seemed as natural to me as breathing. “I realize this is out of the blue, but would you marry me?”
“I’m wearing blue,” she said. “So it’s an apropos proposition, and the answer is sure, why not?”
“Did you find everything you needed?” Phyllis politely inquired.
“I found more than I needed,” the enigmatic stranger replied.
“I guess we should exchange numbers then.”
“You mean social?” she asked. “Or phone?”
“Just phone for now,” I suggested. “Do you have a pen?”
“I don’t, but I know the phenomenal Phyllis can find one for us.”
The phenomenal Phyllis did just that.
The following morning, while shopping for rings, an idea struck us at precisely the same moment. We dropped everything and rushed over to Marvel’s Market, against traffic. Luckily Phyllis was on duty. After bagging groceries for an extremely garrulous man of Greek descent, we approached her with our burning question. “Would you be my maid of honor?” Meoquansee asked. “It seems fitting since we became engaged right here.”
Obviously flattered, Phyllis took a few moments to consider. “I don’t think so,” she finally said. Then she turned away and focused on a fair-skinned woman with unnaturally large breasts and several brooms sticking up from her shopping cart. “Did you find everything you need?” Phyllis inquired.
Garrett Socol’s fiction has been published in Pequin, PANK, Perigee, Paradigm and several journals that DON’T begin with the letter P. He produced cable TV for fifteen years, wrote two plays, and raised a dog named Pete.
© 2009 – 2010, Metazen.