Three years later, a new girl sits cross-legged on your bed.
She tastes like a different flavor of bubblegum than you are used to.
She opens up a book that you had to read in high school, and a folded picture of us falls out of chapter three.
Now there are two unfinished stories resting in her lap.
Inevitably, she asks, and you tell her.
You say: I dated her a while back.
You don’t say: Sometimes, when I’m holding you, I imagine the smell of her vanilla perfume.
You say: She was younger than me.
You don’t say: The sixteen summers in her bones warmed the eighteen winters my skin had weathered.
You say: It’s nothing now.
You don’t say: But it was everything then.
|(I work the floor at an independently-owned menswear store. The owner, my boss, spends a lot of time at the shop, and tries to keep prices as low as possible to help our city’s large homeless population get good job interview clothes. A clearly homeless man is wandering around the store. The other patrons are giving him looks.)|
|Customer:||“Excuse me, sir?”|
|Customer:||“I think you may want to call security. That… bum over there, he keeps feeling the suits and muttering to himself. I’m just sure he’s planning to steal one.”|
|Me:||“Well, ma’am, I think that’s quite unlikely.”|
|Customer:||“Oh, come on, you know how they are! I mean, I’d keep an eye on him even if he wasn’t homeless!”|
|(The homeless man in question happens to be Hispanic.)|
|Me:||“We don’t discriminate here, ma’am.”|
|Customer:||“Well, I’m sure the owner would want to hear about this!”|
|(I give in and call him over. The customer explains her concerns. As a black man, my boss isn’t happy with her racism, but agrees to talk to the homeless man.)|
|Owner:||“Excuse me, sir, are you finding what you need?”|
|Homeless Man:||“Well, not really. I’m hoping for something versatile in a dark or navy wool, but most of the options in my size are cut American style instead of European, which fits me a little better. Not to mention they’re all pinstriped, which I really don’t have the build for, you know?”|
|Owner:||“I… yes, I understand. I think we may have some options over here, if you’ll follow me. How did you know all that?”|
|Homeless Man:||“Back before I lost my job, I used to be really into this stuff. I’m not looking for anything fancy, just something I can use to look good for a job interview later today.”|
|(My boss helps him find something he likes, and comes to the counter with him. The suit is priced at $87.)|
|Homeless Man:||*digging in his pockets* “Hang on, I think I’ve got enough.”|
|Owner:||*to me* “Take my card. I’m buying it for him.” *to the homeless man* “Here. The suit’s yours, on one condition. After your interview today, you come back and apply for a job here too. Got it?”|
|Homeless Man:||“I… oh my God, thank you. Thank you so much.”|
|(Two years later, that formerly-homeless man is my manager, and has a little girl with his new wife—the owner’s sister.)|