by Grace Cook
You were in the bread aisle that morning stocking loaves of Wonderbread. I was startled that your hair was pink. I don’t know why that startled me, especially since mine was blue, but it did. Your hair was pink and you were stocking bread. I needed that bread, but you had the bread. To get it, I needed to talk to you, look at you, and maybe even touch your long fingers that could play piano (I was sure they could).
I stood there far longer than I’d like to admit, my hands twitching and my blood buzzing, hot, through all of my veins. The decision felt like one of life or death, honestly, like all new decisions on crazy days. If I didn’t get my bread, I couldn’t make tuna, tomato, and bacon for lunch or dinner. If I didn’t make lunch or dinner, I’d have to order it somewhere. Ordering it meant speaking to someone over the phone. A phone call would mean a fast, stuttering death, I was convinced.
I had to go get the bread, so I did what any sane person would do—approached you. You looked at me and smiled your sunshine, daffodil smile, and I began to burn. You asked if you could help me in your windy blue voice and I apologized, turned around, and left.
I put my basket down somewhere and went to another store.
I saw you again after lunch while I was at the library. My mind was all colors and buzzing static like a broken TV. I was touching every single fiction book individually, because one might be something other than a book—maybe something new, and then there you were again, next to me. Your pink hair smelled clean and you had your piano fingers pulling a book that I had touched and wasn’t previously struck by. But now you touched it, and when you touched it, my ears had big ringing alarms in them. I needed to open it now, but you were holding it, and I couldn’t do it. I fumbled and picked up a book that was smooth, had no interesting binding, and was nothing but a decoy that I used to distract myself from you.
It would have been easy to get the book had you not had pink hair or green eyes or a flabbergastingly calm, gentle air about you.
The more I thought about you and your kind vibes and soft skin, the more skeptical I became. Who were you? Why were you following me? Were you following me? Why are you nice to sit next to? Why did you have to be at the R’s while I was at the R’s? WHY DID YOU HAVE MY BREAD?! I was so lost in my own racing, muddy head that I didn’t realize I was staring at you. You stared back. I messed up. Oh my god, you hate me. I panicked. I couldn’t breathe or hear. Everything was too bright suddenly.
“Hi,” I said.
“…Hi?” you said back in your voice—still windy, but now green instead. You were green and I was orange. We clashed, I knew we would.
“Can I see that book?” You handed it to me and I took it, my hands shaking like leaves blown by your presence. I held the book. It was warm, and I shook and struggled to open it. Caressing the cover, I flipped through the pages, one by one. You were looking at me, gently, but still you were looking. I squeezed it and thrust it back at you, apologized, and—once again—ran away.
I got outside and ran to my car and cried. I had disturbed your day—I was sure of it. My brain ran like a lawnmower: “You hate me hate me hate me HATE me hate me hate me” and I had upset you, scared you, worried you. You: warm, sunny, spring day you. I didn’t even know your name, but I hurt you, I knew it. My veins were full of angry stinging bees, my tears were boiled water and my head screamed like broken brakes. I took a breath, deep and staggering, and leaned my head back. Suddenly—tap tap tap. I jerked up, tightened like a spring, and turned to my window. You again.
“You forgot this.”
You held up the book. You smiled kindly, gently, and your eyes were like a cup of tea after the rain. I rolled down my window and wiped my face with my sleeve.
“Thank you.” I took the book from your piano fingers.
“I like your hair,” you said. I bit my lip and looked down, hiding a stupid smile.
“I like yours too.” It was quiet for a second and you looked directly into my eyes.
“I hope you feel better. That’s a good book,” you said, and you turned and started walking away.
Maybe because you were a new day full of sun and music, or maybe because I was delirious from crying, I asked, “Do you want it back when I’m done?” You smiled a big Wonderbread smile, but tried to hide it and nodded. I gave you my name and you gave me yours. We parted, and I ran your name over and over in my head like it’s the only word I knew.
Grace Cook is a student at Worcester State University studying Elementary Education and Theater. She hopes to become a reading specialist to help better kids’ understanding of reading.
Photo credit: A row of shopping carts.. Photography. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 9 Jun 2016. http://quest.eb.com/search/137_3304019/1/137_3304019/cite