“What are you laughing at?” Josh asked.
“Nothing!” I chuckled, “It’s not funny.”
“You’re laughing at me again, aren’t you?”
“No,” I lied, “I promise.” I attempted a serious expression but quickly gave up. We were at the registers last night. It was Josh’s last day and I wasn’t scheduled to work, but when a manager called me and asked if I could come in to help out, I jumped at the chance. Conveniently enough, I was able to work the same hours as Josh.
He leaned against his counter and I watched him for a moment before speaking, “By the way,” I said, “I’m sorry if I seem like a stalker.”
He looked at me with large brown eyes, “Why would I think you’re a stalker?”
I looked at the floor, “Because I only came into work today to see you.”
“No, not at all,” he assured me, “It’s…cute.”
I felt a jolt of energy and smiled as I put away some coupons into my media bag, “Thank you.” I said cheerfully. He chuckled and watched me for a few moments before speaking, “You’re probably just thinking ‘I have better things to do with my day than stand next to this kid for five hours’.”
I was about to reply when a customer approached his register.
I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that I still like Josh – much more than I used to. On Sunday, our scheduled last day of working together, he was on the registers and I was placed putting away clothing from the Misses fitting rooms. I saw him walk into the sports clothing to put away some loose items and, after looking left, then right for a manager and finding the area clear, I ran over to where he was. One of my heels caught on a clothing rack and I almost fell, but caught myself, hopping the rest of the distance. He looked at me with a mix of perplexity and amusement.
“So,” I said, catching my breath, “Since this is our last day working together, you need my number.” I handed him the folded up piece of paper.
He chuckled, “Alright.”
I looked around me, “Okay – I’m leaving before Brad gets back!” I ran back to Misses and heard him laughing, the large amount of clothing I was gripping in my left hand made for an ungraceful getaway. As soon as I was back in the dressing rooms I started pacing and nearly squealing with excitement like a bubble-headed little girl, I had been waiting for four hours to do that, fearing the entire time that I wouldn’t get a chance before he was long gone.
Friday, December 30th, 2011
Eight at night, the store was practically empty. I looked at my screen at the register and noted the time, Josh and I were the only ones left on the East side and it was time for him to go home. I turned and saw with surprise and a notable dose of disappointment that he had left his register. I stared at the empty space where he was just a minute ago and easily imagined him there still. I had always said goodbye to him when I had the chance, and had come to hope he would start doing the same. I just gazed at the empty register for a bit when I saw movement from my peripheral, I realized he must have parked with everyone else on this side of the building. I stood up straight and felt a smile appear on my face.
“I’m heading out.” He said. Instead of going directly out of the doors, he cut into the middle of the row of registers and walked towards me.
“You remember the rule, right?” I said, (It’s a general rule that no one leaves without hugging me.)
He smiled and hugged me, I had to stand on my tip-toes. Then I smiled at him, he smiled at me and started walking towards the Juniors area to get a picture of a dress for his sister (his family had come into the store earlier that day.)
“You’re a good brother.” I called over as a customer approached my register.
“I am a good brother.” He agreed as he stood semi-awkwardly to photograph the dress.
I realized what a rollercoaster of emotions the night had been – the more fond I become of Josh the more difficult it is to read him. Positive signals followed by potentially negative ones, neutral to positive (or was it negative?? Dag flabbit, which microexpression was that?!) Eventually it became a blur that could lean one way or another, depending if I specifically sought out the positive or negative body language messages. He did repeatedly imitate my body posture and vocal tone, very good signs, at least. But overall the fact that he hugged me was enough for the night to end on a high note.
Saturday, December 31st, 2011
I walked into the break room and, being several minutes early, decided to see if Josh was on the schedule for that day. I didn’t see his name on the walk sheet so I grabbed the binder for this week and next week’s schedule and looked for his name
I blinked rapidly for a moment and looked through the list again, realizing that he was no longer listed. Was last night his last day? Why didn’t he tell me? How can I get into contact with him? Simple – I can’t. My heart fell and I felt drained of energy.
After clocking in I walked to the register beside Cali (one of my best work friends, and one of the only other 17 year-old associates) and immediately asked, “Do you know if Josh had his last day already?”
She looked over, her expression changing to light concern when she saw my face, “I haven’t worked with him for over a week so I’m not sure. Why, were you two close?”
“Yes. And I checked the schedule and his name isn’t on it for this week.” My stomach churned as I said the words out loud. I knew I was being a child – I told myself repeatedly that I was being juvenile, reacting this strongly to a guy, but the ill feeling remained, like I was bruised and drained. Logic isn’t logical when one is faced with the emotional.
“Were you two just friends?”
“There was at least a hint of something more,” I said more to myself than to her, I was suddenly doubting my people-reading skills, “I thought he would tell me if it was his last day.”
We turned over the facts for a bit and she assured me that there must just be a misunderstanding with the schedules. I felt a bit better, but I wasn’t convinced of anything.
Later on when I went on my break I saw Cali sitting at one of the tables and I noted a binder next to her – it was a different color than the one I had looked at earlier, and I remembered that they had just bought new schedule binders because the old ones had been falling apart. I had been looking at the wrong schedule…
I was looking at the wrong schedule?!?!
Never before have I ever come so close to tackling an inanimate object.
I grabbed a chair and flipped open the shedule.
Jacklyn, Joseph, Joshua…
He was working the same hours as me on Sunday, the last day, I realized, that we would be working together.
Sunday, January 1st, 2012
I arrived several hours early to work so I could talk to Josh, I wore an oversized coat and gloves against the cold, my messenger bag hanging on my right shoulder. As I stepped inside I scanned the North Side registers for him, coming up empty. I took off my gloves and stuffed them into my bag. As I turned the corner I saw him carrying several pairs of jeans on hangers in his left hand. He looked at me and called over, “Hey!”
Impulsively I ran over and hugged him, “Hello!” I said. He chuckled and we spoke for a bit on what we did for New Years. I let him be to put away the jeans and walked over to the East side registers, where Cali stood. She looked up and mentioned she had just seen him walking towards the North. I excitedly told her that I saw him when I was on my way to the East. After believing the night before that I wouldn’t see him again, I wanted to throw out a window the idea that I don’t want to date him. The idea was suddenly entirely absurd. At least we’re in contact now, and I realized when I was talking to Cali that even if we aren’t dating, I simply want to be around him. I don’t know how long any of this will last, but I am happy while it does.
‘Happy’ has become such a key word as of late, and I come to the realization now that deciding on something to be happy about each morning for my ‘happiness experiment’ has shifted into its own form. Now the words ‘thing to be happy about today’ don’t arrive consciously in my mind when I wake up, now I see faces, I have flashbacks, I remember a voice or an emotion, and that becomes my focus for the day, my ‘thing to be happy about’. On the 1st I thought of Josh, and the second, and today. And I’m not certain how many more days it will be him, but something I have learned from my experiment, is that it is not happiness that should be pursued, it is joy. Joy is the quiet contentment when things take a wrong turn in life, the quiet happiness, the moment of peace when we find a way to accept when something is less than we expect. I haven’t had as difficult a life as many people, and perhaps the relatively smooth road is the calm before the storm so I can be prepared for difficulty, but I truly feel as though I have learned how to have joy. No emotion or even quiet contentment will remain constant our entire lives – such as was the case when I believed I would not see Josh again, but at least I am aware of the presence of the negativity enough that my impulsivity and sensitivity will not get the better of me in the moments when I need to be more aware of my environment than my own stream of consciousness. By necessity we are selfish, but for some it’s by choice we are aware of our selfishness. What we decide to do with the information forms our character, and builds upon our reputation.
Happy New Year,