Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mr. Boy

There was a new cashier at EmCaf today. A boy. Which was already a bit off-putting since all the cashiers are always hardworking Latina women. And the only men there are making the sandwiches (ironic, right?) But today there was a boy there. I mean, he looked about my age, but he had the air of a boy. 

His blue and white, vertical striped shirt made a brash appearance in my color perception which has, since I got to Emerson, been reduced to look-at-me-I'm-being-ironic brown and no-actually-don't-look-at-me-I-was-trying-to-make-a-point salmon. A dreary palette of convolution. But this guy was all stripes. Stripes that were collared on the top and tucked in at the bottom. You're thinking pompous or prissy or some other p-word, yeah? I would've too, until I noticed that slouch. Right before the collar part, the vertical lines gave way to the arch of his upper back. It was an arch that was slightly more than that which was necessary to look at the cash register and fumble around with the buttons. And he was really fumbling. "Cup of New England clam chowder and half a turkey-cheddar" shot right out of my mouth just as quick as my college ID (with my "money" on it) came sliding onto the counter. He was still trying to find the button that would start a new order. (I blame those incredibly efficient Latina women for spoiling me.) 

Despite his obvious confusion, and the line forming behind me, he still seemed to be grinning. Not evilly. Not mockingly. Not creepily. Not stupidly. But just a slight twist up on the corners. His cuffs didn't dangle or choke his wrists - they comfortably followed his hands - one cuff dancing about the screen and one laying with his palm on the counter, highlighting the hand that supported his stance. After the few minutes it took him to sort out my order, he looked up at me briefly and began to verbally and kindly, with a thick Boston accent, guide me to the counter where I could pick up my sandwich...  I must've been to EmCaf to get a sandwich about 200 times in my life. (I actually did some math for that one.) I knew where to pick up my sandwich. Everyone there did. The only people who eat there are Emerson students. Not even the faculty - they're probably too posh for it. So are many of the students, but they don't really have a choice. If you, a student, care at all about what goes into your body, you will at some point eat at EmCaf. Anyway, this clearly hadn't occurred to him yet. I stopped him, as politely as I could muster at that moment, with a nod and a "Yeeaahh..." As he looked up to address me I noticed his head was more circular than most. And his hair, a dark brown and short, might have been somewhat slicked and side-parted - I can't exactly remember. 

He smiled right at me. A winning smile. A smile that lasted while he spoke.

     "So you've been here a couple times, then?"

I smiled right back. A big smile. One that got bigger as I looked at him.

     "Yeah, a lot of times." (Or something stupid like that.)

The blue and white stripes, the collar and the tuck, the comfortable cuffs, the I-didn't-listen-to-my-mother-when-she-told-me-to-sit-up-straight slouch... and that smile... all suddenly made such an impression on me. He was a live Norman Rockwell painting. I was suddenly a 50's gal. I was charmed.

In a moment all the pretension and bureaucracy and social jackassery that I've been buying into for the past four months lifted. This guy looked like he hadn't a care in the world. No number of pushy, snobby, hungry college kids could take the bright out of his stripes.

What a presence, Mr. Boy. Thanks for the moments. (And for taking my order.)

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