“Hello Jessica,” the stranger had said as he walked into my store that crisp, cool humid Houston afternoon. I was unsure of how he knew my name, I looked down at my staff badge which gave no clues as to my personal identity.
It was the week before Thanksgiving, and though my tiny shop in southern Houston was not a busy one, we were finally pulling in a customer or two more an hour. It was a Friday which meant not only would traffic begin to pick up but that it was our shipment day. I assigned Bryan, my sales associate, an hour or two of unloading the packages in the back while I greeted customers.
The stranger began talking to me about many odds and ends of my store, making sure I escorted him to each and every display. Considering he was the only one in the store at the time, I didn’t have much else to do. “I love this jewelry” he said, explaining to me the power of crystals, and then describing the powers of his own ruby ring. He seemed nice enough, his face was gentle and trustworthy, but the words that came out, the things that he knew about me and my store were a tad unsettling. I started to contemplate running in the back room and asking Bryan to man the front with me until he left. But how could I do it without being too obvious? See, I think my biggest personal problem in customer service was that I was always so conscious of not wanting to hurt the customers’ feelings, even if my Danger Light was flashing internally on repeat “Danger Will Robinson, Danger!”.
We made our way to the masks and he held one high with a face of great admiration as he admired the craftsmanship. “I love to make masks, they are all so beautiful.”
I nodded and tried to politely hold up my end of the conversation, “ah, I bet that is very interesting, and takes a great skill.”
“Oh it is, I craft them in my garage it’s a very specific ritual,” he went on, but his eyes went off in a daze. Then he turned to me and held both of his hands so that his fingertips hovered just a half of a centimeter from the point where the top of my neck curves out into my cheeks. “You have such a beautiful face, I would love to make your face into a mask.” I did not know if he meant with plaster of paris or if he was actually referring to scalping me at this point.
On his way out the door he told me of this magnificent statue he had in his home. He described it as a red resin dragon, that stood with three heads, the largest head lay between the other two, and in their hands stood a crystal ball about the size of his fist. He described its fangs and its claws, it’s feet, and its scales. I nodded.
He took my hand as we reached the door of the store, “until we meet again Jessica.”
When I watched him turn the corner of the small outdoor mall a cold shivered through me as I ran to the back room to find Bryan still breaking down boxes. “Please, please walk me to my car tonight.”
He laughed, this was not in my character, and then he realized how serious I was. I guess in effort to change the subject he goes, “You have to see what we just got in, it’s amazing.” Out of a tattered and weathered cardboard box he pulled a red resin statue of a three headed dragon holding a crystal ball the size of my stranger’s fist.
I ran out of the curtain calling my DM, “Did you have me secret shopped? Because if that guy was from corporate or something, he was a total creeper!”
My DM, Auburn, was quite puzzled by my inquiry, “uhm, no?”
“No seriously,” I went onto describe the man, his tan complexion and piercing hazel eyes. His average height and build. His dark curly hair, and his square wire rimmed glasses. I even went onto describe his pale blue striped oxford shirt and khaki cargo pants, and the unforgettable gorgeous crimson and chrome ring.
“There is no one here that looks like that,” and with that the line was dead, and I was left to wonder if I had a stalker or a spy.