Two movies that have always captivated me are Shopgirl and You’ve Got Mail. It was intriguing to me, the uniqueness of both heroines, and the simplicity of their shopgirl lives. It never occurred to me that I too would ever develop a strange admirer of my own, much less quite the list. Even more distant was the fathomable idea that anyone would ever be stirred enough to propose in the first twenty minutes of conversation, though I can say the fantasy had crossed my mind.
“Mirabelle is not affected by a man’s failure to approach her, as her own self-deprecating attitude never allows the idea that he would in the first place.” -Steve Martin
Although my fantasy more involved a tall, handsome man, perhaps a bit older just to add to his distinguished personality. His jaw would be strong, and his build would be refined, just fit enough to care for himself, but not so fit to care about nothing else. I would picture it just like the movie, a deep interpersonal conversation where his statements all inspiring snippets. He would coyly ask for my personal opinion on an item, then following through with the purchase as per my advice. I pictured it later falling onto my counter, wrapped with a tag not with my name but instead labeled with a generic sweet symbol from which I represent to him, even if it were so simple as “shopgirl”, and then on the back some simple set of directions in order to facilitate some sort of meeting or rendezvous later. In my fantasy I would smile, lightly placing down the precious gesture and spend the rest of my life in utter bliss.
And then it happened…
I had reported one sunny Tuesday morning at a store an hour north of my own. Due to the distance I was forced to leave my country home in a greater rush than I was accustomed to. My hair instead of pristinely combed and styled was thrown into a disheveled pony tail, rather than a nice pair of jeans and fitted tee, I was fashioning a loose fitted, ill flattering sundress that was purchased with my employee discount off the back of the clearance rack in my shop.
He was my first customer of the day, and considering it was a Tuesday morning in a mall he would most likely be the only customer for that entire hour. I greeted him like I would any customer, trying to make him feel as if he was the customer I’ve been waiting on all day, because perhaps they just could be. He was spellbound from the greeting, and returned my gracious hello by complimenting my dress, my large blue eyes, and captivating smile. I was flattered as I fumbled through the acceptance of each one (I have no idea how to accept a compliment). He went on to explain to me that he was from Central America, and moving back in the next month. He described the great beauty and the different lifestyle. He spoke with great enthusiasm of the food, the shopping, and the relaxed culture.
He then began to walk along the clothing racks, asking me what dresses I would like. Going on to ask me what size I would wear. Assuming he was shopping for a wife or daughter of similar stature to my own I expressed my size and explained the different fit for different styles of clothing. “But which is your favorite,” he leaned in, a little too close for comfort.
He met at my eye height, and his figure was a tad rotund. He had a paler complexion but I could tell by his features alone that he came from somewhere near Honduras,in fact he bared a strong resemblance to my best friend’s father. He wore a white collared business shirt, and a nice pair of slacks, and as he looked me up and down I started to realize, this was the real deal, this was the reality of my shopgirl moment. I was flustered as I thought back to my best friend’s father as he came to our school plays, picked us up from school events, and took me out for our birthday dinners. “Any dress in here, is yours,” his subtleness, he was afraid, had been lost on me.
“Oh no,” all the sudden the gesture I had dreamed of for so long had suddenly felt so incredibly off. I didn’t want to come off as rude though, “Thank you, it’s just that I already own them all.” (That was actually the truth).
Not a moment went by before his latin passion ignited, “Marry me and then move away with me.” His hands began to wave like one would picture Romeo speaking to Juliet, his shoulders as tall as his stunted body would allow, his arms extended with great passion. “Marry me, and I will build you a house, it will be a beautiful huge mansion. It will be a beautiful huge mansion on the beach, I already own the land. I will build it just as you like it, you tell me what you want and it is yours.”
I noticed the fax machine going off, and I attempted to casually glance, I didn’t want to come off as rude. ‘Ah yes, just as I was expecting’ I thought to myself as it was the first bit of my divorce paperwork my soon to be ex-husband needed me to sign, ‘how incredibly ironic’ I thought.
He noticed I had drifted from the ever so impassioned proposal and reignited my attention. “I am molding by hand the vermillion clay tiles that we will use for the roof of your home…” he went on to specifically explain the process, though this being four years ago I don’t dare try to recall each and every step, I don’t want anyone to mistake this as a how-to blog, my memory is not that reliable. It was a process that seemed laborsome and quite lengthy, I don’t recommend it for the light of heart…”So what do you say, will you marry me?”
Don’t get me wrong I was incredibly flattered, a successful oil businessman was offering such a grand proposal to this simple, plain, soon-to-be divorce’ on a whim. How did I say no without losing a patron to my company? “That’s sounds amazing, but I really can’t, my family is here and I just recently moved here to care for my grandfather.” (The truth will set you free never rang more true for me before.)
“Consider it then, I will be hear next Tuesday 10 a.m. sharp, that will give you a week to change your mind, really think about it.” I nodded in agreement, he purchased a little something and became the first sale of that day.
As he left the fantasy didn’t seem as…well…phantasmic as I had imagined; it was strange and left me uneasy. I wondered if I could get someone to walk me to my car when I took off at the end of the work day, I wondered if that poor guy was actually going to show up next Tuesday…I had forgotten to mention to him that this was my last day working at this location.