The Bored Employee by Darien West

This Pillow’s Going Places

            My first job was working as a customer service associate at what I like to call Awesome Mart, because it’s what the atmosphere, customers, and the employees simply were. Like a coupon to a sale item, Awesome Mart was a brilliant place to hide from the cute girls that tormented and clouded my mind, as the average customer ranged from ages 30 and up. Outside my journeys to the front of the store I rarely saw who came through the doors until they ventured back to the gifts, shoes, or linens departments. Although the thought was somewhat depressing, the same could be said for the light of the sun; yet, as I gladly helped customers to the best of my ability and cleaned silently in the presence of incessant store-wide pop music, the walls of my previously connived perceptions would crumble once in a while.

I crouched in the back of the pleasant little retail store observing the ruffled and frayed edges of each pillow letting my mind wander as I plucked them from the pile and pushed them into the overcrowded shelves on the wall. Each pillow was a statement by a different designer held together by a variety of meekly bound threads without a care as to what the world had to say back. At the time I remained unsure as to whether making such a statement was good or bad. However, it wouldn’t take me long to question why I cared and erase the topic from my mind with a deep breath and flick of my forehead. Each one simply resembled another vibrant splotch in an organized rainbow of colorful fabrics before a white wall, and every last one remained completely irrelevant to my life other than how and if they stayed on the dust garnished white paint of the metal wire shelves.

“Show me how to fight for now and I’ll tell you, baby—”

Finished with the task, I stand dusting lint off my navy blue slacks as Justin Timberlake’s saint-like voice playing over the radio speakers on the ceiling stops. What proceeds is a brief and surely awkward silence for people singing along quietly throughout Awesome Mart, then Brad the store’s best CSL or Customer Service Lead speaks over the intercom.

“Darien to register 4 for backup, Darien register 4 for backup.”

A click follows over the speakers above resuming the music as I dust off my white polo shirt wondering how many customers could possibly be shopping so close to closing. Responding accordingly, I quickly dance around the shelved quilts and shams of the linens section to the speckled gray marble walkway leading to the front of the store. In front of me was a well-lit path and on it the specs of dust and bunnies of the same breed were nowhere to be found, yet rarely did I not find this path cluttered with shoppers. Element of irony in the previous sentence gone for the moment, I sprint onward as fast as the long legs attached to my size 11 ½ feet will allow. Air rushes around the freckled bridge of my nose, through my wavy ebon hair, and applies a much needed breeze to my mocha stained skin as I sprint by the furniture section that I assume is, if not all, then almost entirely made in China, the ladies section—(which is literally half of the store)—with clothing both sweet and offensive to my eyes, and around the two slightly makeup stained accessories clearance tables protruding from the section into the aisle. Slowing my stride to a calm walking speed, I turn the corner past the shiny jewels in the glass case beyond all the lavish purses on shelves that might never touch the clearance tables behind me, and I see her.

Brown paisley yoga pants tightly wrapped around her curvy hips, dark brown eyes focused on the brightly lit screen of the encased Samsung, and strangely enough… a beauty of my age. I stop. Silent breath finds its way from the trap of my mouth, and my long eyelashes flicker as I blink twice. Her skin is a shade lighter than the mocha of mine, and so radiant and smooth that the light flows on and reflects off it in streams to her silky hair, over the straight bridge of her nose, and along the acute angular frame of her jaw. Why are you here?I think—still covertly looking her over with peripheral vision. Breaking the trance, I shake my head back to reality and move around the line of three people that she stands at the back of.

Still a bit shaken by her presence, I step through the two foot by eleven inch, shin high, saloon style doors separating the register counter booth from the aisle as Brad professionally sends another happy customer on her way, and I glance at a perplexingly large suitcase next to the returns basket filled to the brim with skirts, shirts, and shoe boxes before getting started with the login process. After legitimately wondering for a brief moment how long a trip would need to be to require a four foot tall suitcase, I was ready.

I touch the register’s blue sign-in option on the touch screen with a slightly shaky index finger, quickly scan my ID, and enter the wrong password. Upon my failure to sign in, the software returns me to the initial display. I grunt in frustration, unsure of the reason for the outcome and try twice more with the same result until I recall that a few days ago I changed it to something easier to remember. I try again, and as the screen switches to the touch options for a successful login, it becomes clear to me that the mind clouding has already begun.

After successfully entering my password, I take the first customer in line. “Hello”, “How are you”, and so on of the usual exchange of pleasantries takes place, and she leaves a satisfied customer. Giving a quick glance over to the line, I’m glad to see who’s next, but considering my luck with getting my hands to stop shaking, naturally I become somewhat timid. Putting on a charismatic smirk to hide how lucky I feel about fast-lane Brad being stuck with a customer who can’t find her credit card, I eagerly call for the “Next customer in line”. Her running shoes scuff the floor a couple of times on the way to my end of the checkout desk.

“Hello,” I say, hoping it’s not the last time I get to say this to her.

“Hi… I’d like to pay for this,” she says holding out a store credit card.

Her smile, so beautiful, made me wish her face weren’t hidden by makeup, but her sweet, sincere, and somehow alluring voice made the thought of something so trivial quickly vanish as I carelessly replied, “Alright”, lifting the silver plastic from her shy grip. She tells me she wishes to pay by check, momentarily making me question her actual age. At this point, my hands no longer shake, but the blood in my veins still swims far too quickly to be ignored. Tapping the options on the screen, the heart in my chest thumps screaming and rattling its cage while my thoughts fight for dominance.

Say something, say anything! Compliment her, you stupid drone!

 Just be quiet until she leaves. No comments: if you accidentally offend her and it goes on any type of record, your round, mixed-black, ass can kiss this place good bye.

 Yeah maybe, but would that really be so bad?

“I-I’ll need to see your ID,” I say, accidentally letting a bit of nerves show.

She snaps the hard shell of her white and pink phone case (apparently full of membership, credit, and debit cards) halfway off, and picks out her driver’s license. I’m childishly amazed with the application.

“Wow that’s convenient,” escapes my lips.

Her cheeks blush through the painted mask, and the smile on her voluptuous pair quickly grows until she can no longer hold it in.

“Haha, yup,” she laughs. Her cute high pitched giggle makes me smile and want to make her do it again as the “thump-thump” of my  heartbeat makes the jump to hyperspace/(moves far more quickly than I even thought possible).

 Stop thinking and just do it!

“Shut up, thoughts like you are always getting me into trouble,” I murmur as I type through the transaction with an over-rehearsed ease.

“Hmm?”

“Oh, nothing I was just thinking out loud.”

At least it’s honest! You fools, on the other hand, have turned our lives into one big, sloppy, boring lull of daily task! It’s a lie, and it’s no closer to being a great writer than a janitor is to being a doctor!

I take in a deep breath, filling myself with confidence.

 Do… not… do it, you’ll regret it and the most likely outcome is that it’ll make no difference in either of your lives at all. The honest fact is that after this you’ll probably go about the rest of your day normally and never see her again; Furthermore, with awkwardness added to the equation, if you do say something and she rejects the idea, then at best she might be just another stranger with a familiar face if she ever does return to the store.

My balloon of courage popped by the piercing thought of being hated or feared by her, I deflate—exhale.

“And here’s your receipt,” I say restricting my right to free speech with a wavering resolve.

Upon failing to do it twice, I make a quick quip about how having short-dulled fingernails made picking her ID up off the desk nothing short of impossible.

Why so sure? If she feels even a fragment of attraction toward you, and you say nothing how would she ever know?

“Umm…”

Her eyebrows rise expectantly.

She won’t know, and that’s the point.

“I guess all that’s left for you to do now is have a nice day,” I say—heart still beating as if I were on stage alone before an audience of 100. She lightly brushes some of her long black hair from her field of vision smiling.

“Thanks, you too,” she says. As she walks toward the right set of glass double doors I turn to look at her one last time catching a vague glimpse of the darkened sky outside, and smiling I look back at my register’s finger print smudged keys.

“I guess I should have said goodnight,” I murmur.

She stops and turns at the door for some reason.

“Oh,” she says.

I turn and look back at her, and this time notice that through the glass behind her as far as the eye can see is the exact moment of dusk. A paper thin layer of deep red lining the horizon, a novel thick stroke of royal blue, the rest a profound depth-full black, and under it lay three thick, purple clouds that somewhat resembled cotton candy. Everything in the nearly vacant parking lot and the nearly vacant parking lot across nearly overcrowded FM 1960 was shrouded in an ever-reaching shade, and in front of it all she stood giving me the last beautiful smirk I would ever see from her as far as I knew and currently know.

“Goodnight,” she said gently.

“Oh, goodnight to you too,” I say with unnecessary avidity.

She then walks out the door and her fit shadow becomes one with the darkness on the ground as I quell the idea of wanting to see her pay off her credit card so many times that it would ultimately drown her in debt—merely to see and hopefully get to know her.

I turned around and leaned back on the desk’s bumpy multi-shade brown top.

“She was cute,” I sigh.

Brad turns and faces me.

“Yeah, I was just going to say that,” Brad says. He turns to the new girl who’s closing a register across the gray glossy tile floor at the customer service desk. “She was a cute lil’ thing, wasn’t she?”

As he talks, for some reason I develop an acute focus on the green service associate badge dangling from the black lanyard. Remembering I had one on too, I looked down at my ID badge (something I rarely pay attention to) and thought about my life in relation to hers for a moment.

And I realized I was a pillow. As long as my badge remained where it was, I was to be a colorful pillow of a service associate in a wall of Awesome Mart workers, and I guess the same could be said for my place among humanity. And I couldn’t help but smile.

“Lucky for me those shelves never stay full,” I said under my breath. Yawning, I begin my usual jaunty stroll to the back of the store as I slip back into the wonderful madness of my mind.

Another satisfied customer.

Another satisfied customer, indeed!

Why do I always talk to myself in my head? It’s so weird.

“Well, people do develop odd habits when they’re bored.”

“What was that?” Brad said—somehow overhearing my mummerings as well.

“Nothing, just thinking out loud.”

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The Bored Employee by Darien West

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