People are always going to talk. And they won't ever stop talking even if their lips were yanked off their faces; they'll just simply use their hands and stuff to make a point.
Two things people judge me on is this: When am I ever going to get a girlfriend, and when am I going to get a real job.
With the girlfriend thing, it's easy to maneuver; I just say I'm working on getting financially stable before I settle.
But then it immediately leads to next question: "So when are you going to stop working at that crappy store?"
That I cannot explain, and I believe that even if I did try to explain it, it wouldn't make sense to anybody. I just know that I can't leave this place. Not yet, anyway.
The Christmas season is when it is the most exciting, and the most exposing. I can know more about people than I can take, and it is such an enlightening experience.
As I scan each item one by one, I can tell more and more about the person.
A young man, maybe about my age, shuffles up to my counter, slides his groceries. I smile and say good morning. He doesn't respond. It's okay; I'm quite used to the silent treatment.
Plus it gives me more clues on who this man actually was.
Beep. A newspaper. A reader, a drifter, numbing away... Beep. A beer. A slight dose of entertainment is what he wants, but more lasting is his desire...Beep. A magazine. I peek.
A smiling girl, clad with nothing, stares back at me. Figures.
"What are you looking at?" he grumbles, snatching the magazine away. He tosses it aside. "I don't want it anyway."
I continue to smile as I bag up his following items. "Merry Christmas," I say.
"It's not even Christmas yet." He snatches his bag and slouches away.
I start to pray for him. I always pray after scanning off a customer, but now an older woman is in front of me. Should have known, it's the holidays. Of course there will be an influx.
She gives me a half smile as she hurriedly places her items on the belt. She pulls out her phone, talking, "Harold, you wanted the sparkling cider, right? Or did you want something stronger?"
People pleaser, I think. Beep. Intricately designed napkins. Trying to impress family, perhaps? Her clothes are plain; I can tell that she doesn't get these kind of specimans often. Beep.
Gold forks and spoons. Trying to maintain a facade that she seems desperate to have. "Yes, yes, I have the wine, I might get another one, from a better store than this run-down thing...
" I knew it. "But I'm already at the register...I said I'm ALREADY AT THE REGISTER!"
Beep. Delicate pastries, with colored filling in the middle. I'm assuming her whole family is coming. Probably her in-laws. I hope she doesn't yell so loud when they're present.
That would not be a good impression.
"All right, I'll call you back." She stuffs her phone in her overflowing purse, yanks out a ratted wallet. She hands me a wad of money, but several bills fly out.
I step from behind the counter to help her.
"No no no, young man, I got it, I got it..." she shoos me away, her graying hairs flying in her face. I back away, bag up her items. "Merry Christmas," I say.
"God bless," she says in a way that sounded automatic, like she's been saying this all her life. She fumbles with her bag and scurries out.
A younger girl comes next. She is wearing a hoody that seems to swallow her up. Only her big eyes are truly present. Her head is down as she quietly places her items on the belt.
I try to smile at her, but she still doesn't look up. Beep. Christmas chocolate. A coping mechanism? Beep. Electric blanket. In need of comfort? Beep. A Hallmark card. Hmm?
I am about to bag up the items when she quickly tosses another item. Beep. Pregnancy test. Oh.
I try to smile at her again. This time she is looking at me. She doesn't smile back, but eye contact is a big deal and I'm glad she crossed that bridge.
"Merry Christmas," I say, trying to sound cheerful as possible.
She nods and takes the bag, head down as she leaves. I pray for her.
Shortly after I hear screaming and scrabbling. Kids. Yes, they're kids. Siblings, have to be.
They come up to my counter, yelling, "I'm NOT getting you anything for Christmas!" "Ok, I'm not gettting YOU anything for Christmas!" Hit slap. Hit slap.
I put out my hands. "Excuse me, this is not how you act in a store. Where are your parents?"
Both the little boys point. An older man is running towards them, huffing and breathing. A wailing baby girl is in his arms.
"Sorry, sorry," he keeps saying apologies as he throws item after item in front of me. Gallon of milk. 24 pack hot dog links. 5 packs of candy canes. 2 pounds of ground beef.
6 packs of baby formula. I can barely keep up, but I already know the state of the family before I have even scanned. Beep beep beep.
I am tempted to comfort the poor baby, for she seems very upset, but I know how sensitive parents are these days. "Merry Christmas!" I yell because of all of the hullaboo.
One of the boys throws me the finger in response, and his brother cackles. His father tries to swat him, but because his hands are full, he drops the milk he is holding.
It smashes on the floor and gushes all over, and the boys laughs louder. The baby screams louder.
"We have a spill on register 7," I say in the intercom as calmly as I could. The whole family ignores me as the mess gets cleaned up, and I do my best to help.
Not one thank you utters from their mouths.
A few hours later, the store is jam packed with hurried, flurried people, with people too consumed on their phones to acknowledge my greeting, with people busy with sugar driven tots,
with people yapping to others. Tons and tons of items are scanned until the beeping is ingrained in my head. Beepbeepbeepbeepbeep.
I toss out "Merry Christmas!" in careless vain, and no one catches them. They just clank helplessly on the floor, never to be used again.
Finally, my shift is about to be over. It is 4 am in the morning.
"Maybe my friends are right," I say to myself. "Maybe I should consider..."
The door whooses open and a person walks in.
"Good night," I say uncertainly, wondering if I should have said good morning since it technically was 4 in the morning, but it doesn't matter anyway since...
I look up. She is smiling at me. Looking at me.
I smile back, but my heart is pounding loud. I take her items, scan, but my mind is too dizzy to focus. Beep. A pumpkin scented candle. Beep. Wrapping paper. Beep. Stockings.
"I can't believe this store is still open," she breathes. I nod. "Yes."
For the first time, I have nothing to say.
"It must be hard, having to scan all day. I would have fainted." Her giggles sound like wind chimes. She runs her hand over her hair. It is the fluffiest hair I have ever seen. But it's--it's--
"Um, is there something on my face?" she laughs. I flush and turn away, I have been staring! I hurriedly bag up her items. "Have a Merry Christmas," I say, about to pack up.
"Merry Christmas," she answers back. I turn to look at her.
"You're...the first person who has told me that today," I can hardly hear myself.
She giggles. She has dimples. "Lots of Scrooges in the world, huh? Good thing I don't have family."
"What do you..." Why couldn't I finish my sentences when I'm around her?
She shrugs, her bracelets gently jingling. "I can't afford to visit them,so I'm having my first Christmas alone."
"Oh." I can only say. I remember what my friends have always told me. I remember the emptiness I felt when people were ignoring me all day.
"Do you need...help with your bag? I can walk you to your car."
She smirks, then pretends to stumble. "Oh yes, I am struggling."
I laugh, for the first time today, and I quickly clock out. I reach to grab her bag, but my hand brushes hers instead. She smiles.
"Merry Christmas," she says, wrapping her hand around mine.
"Merry Christmas," I echo.