She was a cashier at a supermarket. You’ve probably seen her before. You might have even pushed your buggy through her checkout lane.
You couldn’t miss her. She was the nice, late-middle-aged lady behind the register, ringing you up, asking if you were having a nice day while she scanned your Folgers, your Wonderbread, your Little Debbies, your frosted raspberry Pop Tarts, and your Cocoa Pebbles, which, let’s be honest, is a far superior chocolate-flavored cereal than Cocoa Krispies.
She was the cashier everyone loved, clad in a red apron and a smile.
But many of us never really stopped and paid attention to her. After all, we shoppers lead pretty busy lives.
Usually, when she asked how customers were doing, most would glance up from their smartphones momentarily and say, “Good, thanks,” then go back to thumbing away on their screens.
Most folks totally neglected to ask how she was doing.
Still. If these people would have looked closer they would have noticed that her name tag said Monica, and that she was a very cheerful woman with a soft spoken personality.
She had piano-black hair, caramel skin, and dark eyes. Her mother was from Chiapas, Mexico. Her father was from Davenport, Iowa. She was born in Florida, but moved around a lot because she was a military kid.
Ah, military kids.
Military children are a unique bunch. They don’t put down roots, many have no official hometown. It’s just part of the deal. Your parents move from assignment to assignment, from coast to coast, from country to country.
One year you’re in California, the next you’re in Kanagawa, Japan. It all blurs together in your childhood memory. You’re always attending new schools, endlessly making fresh starts.
You make friends on a playground in Clovis, New Mexico, and by the next year you’re in Ramstein, Germany, trying to pronounce “Sprichst du Englisch?” for a teacher who looks like the Kaiser.
Then, suddenly, one day you’re an adult.
Boom. Just like that. Adulthood creeps up on you. You wake up in your apartment and realize there is a sixty-year-old supermarket cashier in your mirror.
You have no family. Not many friends. Your parents have both passed away, and all you have is your little dog, Marvin, who is a Yorkshire terrier, a purebred, which means he costs more than a four-bedroom beachfront bungalow.
In other words, you’re lonely. And you’ve been lonely for sixty years.
Patrick was just a normal guy who walked through your checkout line. He was early seventies, salt-and-pepper hair, and a sloppy dresser. He bought groceries four or five times per week, and he was always buying frozen dinners.
Frozen dinners are a dead giveaway for a bachelor.
Patrick always made a point to walk through your checkout lane. Always. Even if your line was ten miles long, Patrick waited. He never, not even once, bothered with that self checkout business.
There was something about him you liked. It wasn’t just his looks, it was the way he looked at you. He looked at you like he was really—well—looking at you.
What a concept.
Sometimes, he’d come into the store and buy the most banal things just to see you. He’d buy a few sticks of gum, or a magazine, or a pair of toenail clippers. And over time, you started to get the impression that Patrick was buying way too many toenail clippers.
You started dressing a little cuter for work. You spent a shipload of money getting your hair done weekly. You checked the stink-status of your breath more often.
Then came that day when old Pat finally got up the nerve to ask you out.
Boy, oh, boy. What a trainwreck. You both stumbled through niceties like eighteen-year-olds. He stuttered, and a trail of customers continued to grow behind Patrick in the checkout lane.
Finally the old lady behind Patrick said, “Could we hurry this up already?”
You could tell he was nervous. This made you nervous. Which only made him more nervous. Pretty soon, you wanted to puke or pass out. Or both.
“Would you…?” he began, but he got choked up. “Would you, ah, like to, ah, maybe, ah, go out to dinner, ah, sometime?”
There it was.
At first, you didn’t want to get your hopes up. But then it hit you. You’re sixty freaking years old. What good is hope if you don’t get it up?
Dinner was glorious. It was an awkwardly enchanted night filled with bloopers, fumbles, and bumbles. But it was the first time he’d seen you out of your red apron, and you felt lovely. It was also the first time you felt unalone. Perhaps, for the first time in a long time.
After more dates, more laughs, and more dinners, one evening Patrick walked you to your apartment doorstep and held you tightly. He looked you in the eyes and promised to never quit holding you. You believed him. And ten years later, he’s still keeping that promise.
And this writer just wanted to say happy anniversary to Pat and Monica.