… right before I blew up the site, that is, I had promised to tell you about my awesome Saturday and the inappropriate involvement with strangers which it contained. As you know, I usually like to limit my inappropriateness to the shiny box on my desk and all of the nice imaginary people inside of it. In person, I am much less likely to run over and accost you.
But the thing of it is, I went for that really long walk and I think it may have waterlogged my brain. I cannot be held responsible for what happened afterwards! There’s this funny thing that happens when misery and adrenaline collide. It completely corrodes your inhibitions (yes, I do have some). Why bother with social norms when you are equal parts exhausted and elated?
So here is how I got through that horrible walk, where the rained pounded down for the first two hours, and bugs snacked on our faces for the third: I told myself that if I got through the walk, I could go directly to the bookstore afterwards and pick up a copy of Between, Georgia. My reward for spending the morning grinding my feet into sodden lumps would be an afternoon curled up with a good book.
[I had ordered it from Amazon the previous week, but it hadn’t yet arrived. A quick check of “open and recently shipped orders” revealed that—in the style of typical Amazon logic—my book was being shipped from Namibia. By camel. And a kidless weekend stretched out before me, and I. Wanted. That. Book.]
The bookstore was on my way home, so in spite of being soaked to the bone in my blinding neon workout wear, in spite of my shrivelled, corn-starch dusted toes peeking out, now, from my crocs of shame… I stopped on the way. I squished my way inside, hoping that I wasn’t actually dripping all over the carpet.
I headed straight back to fiction. J… J… J… no Jackson. What? No Between, Georgia? No gods in Alabama? Hmmm. Surely they had some copies somewhere else and I was missing it. I squished up to the counter on got on line behind a woman and her teenage daughter.
An elderly woman with an armload of books trotted up behind me and caught the eye of the girl behind the counter. “I’m looking for a fun summer read,” she told her. “Can you help me find something?”
The girl behind the counter looked at her, then turned to look at us, then turned back. “I’d be happy to help you with that, Ma’am,” she said politely, “just as soon as I ring these folks up, okay?”
“Oh!” The little old lady took us in, and was apologetic. “Yes, of course, that’s fine. I’ll wait!”
The woman ahead of me moved up to the register to pay, and I decided to take matters into my own hands.
“Do you like Southern fiction?” I asked the patient senior. She swivelled around to face me, obviously surprised, but nodded. “Great! I know a perfect book for you, and it JUST came out in paperback. It’s called gods in Alabama… although I’m not sure if they have it, I was just coming up to ask about another book by the same author. We’ll ask about gods, too.”
The woman ahead of me finished up, and as I moved up to the counter my new friend came right up with me. The girl behind the counter blinked at us.
“Hello!” I was a little bit too loud, but I’d just felt a rivulet of water careen down off my hat, and somehow I’d recruited a little old lady into my gang, and I was feeling bold. “We need some Joshilyn Jackson!” She did not appear amused. I rushed to continue. “Books, we need some Joshilyn Jackson BOOKS. I’m looking for Between, Georgia and this lady is looking for gods in Alabama in paperback. And I couldn’t find either of them over there.” The girl checked the computer, confirmed that they should have copies of each, then led us back into the stacks again.
We found Between first. In my hurry, I hadn’t realized that the paperbacks and hardbacks were separated. Whoops! Between was right where it was supposed to be. I clutched it as closely as I could without getting it wet, which wasn’t very close at all. “Thank you! But, okay, obviously I’m too stupid to tell the difference between hardback and paperback, but I DID look in the paperbacks and I didn’t see gods there.”
Unfazed, the girl led us around to the Staff Picks table, locating gods in Alabama in about three seconds. The little old lady (who now seemed permanently attached to my elbow) was impressed; she not only picked up a copy, she followed me to the counter asking for the name of “that other book, too.” We both checked out and as I left I told her that I hoped she enjoyed the book.
It wasn’t until I’d gotten back into my car that it occurred to me that maybe I should’ve mentioned that, um, it’s a little dark, a little unexpected. Oh well. Granny seemed pretty game for whatever came her way… she even had the little plastic rain bonnet she was tying on right outside the door, now. She’d be fine!
Back home, I was hoping to shower and maybe nap before starting the book. But no… a friend called, wanting me to go shopping with her and her daughter and her daughter’s friend. She would be outnumbered by teens if I didn’t go. She needed my help picking out some clothes. Pleeeeease?
I waffled; I tried to worm out of it, honestly. And then she promised me ice cream and I caved.
I’m so predictable.
And so it was that I found myself in Kohls, desperately trying to run damage control between two teens who know everything and my friend who is still wearing clothes from 1982. It wasn’t pretty, I can tell you that much. The girls hated pretty much EVERYTHING and weren’t shy about saying so. My friend wanted only things that were all wrong for her. And the store was mobbed.
Well. Years of being single have really paid off. It’s a good thing I’m always home on Friday nights to watch What Not To Wear. I pretty much just slipped into “Stacy mode” and policed her throughout the store.
That shirt is entirely too big for you. Don’t wear horizontal stripes. Those pants are tapered; look for a straight leg. That color is nice on your skin, I know you haven’t worn it before, but try it. I know you think you can’t wear that, but try it. I know you don’t own anything like that, but try it. TRY. IT. ON.
I was in the midst of being fitting room sentinel (surveying items as she tried them on, exchanging for different sizes, explaining why something was right or wrong) when an older woman RAN up to me.
“Excuse me,” she said, slightly out of breath, as if she’d needed a running start to steel herself for this, “Can you look at this blouse?” She thrust a top at me, a simple white cotton blouse with some darting and detailing at the front. “I just… well I heard you talking to your friend… you seem to… know a lot. Do you think this is too young for me?”
I laughed. I couldn’t help it. “Never confuse TALKING a lot with KNOWING a lot,” I said. She smiled back, uncertain. I reached out and put my hand inside the blouse and considered how much of it I could see through the fabric. “Do you have a camisole to wear under this?” She nodded. “Then it’s fine.”
“Oh, do you think so? I mean, I like it, I was just worried I was a little too old for it.” This woman wasn’t old. And the blouse was modern, but not young. And she was so worried about it being inappropriate, she was asking a complete stranger to sign off on her fashion choice.
“Nah, it’s lovely,” I said. “It’s got that nice darting, I bet it’s a wonderful fit. Nice clean lines. Modern and a little edgy but nothing really out there. You can pull it off, I bet.” She smiled at me, again, while my friend asked from inside the fitting room if I was advising everyone in the store, now. Naturally, I told her to shut up, and bid the white blouse woman a nice day.
I filled my friend in on the earlier incident at the bookstore. “It must just be my overwhelming aura of know-it-all-ness, sucking people in today! Because, really, think what a wonderful place the world would be if MORE PEOPLE LISTENED TO AND OBEYED ME.”
She laughed at me. Ingrate.
But I did get my ice cream, later, so I forgave her. White raspberry truffle is pretty much as close to redemption in a waffle cone as you can get.