The Acquiescent Passion

Boots’s Pick
Ken Rider


It starts the moment you turn into the parking lot—a bittersweet obsession that drives you relentlessly forward. You cannot control your thoughts, nor do you desire to do so. You have long since ascended to a plateau of chronic urgency. You wonder how much more your perishable faith can endure regarding the expectation of emotional fulfillment. You perceive that you are running out of time, as this tormenting mania is unwittingly nourished by a burning desire. Your optimism, although weathered by seasons of disappointment, is still potent; however, it is diminishing, much like the stoical confidence anchored in your prime and the immortality perceived in your youth. Loneliness is a shadow, your constant companion, a voice in your ear that reminds you of a void that grows ever larger with each endless night, each misplaced day… each fleeting year. Your primal subconscious has awakened a semi-dormant creature from a restless sleep. You have transformed, once again, into an adept, seasoned hunter, a master at deceptively stalking unsuspecting prey, yet you are a bumbling novice at bagging your game. Your camouflage is a cloak of indifference and your weapons, a pleasant smile and a trusting face. The metamorphosis is swift, but complete. You embrace its essence with an acquiescent passion.

Approaching the enclosure that contains the elusive prey, intermittent movement catches your eye: one target to the left, three to the right, one over there and one dead ahead. You discern their merit in the blink of an eye, systematically eliminating the undesirables: “Too young, too old, too fat, too skinny, too ugly… too married.” The automatic doors methodically open as you walk toward the shopping carts, each one cold and waiting in line for a brief touch of a warm hand. Your attention is initially focused on the cashiers, but not so much that they would notice. You scan each face, then down each body, as you pass them. Some glance up to make eye contact, while others ignore your presence. The premise is to acquire necessities; however there is a subconscious agenda, hidden just beneath the surface. A quick, inconspicuous, reconnaissance is conducted, while simultaneously recalling a subliminal list of physical characteristics regarding the perfect mate. The store is filled with prospects, some pleasing to the eye, some not, and still others who fall somewhere in between.

You become excited by the multi-colored blonde who is just in front of you. She has a decent figure, a little heavy in the lower extremities, but you could overlook that. She turns to the left, revealing her face, one transitioned with layers of base, powder, and paint, vainly concealing the telltale map of time. Dispassionately, you look away and move on. Your expectations are high, anticipating a better selection. You approach the cute, but obviously young, cashier who has smiled at you on countless other visits. Was that warm smile, in the past, one of interest or was it merely the programmed grin of a salesperson? You walk slowly, hoping to gain a split-second of eye contact. She looks up to see you, nods her head, and immediately turns back to her customer, spouting a scripted response. You pass her by, sneaking another quick glance, but she never looks back.

You enter the produce department, the first checkpoint in the maze of long aisles and crowded shelves. The elegant, elderly woman in front of you is stalled, massaging a pineapple and then sniffing an avocado. You turn to the right, grab a small white onion, and hear a woman saying silly things. You look up to see a woman pushing a cart with a child carrier. You muse briefly, automatically eliminating her as a prospect, and turn to go down aisle number 1. A subtle glance reveals a young couple, early twenties, carefully examining the canned sweet corn, before placing the off-brand “two for a dollar” cans in their half-full cart. Shades of envy come over you as you witness her place her hand on the small of his back, gently rubbing, back and forth. You reach the end of the aisle, and experience a slight rush of adrenaline that momentarily takes your breath away. There she is again.

A petite, blue-eyed brunette, one you have seen many times before, is standing in front of the butcher’s cooler, carefully discerning her choice of prime beef. She appears to be close to your age—early ’40s, with touches of graying hair. You don’t need any meat today, but that hardly matters. You wonder if she has ever noticed you. Eye contact with each other has been made on several occasions. You push your cart a few feet from her, pick up a pack of hamburger and examine the price. She looks up, recognizes you, smiles and speaks.

“Seems we’re always running into each other… doesn’t it?”

You are shocked, but excited. You interpret the comment as an opening to get a conversation started. You never once think she is only being kind or polite. You haven’t considered that she may be married or otherwise engaged. Your selfish desires have eliminated any rational thoughts, only emotional greed. Boldly, but with uncertainty, you make your move.

“Yes… it does. You cut your hair… it looks nice.”

You see the smile abruptly disappear. She leaves the cooler without choosing anything and hastily pushes her cart in the opposite direction. You feel embarrassed at first and want to apologize, but it is too late for that. You wonder what this woman is thinking. You begin to feel like an idiot, that is, until you see the tall, mid-thirtyish redhead reaching up to grab a box of cake mix from aisle 5. Your eyes cut toward her midriff. The stretch has exposed her pierced navel, signaling an uninhibited spirit. When she looks your way, you shift your eyes to the signs hanging from above the aisle, pretending you don’t see her. You pause for a moment as you discreetly scan her shopping cart, observing the 20-pound sack of potatoes, the numerous cans of Spaghetti O’s, the case of seven-ounce fruit drinks and the “family size” box of laundry detergent, all pointing towards probable unavailability, with excess baggage. With reluctance, you dismiss her and carry on.

You catch a glimpse of a voluptuous, symmetrical torso as it flashes across the opening at the end of the aisle. She is going the opposite way, so you must turn around in order to accidentally cross her path on the previous aisle. The closer you come, the better she looks. She sees you and smiles. Again, the adrenaline rush, as you ask yourself questions, optimistically hoping for positive answers. What is she thinking? Is she interested? Is she “looking” too? Is she single? Is she married? Could she be… “the one”? You suddenly picture the two of you together, married, and cuddled up on the couch, watching a romantic movie. Your fantasy is shattered when two small children, screaming at the top of their lungs, run up to her, begging and whining, while stomping their feet.

“Mommy, Mommy… Can we have some of these… Please… Please… Pretty please? Daddy lets us gettum all the time.”

Geez, what a couple of spoiled brats, you say to yourself.

Peripherally, you see her look up toward you, but you maintain your focus on the children, exhibiting a “they are so cute at that age” grin, but only long enough for her to notice. You make eye contact, demonstrating your nurturing, non-threatening, trustworthy, “see how much I love children” smile. After all, she could be divorced and this is merely her weekend with the kids.

You continue down each aisle, constantly on the alert for the elusive trophy, while avoiding the lower forms. The borderline obese woman, still in her pajamas and house slippers, looks at you with a curious stare as you cross paths by the cookies. She smiles at you, grabs a pack of Chips Ahoy, chunky, and wedges them into the overflowing buggy. You feel uneasy. Her eyes appear to be fixed on your midsection. You cringe at the thought of what she may look like at daybreak before she has a chance to “freshen up.” Anxiety forces you to quickly turn and continue on your way. You hear her sliding her feet lazily across the floor. Aisle 12 is coming up, only four more to go, and still nothing to get excited about. Your initial, elevated criteria have slowly deteriorated, forcing you to contemplate settling for something less than hoped for. You notice a stately woman, obviously up in age, but appealing from a distance. She is standing by the spices, appearing to be watching you. She has, among other things, a handful of single-serving TV dinners stacked in her cart.

You approach the target from the left, stop right next to her, and scan her ring finger, pretending to search for a particular seasoning. Her acrylic fingernails only accentuate the disfigured joints of her fingers, failing in their attempt to divert attention from the shadowed patches on her hands. You see her eyes cut toward you, but her face is turned away. She too appears to be examining the shelf right above her. Her mid-twenties jeans clash with her overbearing middle-aged perfume. Her sleeveless turtleneck cannot fully hide the elastic skin under her chin or hanging from her frail arms. Images of lifeless breasts and a deflated posterior flash in your mind. You arbitrarily pick up a bottle of lemon and herb seasoning to drop in your cart before moving on. Only one more aisle to go and your optimism is waning. Then, out of nowhere, she emerges, moving toward you with an exotic elegance and a casual grace.

“My God,” is all you can think. No words can accurately describe your emotions. You feel your pulse begin to race. She is floating toward you, eyes straight ahead, gliding like a gazelle. Your level of confidence decreases, your self-esteem plummets, for you are witnessing the manifestation of your desire. You begin at her tanned feet, barely covered with thong sandals, up to her faded jeans, passionately clinging to her slender thighs. The supple points of her femininity are barely hidden by the thin fabric of her faded cotton top. You struggle to appear aloof, pretending she is nothing special, as you approach ever closer. You attempt to avoid excessive eye contact, but she is hypnotic, with her olive skin and raven hair. As you pass her, only inches away, the air is suddenly adorned with a hint of freshness, of unspoiled innocence, of sweet passion, like a gentle breeze caressed by a field of jasmine. Her full lips are luscious, her hazel eyes intoxicating, and her sweet voice is mesmerizing. She stops and turns to speak.

“Excuse me… Would you happen to know where I can find the puppy food?”

“Why yes… It’s… It’s… Uh… Back on… On aisle 9.” Your voice crackles and your face becomes flushed, as your insecurity rushes to the surface.

“Thanks.” Her sensuous smile strips you of your apathetic facade.

“You’re very welcome.” You try to remain calm, but cannot. Anticipation has filled your pounding chest.

“I just recently moved here and this is only my second time in this store. My name is Angela.” She tilts her head to the side as she extends her willowy arm.

“I’m Ryan.” You stall for time, holding her petal-soft hand as long as possible.

You cannot believe it; she is the one striking up a conversation. Your face fights the urge to brandish a wide grin, but fails miserably. You are beyond excited and past expectation. Your mind whisks you to another consciousness. You fantasize long, deep passionate kisses, taking naps together on rainy days, calling each other “baby,” and proudly displaying her to all of your friends. You scramble, in your mind, to come up with a response that will solicit more conversation and possibly her phone number as well.

“Well… Angela… ” Saying her name, further enhances your smile. “If you ever need guide, I would be… ” You stop as her cell phone rings.

“Hello… Oh hey sweetie… No, I’m at the grocery store… Okay, I will. How’re the kids… Good… Be home soon… I love you too… Bye. Sorry, you were saying?”

You deviate from your original response and make up a generic comment that disguises the embarrassing disappointment of her inadvertent rejection. With the wind driven from your sails, you nod your head, say it was nice meeting her and walk away, dejected, but still hopeful “the one” is still out there, somewhere.

You make your way to the cash registers; however, the exit is strategically timed in order to ensure the checkout is with the young, semi-attractive girl on register 4. Once again, you wait for the telltale eye contact that never comes. You look back to catch just one more glimpse of the gazelle and then monitor the entrance. Unlikely prospects pass the automatic doors and parade past your condescending gaze.

“And how are you today?” The checkout girl goes through her scripted greeting.

“Fine.”

“Looks like you’ll be cooking hamburgers tonight… Sounds good… I love homemade hamburgers.”

Is she flirting with you… Maybe hinting that she is interested… Should you ask her if she would like to join you? You agonize about what to do, but passively do nothing, thus preventing the likelihood of another rejection. You push the half-empty cart of groceries and disappointments out of the store, slowly returning to the current reality. Then you remember that you need some blank cassette tapes.

As you walk across the parking lot to Wal-Mart, the restless creature is awakened, yet again. Approaching the enclosure that contains the elusive prey, intermittent movement catches your eye: one target to the left, three to the right, one over there and one dead ahead. You discern their merit in the blink of an eye, systematically eliminating the undesirables: “Too young, too old, too fat, too skinny, too ugly… too married.” The automatic doors methodically open as you walk toward the shopping carts, each one cold and waiting in line for a brief touch of a warm hand. Your attention is initially focused on the cashiers, but not so much that they would notice. You scan each face, then down each body, as you pass them. Some glance up to make eye contact, while others ignore your presence. The premise is to acquire necessities; however there is a subconscious agenda, hidden just beneath the surface. A quick, inconspicuous, reconnaissance is conducted, while simultaneously recalling a subliminal list of physical characteristics regarding the perfect mate. The store is filled with prospects, some pleasing to the eye, some not, and still others who fall somewhere in between.
pencil

“I was born in Louisiana in the the summer of 1955. I have been writing for approximately two years and have discovered that my passion for this hobby has consumed me. I write every morning before going to work and contemplate writing all during the day. I have written four books, as of this date, and can’t seem to stop.” E-mail: krider1955[at]yahoo.com.

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