You don’t know me.
This isn’t a letter from a loved one, friend, or even an acquaintance. I am a no one, a nothing to you. Before reading this, in your world, I did not exist. Even though, you have seen me.
We have met, and yet we haven’t. We hang, suspended, in that weird vacuum between “interacting” and “meeting”. We have spoken, without talking. You have handled my money, touched my purchases, and have wished me a good day seventy-four times. And each time I reply with, “You, too”, when I really want to say more.
I don’t know how you got the job at Morning Son’s Market, but I know when you started working there. It was in December. I remember because I was hauling a turkey in one arm. There was still two weeks until Christmas, so I was the only kook in the place lugging around a ten pound bird, and the aisles were next to empty. It was around two in the afternoon, which is when I get out of work. As I was walking towards the line of checkouts, I scanned the cashiers, looking for a familiar face. Instead, I saw yours.
It’s not hard to tell when someone is new. They stand awkwardly, as if their shoes are very uncomfortable, and their eyes dart around, trying to memorize a thousand new sights. You were twitching in anticipation behind the register, and fingering different buttons. I wish I could say that when I first saw you, my heart leapt. But, that would be lying. And, though it sounds super romantic, I don’t want to lie to you. Truthfully, the first time I saw you, my reaction was to think that you looked so much younger than the other cashiers. I thought, “He could be my age.” I still don’t know if you are.
So, I went in your line. I set down my dinner with a huff, and said, Hey. Briskly; not caring to start a conversation. You said Hey back. I remember thinking you had a deep voice. But, that was all. I didn’t really see you then. It struck me that you were young and had a deep guy voice. However, I was in too much of a hurry, and didn’t get a chance to look at you.
Not that day, anyway.
It was okay, though, because I go to Morning Son’s market all the time. I always seem to need something. Plus, I just like food. So, I had many chances to encounter you. And I started to recognize your face, because I finally let myself look. Brown eyes, shaggy brown hair, a ring between your nostrils. These details are what first broke through. They didn’t mean much to me right away. I just saw them; recorded them in my mind. But, over time, I began to See more. Your lips became soft and plump, your hands large and chapped; dark circles beneath your eyes, your navy work shirt was a little baggy. And I finally found your name tag.
I soon caught myself staring over at you when I was in another cashier’s line. Some days, I slowed down in my car to watch you laugh with other employees on break outside. I did; I do, and I don’t really know why. . . . . It might have been because you chuckled.
I wonder if you remember this. A few months ago, I was buying a bag of cat food. It was the cheapest I could find without resorting to the store-brand, which my spoiled, princess of a cat won’t eat. Even still, when you rung it up with the tax, I let out a loud groan, forgetting you could hear me. And you chuckled. Probably, because you also forgot that I could hear you. Because, when I glanced up, after freezing in embarrassment, you were looking down, examining your hands, smiling.
Why did you have to chuckle, Alex? It couldn’t have been that funny. But you did. And ever since then, you lodged yourself in my mind. At least, you started in the back, like a stranger sneaking into a party and loitering by the walls where the crowd can’t see anything. Yet, you were still in. And, slowly, you crept forward. Day by day, visit after visit, until you occupied the front part of my mind, usually reserved for three things of immense importance. Up until you, it had been: 1. Work, 2. My looks, and 3. The future. Now, however, it is as follows: 1. My looks, 2. You, 3. Now.
Now has become very crucial to me. Because Now is where you are. I think about you so much. I wonder about you, too. Because, I know so little. It’s gnawed at me, this ignorance. It’s kept me wide awake at night, tempting my imagination to fill in the blanks. But . . . it doesn’t help to. I’ve slowly discovered that I want the truth; the truth about you. Your real-life-details. It struck me one night, lying awake, your face burning in my mind, that I want More.
And, Alex, this scared me so bad.
I don’t know why, either. You didn’t used to be scary. I used to go through your line without batting an eye, and now I make excuses to go shopping just to see you. But I don’t know what to say to you. I used to relish in the tiny, polite, cashier-customer conversations we had; they gave me glimpses of you. However, they soon weren’t enough. Soon, I wanted to talk to you longer than ten seconds. The problem was I didn’t know how.
The very thought of saying more made claws sink into my stomach. My throat swelled up, my tongue dried out, and my heart scurried into a corner of my chest. So, I didn’t say More. But, Alex, I didn’t stop wanting to.
For almost three months now, I’ve fought with myself. Again and again I go through your line, just to see your face, your brown eyes, so tired some days, so alive others, looking up into mine. All day, I think up little things to say to make you smile. Alex, your smile thrills me. And every single time you cash me out, I yearn, ache, to unleash the words that I’ve kept pent-up for so long. They clash and clang around inside me all the time, driving me crazy. I pace in my room and mumble to myself at work, wishing I could speak them, wanting to have the guts. But, over and over, I didn’t. I let you wish me a good day, and I returned it again and again, not letting it go further. Why not? Because, Alex, I was scared.
I was scared that my words of More would have no power. I was frightened that you did not see me the same way I saw you. Maybe you don’t. But . . . I am writing this letter because I am asking if whether or not you could.
Yes, a letter. It’s amazing I can even muster this. Honestly, it might have been worse. I could have never mentioned it at all. I could have bottled it up, me and what I feel, forever. I know it’s ridiculous. We’re strangers, really, and how can you feel so much for a stranger? I don’t know, Alex, but I do. All I can say is we all start out as strangers. We don’t have to stay that way.
Please understand that I’m shaking while I write this. I know that a letter might look like a version of cowardice, but it’s actually my way of being brave. Lately, I’ve been under the conviction that I must start being brave. In general. At work, at home, in life. And that includes doing something about you. So I’m writing you a letter, to say More. To say that I always lean in slightly to smell your cologne, and that I want to reach out and touch the wispy part of your hair, and that my heart hurts on the days you look so tired you might fall over. That your laugh makes my tummy flip, and I love that you wear Converse too, and that I have imagined us going on a date over a thousand times.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had a highest hope, and now I do. I’m so terrified of what you’re going to think when you read this. I’m sorry that this was all I could do. Yet, at the same time, it will be a miracle if I can force myself to deliver it. It will be even more of a miracle if you actually read it; and if you actually respond. Maybe that’s what I’m most scared of, Alex; you saying More in return.
But . . . please do.
The girl with the fish purse you like so much.
My name is Emmy.