Chapter Three

Two weeks had passed and Wendy had not crossed my mind at any point during that time. I had other things to worry about. I was in no mood to get wrapped up in the complicated logistics of women. I did think of something a few times, however; a remark Ralph made- “you’ll understand when you get laid.”

Will I begin to understand women after having sex with them? That seems ludicrous. But it does have some validity. Intercourse holds a great deal of emotional baggage for women. I read in an issue of Seventeen magazine at Melina’s house back in high school that women tend to grow more attached to the men they have slept with while men use sex simply for pleasure. The article was pretty general of its outlook on men so my assessment was simple: men only want women for sex, and women want sex to become closer to men. Strange logic; nobody wins in this matter.

For a second opinion I brought the subject up to a few of my co-workers during our lunch break. Some of the women I work with are what men would consider attractive. From what I have observed the men I work with seem to be what women like as well. I have no idea where I stand, and am perfectly fine with this.

After relaying the incident to everyone the consensus had been the same as my friends- I fucked up.

“How did you know you were interested in your boyfriend, Diana? Did the urge to have intercourse burn inside of you, or some sort of feeling like that?”
“That’s a little personal don’t you think, John?” She said, taking a sip from her Subway cup.
“You certainly didn’t seem to care about personal feelings when you were parading your pregnancy around a few months ago. How is the baby, by the way?”
“I wasn’t parading my pregnancy around. How dare you say such a thing.”
“On several occasions I overheard you and a few of the other women talking of cravings that fell away from the consumable spectrum. I believe you said something along the lines of ‘I haven’t had dick since I found out I was pregnant.’ How does that statement differentiate from what I just asked?”

The table grew silent as Diana began to blush while averting her attention towards anything but my direction.

“Sex is just viewed differently between men and women, John. You can look at someone and just know you want them for just that,” Serena began, “or you can look into someone’s eyes and can feel that something…more, is present. A feeling that goes beyond physical attraction.”
“Have you ever been attracted to anyone before, man?” Cedric asked before taking a big bite of his turkey burger. Cedric reminded me of this guy I had a few classes with in high school; you could just tell women wanted him for his physical attributes and were disappointed when there was nothing of substance within him. Cedric was different, though. I have witnessed his behavior during multiple conversations with women who are much older than he is; since this is ten years ago he was twenty-four. These older women could have easily been his mothers age and yet they were charmed by him, so to speak.

Cedric is surprisingly intelligent- at this point he was majoring in microbiology with a minor in quantum physics. He’s not rich either; we’re both from the same borough- the Bronx (at this point I now lived in Brooklyn). I usually attempt to engage in conversation with him versus most of the rest of the staff simply because I feel he’s the only one who could keep up.

After putting some thought into his question I shrugged my shoulders while saying “I thought I was attracted to this one girl freshman year of high school. Turns out she was just too friendly for her own good.”
“No offense John but I’ve always thought you were gay.” Diana said. “None taken. I get that a lot. Probably because I don’t talk about women the way most men do which would lead one to believe I had something to hide. But that’s a rather curious observation. It means that if I talked openly about my desire for women, if there was none, that I was lying not only to myself but to everyone around me. Why would a person do such a thing?”
“To fit in. Nobody likes being left out.” Serena said.
“I was left out of so many social circles during my school years and I turned out fine.”
“I wouldn’t be too sure on that.” Diana said.
“Why? Because I don’t talk about the same things as everyone else? Dress the same? Have the same ideals as ‘the in crowd?’ Or perhaps it’s because I didn’t get a girl pregnant during high school. Maybe if I did, you and I would agree on something. Am I right Diana?”
“You’re a son of a bitch Johnny.”

Before I could respond Diana gathered her things and left the table heading towards the locker room. I looked around puzzled. “What did I say?” Everyone laughed.
“Are you familiar with the word ‘tact,’ Johnny?” Cedric asked.
“Yea, I know it.”
“Well, that would have been a good time to employ such behavior.”
“You think?” I said, and he nodded yes. I shrugged my shoulders, continued eating, and before I knew it my break was complete.

It got pretty busy in the stock room the first couple of hours. Luckily I had a full squad backing me up unlike the previous week where Cedric and I did double the work. The store hired a new guy to assist with someone else relaying the orders on our walkie talkies. The one thing us guys in the stock room had in common was that we all played video games so two hours before closing time, when the stores’ activity began dying down, we got to lounge around trading secrets on our recent gaming purchases.

One game we simply could not stop talking about was Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty not just for its cutting-edge graphics and gameplay, but its political points of view and the possibilities of The Patriots, an organization of twelve men who are the real rulers of America, actually existing.

Ninety minutes left of my shift there’s a call on the radio for a pair of red pumps, size 36 which translated to size 5 in America. I forgot to mention that I work in the stock room of a high-end clothing store that specializes in women’s, and some men’s, clothing from Europe. How ironic is that? I know nothing of women (at the time) yet here I am assisting them with accessories to please not only themselves but make themselves more desirable in a mans’ eye.

I found the pair requested and relayed the order back on the walkie since the radio guy finished his shift a half hour ago.

“Could you bring it on the floor for me, Johnny?” The sales associate asked.

Normally I would ask one of the other guys to bring it up because I hated the selling floor, and the conversation on Metal Gear was heating up, but my legs were growing stiff from being so cramped in the stock room for so many hours; a break was necessary.

I made my way through the variously stacked boxes of clothes to the door and squinted from the selling floors’ overhead lights as I entered the area. It was far more brighter on the floor than in the stock room, and less stuffier.

There are two floors to the store- the stock room lead onto and out of the bottom floor where women’s casual wear and men’s attire were located.

“Where are you, Chloe?” I said in my radio before looking around.
“Upstairs by the fitting room.” Shecquickly squawked back.

Figures I would I have to venture into the heart of the beast, I thought as I made my way across the floor and up the stairs.

The fitting room was located in the middle of the floor, almost hidden from sight. There was a sign that said “fitting room” over the entrance but even that could hardly be found.

I spotted Chloe, one of the youngest associates but on her way to becoming assistant manager soon, standing between a rack of coats and a table filled with jeans. A young woman was sitting on a stool just in front of Chloe. Her attention was on her feet as she unlaced her Converse.

“Thanks Johnny.” Chloe said with a smile as I handed over the shoes. The customer shot her head up and our eyes met.

“Oh. Hi Johnny.”
“You two know each other?”
“We just met recently. How are you? Weird that I’m bumping into you here, of all places.”

Wendy. What an unforseeable encounter, although I should have estimated its possibility. She had been wearing heels the day we met. She seemed so conservative in her wardrobe choices, too. But here she was in a pair of tight jeans which contoured to her shape very nicely, causing her body to suddenly become aesthetically pleasing to my eyes and, surprisingly, my penis for it suddenly became alive with slight life in my work pants.

“I’m fine. How are you?” I said in almost a monotone. I cleared my throat and adjusted my stance for the bulge in my pants began to steadily grow and the embarrassment of its arrival would never cease to be the topic of conversation amongst my co-workers.

“Is your nephew enjoying the game?”
“He can’t seem to put it down. And you, how are you liking it?”
“Well I had no choice but to stop playing. Priorities trump personal desires.” I said, waving my hands in the general vicinity hoping she understood that I meant ‘I wish I were home playing but I have to work.’

At that moment I really had wished it was my day off again.

“Yea, growing up is such a drag. Paying bills sucks.” She said. I nodded, and an uncomfortable silence fell between the two of us as she tried on the shoes.

“So how do you two know each other?” Chloe suddenly said.
“Oh, that’s not important.” I said.
“We met on a Toys R Us line buying a video game.” Wendy said.
“Yep. That sounds like our Johnny.” Chloe said.
“Was there anything else you needed?” I asked Chloe, hoping to escape the mounting discomfort from the conversation. She shook her head no and as I spun on my heels to head back downstairs Wendy said, “could I speak with you for a moment?”

I turned back around, folding my hands in front of me. “What about?” Her eyes fell on Chloe and when theirs met she nodded and disappeared. Was that some female code just exchanged; when one woman wants to be alone with a man and there’s another woman around she signals to the other woman with a simple eye glance and *poof* its understood that she should leave? I didn’t get it but had no time to mull over the theory.

“I’m glad I ran into you. I have wanted to ask why you didn’t ask for my number that day for so long. I got the impression that you liked me. And I kept giving you clues that I was interested.”

I didn’t know what to say. With the conversations between my friends and co-workers I had no idea how to approach such a situation. It made me dizzy. So I came up with “according to my friends I lack the capacity of identifying social cues between a man and a woman. Your desire for me to obtain your number hadn’t dawned on me. It’s not your fault. I’m sorry I’m not adequate in understanding women.” I shrugged and then shuffled my feet.

Wendy smiled brightly and then burst into sudden laughter. It made me even more uncomfortable. Was she laughing at me?

“You’re so cute Johnny, ya know that?” My eyebrows crossed in confusion.
“I had no idea I was being cute?” She then laid a hand on my shoulder. I could smell her perfume. It was delightful.

I looked into her eyes for a moment. I had to understand what she meant. I knew once our gaze locked. When she said I was “cute” she meant it as me being silly, which made me more desirable because it showed I had a playful side. This sort of behavior was also covered in an article in Seventeen magazine. Women like it when men are playful and, unbeknownst to me, that was my behavior.

My reward for such a performance (even though it was far from an act) was her number and as she paid for the shoes, left the store, and my walking back to the stock room all I could think was ‘what the hell just happened?’

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