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Tuesday, January 17, 2006Shopping With The Steff
Yesterday I did the unthinkable. I left work early. Yes, that’s right, I actually said screw it and left at noon. Now consider the fact that during the year the only two holidays I actually ever take off is Christmas and the Fourth of July. I take Christmas off because, well, it is Christmas after all. I take the Fourth of July off because I was actually born on the Third of July (I missed being a patriot and having fireworks by something like 45 minutes) and that usually means I absolve my extra year in a bottle of Jack Daniels, which therefore leaves me a bit cross-eyed on the Fourth.
So yes, I left work early. Driving down Pennsylvania Avenue, I really wasn’t sure what I was going to do with myself. So I started making the calls. Kev answered his phone but was working. The Nick didn’t answer her phone, left a voicemail about going to IHOP. Barista was working, left a voicemail about stalking current Starbucks Employees with evidence of their love for Dunkin’ Donuts. The Steff didn’t answer her phone, left a voicemail about going to BJ’s Wholesale which is next to Old Navy on Erskine Street where she had wanted to go shopping for work clothes. The X-man didn’t answer, and there wasn’t a machine to leave a message. So, I decided no one else has done the unthinkable and I just go home and relax.
Around 1:30 The Steff calls me back. She just woke up. She’s also off for the day, and is down to go shopping. So I pick her up at 2:30. In classic The Steff fashion she’s wearing blue jeans, a pink sweatshirt, a white vest with a furry collar, and her furry brown boots. She hands me back The Notebook DVD I lent her, and tells me how she cried her eyes out. She has gift certificates from Christmas to Sephora and Victoria’s Secret which she wants to use, so we decide to go to Austin Street instead. Of course there is a Barnes & Noble on Austin so I’m down with that.
I am extremely familiar with Austin Street, having started my EMS career with the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps. Usually we would park at Continental Avenue and Austin Street, a place we called “Hollywood & Vine” due to the large amounts of human traffic and entertainment we would find there. Being surrounded by the private corporate streets of The Forest Hills Gardens and zoning laws that have remained unchanged, Austin Street has remained a center of commerce nostalgic of old time Main Street with independent shops and stores. In fact, the only true “mega” store is the Barnes & Noble, and that is at the far end of the strip.
So I catch a good parking spot on Continental Avenue and of course we end up scrambling for quarters. Once the hour and twenty minute parking time is secured, a shopping we go. Now honestly, this is the first time The Steff and I have specifically gone shopping. My ex hated going shopping with me. Usually I know what I want before I even go into a store, and things that catch my attention I’ll look at quickly and either it’s a yes or a no and I move on. Well, as luck would have it, apparently The Steff shops the same way.
First it was a shoe store, we walked in, looked at a few shoes and some boots, she tried nothing on, and we moved out. Then it was to Sephora, up and down the aisles with a sniff here and a sniff there, nothing catching her eye and boom we’re out again. Now it’s into another clothing store, there are some nice dresses she looks at, but once again nothing she tries on and nothing she’s in love with so off we go. Conversation is sporadic revolving around the stores, her new job, but she seems somewhat distracted.
The next store is Victoria’s Secret. Well, The Steff went in but I waited outside. Let’s face it, that store is not a store for women. It really is a candy store for men. For me to go into the candy store, and not have a reason to buy any candy, well that would be a little too much for me… and going in with The Steff would have been way over tempting. So I stood outside a smoked a cigarette (right, New Year’s resolution, I’m working on it, really). Now it takes me about 5 minutes to smoke one, and no sooner had I tossed it to the ground but she was back out. What a woman!
Then we end up at Bang-Bangs, which is a sort of club kid wear store. So she finds a shirt she likes, and a sweater… off to the changing room. Within a minute she’s showing me the first shirt, a green sheer clingy thing. She looks great, and I tell her so. Then she’s back in and out 30 seconds later with the sweater, no good in her mind but she looked fine to me, so I go and grab her the next size. She’s happier, and to be honest, it looked the same to me so I nod my agreement. Then boom, off to the counter and out we go.
Our next stop is a boot store at the very end of Austin Street by the church. We walk in, and the clerk and a woman are talking about how there would be such a huge market for leather good certified to be made from “found or sick” dead animals. The woman specifically names “cancer” as a great source of such leather. Right… I look at The Steff… she looks at me… and we leave. I would NOT wear any leather item that I consciously know came from a cancerous animal.
So now we head to the other side of Continental Avenue, the Barnes & Noble side. We stop at one shoe store where once again, it’s a quick in and out. Then across the street to the Bootery. She finds a boot she likes, asks if they have it in her size… the clerk tells her no, and boom we’re out again. On the next block she sees her friend Alex in the window of the gym working out and runs in to say hi. I once again smoke a cigarette… and I’m not even done before she’s back out.
So now we go to the GAP. Now I have always had a deep rooted hatred of the GAP (so deeply I refuse to even link to it), mainly because they NEVER have my size (I’m a big guy after all). She’s once again up and down the aisles and here is where she makes her announcement that shocks and awes me with the statement, “I’m trying to lighten up my wardrobe, it seems like all I have is black.” Right… ok… this coming from the girl in the pink sweatshirt with the white snow bunny vest. So it’s a pair of jeans… which I thought looked DAMN good on her, but she wasn’t feeling them… and out we go again.
Now it’s across the street to Mandees. Here we get to the dress socks she so desperately needs. See, The Steff has a thing for socks… the weirder the better. Unfortunately, where she works now, those socks aren’t doing the job. But once again… she grabbed five pairs for $12.00 and she’s ready to go out the door. Then she stops. See, Mandee’s has this rack next to the register with nostalgia candy and stuff. Well she spotted a box of mints with the Happy Bunny on it, with the word Poison scratched off and the words Mints For Friends scrawled on top. She went back for it. Okay, it only took fifteen seconds, so that is easily forgiven.
Finally we make it to B&N, and here’s where I basically took the lead, and hit the magazine rack. Grabbed the new issues of Writer’s Digest and Scrye, and off to the register. That’s when it happened. The reveal of what’s been going on in her mind and why she seemed so distracted:
“Hey, you know you should write another book,” she says to me as we walk through the aisle of the ropes to the checkout.So there it is… she’s rehooked on Officer Crumb. After some more conversing on the topic, she reveals that the New Guy had his hours changed and while he’s still a nice guy… well he does have some things she’s not crazy about. So we joke some more about it… how we could make it into a trilogy… and call it something like “The Scrapbook” in imitation of The Notebook. So we laugh about it… but inside I know she’s sick about the whole thing... and truth be told now I'm twisted over it too. I really need to get working on those New Year's resolutions.
So we move on from B&N and jump back into the truck to go to BJ’s Wholesale. We get there and I get on the line for the membership while she goes and grabs us two pretzels. They take this horrendous picture of me, print me out my new membership card, and now we’re off to the CD Players. I just want a CD player for where I have my new computer set-up at home. Something simple, which I find in cherry red for $30.00. We then go looking at some exercise machines and some organizers she thinks she may need for her shoes, but then once again we’re at the checkout.
On the way out of BJ’s we go to Sam Goody. I grab the new Depeche Mode and The Offspring Greatest Hits Album; she grabs Mariah Carey and Green Day. Another record breaking in and out, and we’re back in the truck heading towards her house. So I drop her off, and she says she’ll call me later, which of course she won’t… because she is The Steff. But as she leaves I look at the clock. It’s 5:30. This amazes me. I went to more stores, and accomplished more things with The Steff in 3 hours than I ever did with my ex-wife in 3 years.
So here’s the most important part of everything. I went home… plugged in my new radio… and proceeded to write 5,000 words in the story I’m currently suffering a block on (and no, it isn’t the story of The Steff’s life). I don’t know why this suddenly broke. I’m not sure why yesterday of all days I was able to sit there and with clarity pound out the words I wanted to say. Maybe it was the music. Maybe it was the fact that I was home early enough to stay awake to do it. Maybe… just maybe… it was The Steff.
Looking at this entry… wow… maybe this is the beginning of the end of the block after all.