“Drifting body, soul in search of…”
All I wanted to do was hold her; to feel the curves of her body flow into mine. Have her knowing that comfort could be found in my arms. Or simply to feel something…
Something other than hate.
So beautiful she looked and full of grace as she stood above me, stacking spare stock on the top shelf. Blonde hair curling down to the nape of her neck, the back: statuesque and carved out slightly to hips that rested on thighs, giving the perfect suggestion of feminine strength.
To reach out and touch those thighs and have her crumble at my touch, to feel her sinking into my arms and giving in to
I handed her a small pile of books and she smiled at me. I nearly crumbled.
I want you, I say. But she doesn’t hear because I’m too scared to open my mouth and voice the words – to give meaning to what I feel.
I feel weak.
Once I was strong (I think), but now I face a wall ten years thick.
And the wall is untouchable.
* * *
“Oh no,” Susan said with a roll of her eyes. “Kristian’s working today.”
From beside her Jane groaned. “So the creep comes back.”
They shared the joke with a giggle as Kristian walked up to the counter, eyes darting here and there before his gaze rested firmly on the floor. “Hi.”
Susan backed off, obviously inconspicuously. Jane turned a straight-faced glare at her that pleaded desperately, don’t go! Don’t leave me alone with him, I’ll do anything if you stay, and finally, I’ll get you back for this! But Susan was gone, behind shelves tidying.
Jane tried to ignore his presence. Perhaps he would eventually go away, get bored and look for something else to do. Unlikely, considering the message that was drummed into every new staff member’s head, as well as those who forgot: “Always have two people at the counter.” The boss’s irritating voice pounded the message into everybody’s head whether they wanted it or not.
So here she was, stuck with a dark and greasy, heavy breathing freak, who seemed to be inching closer and closer – like a virus invading her body. Jane thought she might be sick. If he got any closer, she surely would be.
Just ignore him.
But she couldn’t.
Look at the way he served customers. Was a grunt a “yes” or a “no”? And what does a smirk mean? Didn’t he know how to smile? Jane wondered if any of the customers would come back. Ever! His feeble attempts at kindness only seemed to scare them. “No, I don’t know where the c-cooking books are.”
The lady looked displeased. “Why not?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “Because I don’t.” He turned to Jane with a disgusted look on his face.
How could somebody like this get a job in the first place?
“I’m sorry, he’s new.” She pointed to the left, past Kristian’s furrowed brow. “Over by the gardening books, two rows down from here.”
The lady thanked Jane and walked off.
He served some more, just purchasing items, but with little recognition to any one who came to the counter. Jane knew that learning could be difficult, but this was ridiculous. All he had to do was smile and say “thank you”, or at least just smile.
After serving the last customer he stepped back from the counter seemingly downcast.
Great! Am I supposed to feel sorry for him now?
This quiet moment seemed to go on too long, especially with Kristian fidgeting like an insect beside her. She decided to break the silence, say something nice. Maybe he just needed to be spoken to, helped or encouraged to try a little harder.
“Hey, don’t worry about it. You’ll soon pick it up.”
He glanced at her. “Pick what up?”
“How to do everything, y’ know, learn where everything is.”
He didn’t say anything, just looked away again. Jane didn’t know if anything more should be said, so she thought back to her first day on the job. Hadn’t the other staff members encouraged her to learn where everything was? “When you can, just take a walk around the shop, find out where everything stays. For example, the book section over there; to your left, the stationary…” But Jane had been willing to learn; Kristian on the other hand was barely even making the effort to smile. She felt obliged to say something, but how? Casually: “Hey Kristian, just try to make the customers feel welcome, y’ know, smile a bit more.”
“Oh, is that all I have to do?” He looked really annoyed.
He turned away. Maybe she was being too forceful. Encourage him, say something nice.
But it came out wrong… “Y’ know, kindness doesn’t come without a smile.”
He turned to face her, a gaze that hid itself under that low furrowed brow, and said: “who taught you to smile – a hyena?”
No, don’t say anything. But Jane wasn’t sure she could say anything, so she turned her head away from him. Turned her whole body too. Now he wasn’t worth noticing or paying any attention to, because he was just a joke – nothing more.
“How could you do that to me? No, don’t laugh. It’s not funny damn it.”
“Yes it is.” Susan slapped her thigh as Jane sat shaking her head slowly.
They were on their break, seated on the other side of the complex, away from the mid-week customers mingling about looking for bargains; unafraid to talk out loud now they were both away from that creepy freak.
“Oh poor me. Do you know I was nearly sick when he looked at me.”
This comment caused more laughter to burst from Susan but Jane continued on.
“Why do we have to be stuck with this creep?”
“Evil creep,” Susan insisted.
“Urgh. I hate the way he looks at you, like he’s imagining all the gross things he would do to you if he had the chance.”
“Oh and I’ve seen the way he looks at you.”
“When you turned away from him today, guess where his eyes turned down to.”
Sound travels. And Jane’s scream bounced off almost every wall that existed in the complex. She slapped a hand across her mouth, but Susan wasn’t finished torturing her yet.
“I think it’s obvious he likes you.” She cocked her head to one side and asked brightly, “are y’ gonna ask him out?”
“Don’t do this to me.” Jane’s hand covered her whole face, trying desperately to cope with the pressure.
Susan suddenly grabbed her arm. “He’s probably got a shed at home where he keeps his corpses, people he’s hacked to pieces and stored away so that every night he can go in and look at them and gloat.” This idea plunged her into a deep thought and she started biting a thumbnail. “And falling in love with each one like some sick psycho.”
“Now I know I’m going to be sick.”
But this just caused Susan to burst into even more laughter.
As the days went by, it seemed as though Susan was on a mission to perfect the art of ‘backing off’. The amount of times she had actually stood next to Kristian for more than five seconds could be counted on one hand. More and more it was Jane who was left at the counter watching over his sad attempts at serving while Susan wandered the shop pretending to look busy.
If having to stand next to him wasn’t enough, she also had to put up with him looking at her – very suspiciously. Whenever she turned towards him he would suddenly look away or let his gaze fall to the ground in a show of embarrassment. But occasionally she would catch him viewing her like she was just some object, and Jane became more and more uncomfortable with it. To the point of letting the assistant manager know, even – only she felt this option to be a little extreme and would probably end up feeling guilty about ‘dobbing’ someone in anyway. Besides, the assistant manager was so hard to approach sometimes. Always walking the shop in a rush, like she had important business to do, eyeing her workers to make sure they were actually working and not slacking off – that was almost as bad as Kristian, but not quite.
So what was she to do?
Tell him. Be strong and let him know that you feel uncomfortable and that it is your right to not feel uncomfortable while at work.
Again she was stuck at the counter with him and again he was looking sideways at her – ‘checking her out’ (which was okay in itself once or twice, if he appreciated how she looked, but when it didn’t stop and went on day after day, it became very distressing).
She waited for him to finish serving, turned to him and spoke. “Kristian, I’ve noticed you have been constantly looking at me and I don’t want to sound mean but I’m starting to feel uncomfortable.”
She waited for him to say something. He just stood there looking directly into her eyes. Waiting.
“Well, so, I would sort of like it if you stopped looking at me like that. Okay?” She felt her insides curl. What else could she say?
He turned and said, “Fine. I’m sorry.”
But he didn’t look sorry. He looked annoyed and put off.
And now Jane felt even more uncomfortable, like she had found a place within Kristian, a place he believed in, and squashed it.
The clock read 10:30. Half an hour before she would be released from this torture.
Oh where was Susan when she needed her? Giggling from behind a shelf, not in the least bit sympathetic – just a work mate who pretended to be a friend, but when the friendship was asked for she would run at the first chance she had.
* * *
Her name is Ryoline. Part Scottish, the other half lost somewhere in the Afrikaner.
Eyes that shine, a smile that warms.
I feel strength when I’m near her, a great comforting glow that leaves me thinking how great life could be if only I could reach out and touch her.
But I can’t.
I feel the glow leave my body, strength dissipating and I start choking on the emptiness again. Drowning me.
Ryoline drifting about
Like a dream,
Kristian watching himself
Fall on knees.
I kick and scream
Falling again and again,
Make me blind, I must not see!
* * *