It’s bad enough being set up on a date… but then I had to get the full report the next day from Shannon, the potential yenta in the cubicle next to me, who had arranged the whole thing.
“No. Listen to me. She thought you were really smart and nice. She said ’sort of quirky’. You should really send her an email to touch base, or give her a call.”
“That’s all she said: ‘Sort of quirky’?”
“Yeah. That was most of it.”
“What do you mean: ‘Most of it’”?
“Really that’s it.”
“Shannon. You know I can obliterate all of your week’s work without leaving my desk.” I held my hands above my keyboard and snagged my fingers into talons.
My co-worker sighed and shrugged.
“She said you had potential.”
“Potential? What the hell does that mean?”
“She said you could be really cute.”
“Listen. I was sort of tuning her out, but it was something about your hair and your glasses.”
Well, needless to say, I never emailed or called her.
There wasn’t much I could do about my hair, since I was still growing out an ill-though-out Pride week buzz cut that was fueled by the first tequila shots of my 38 years.
But my glasses had been with me since my first year of college. I thought they were pretty expensive then, and I’ve babied them… even through a couple of lost lenses. I know they’re out of a certain time period, but then so am I. I think of them as part of my face. I mean, they’re vintage, right? But every now and then I’d catch a glimpse of myself in a store window, or a shiny surface in the office and realize that I looked like an extra on Starsky & Hutch.
Or maybe at least, Cagney & Lacey.
So that’s how I happened to find myself in what is apparently now called a “vision boutique”.
It was Friday afternoon and I cleaned off my desk and left work early.
Pushing open the glass door of the optometry shop, I felt the rush of air conditioning across the cold sweat on my forehead. I glanced around me at the walls of tiny little cubbyholes holding frame after frame in every color and shape, and I felt faint.
The shop was empty and still, with only the faint hum of the air conditioning.
I walked toward one of the walls of frames and began to run my finger along the edge of the shelves. I knew girls who looked good in their glasses, hot even, but I couldn’t imagine how to find a pair like that.
I found a pair of black plastic frames with round lenses, just like Harry Potter’s, and tried them on. There was a mirror on the table in the middle of the room and I went over and squatted down to look in the mirror. I had to squint and lean in close to the mirror, because the plano lenses couldn’t correct my vision. Honestly, I’m not sure how I looked.
“Hey there. Can I help you?”
The voice was behind me, over my right shoulder.
“Uh…” I tried to rise and spin around at the same time, but I lost my balance and hit my shoulder on the edge of the table, knocking myself to the floor.
“Oh geez. Are you okay? I’m sorry to sneak up on you like that.”
She extended a hand and helped me to my feet.
“Yeah, I think I just bruised my ego, or what’s left of it,” I said, rubbing my shoulder.
She looked strangely blurry.
Then I remembered that I was wearing Harry Potter’s glasses.
I reached up and started to take them off. “I’m sorry. I was just goofing around.”
“You and every 10-year-old boy who comes in here,” she said.
I must have looked crestfallen because she added helpfully, “But they really do make you look a little like Harry, especially with the hair…” her voice trailed off as she realized she might have insulted me, and then she tried to regroup “I mean, if that’s the look you’re going for.”
“I don’t know what look I’m going for,” I said.
“Well, let’s try a few, okay? And for what it’s worth, I think Harry’s awfully darn cute,” she said, and winked at me. At least I think she winked at me, since I couldn’t really see her. She might have grimaced.
She took the frames from me, and I reached for my own glasses and put them on.
Wow, she was cute. I hadn’t realized how cute. I felt like an even bigger dork, and I started to sweat for real.
“You sit here,” she said, motioning to the chair.
She sat across from me.
Our knees touched a little under the table.
“The glasses you’re wearing have a real early 80s vintage vibe.”
“I bought them new,” I said.
She smiled a little.
“And where do you see yourself going?” she asked.
I must have looked confused, because she clarified: “With your glasses?”
“I have no idea.”
“Well, what kind of a look do you want to project?”
I looked down at my khaki pants and and Keds. I was wearing a yellow t-shirt that said “Stop Continental Drift”.
We have casual Fridays in my office every day.
“Uh, this is about it, really.”
“Okay,” she said, and went off to collect some frames, while I studied the toes of my shoes.
She came back with about ten pairs of frames and sat down across from me.
I noticed the v-neck of her shirt stopped just where things started to get deep, dark, and interesting.
“So, you just decided it was time for a change?”
“Your glasses. Time for a change?”
“Something like that.”
There was one of those awkward silences while she waited me out.
The voice I heard next couldn’t have been my own. I’m a dork, but not usually a blathering dork.
“I had this blind date… one of my co-workers set me up on it… and I thought we had a good time, but the girl was kind of harsh. She said I had” – I can’t believe that here I made that little “quote” motion in the air – “potential… except that my glasses and my hair needed serious help.”
Appalled at my own outburst, I sunk down in the chair and looked back at my shoes.
I could feel her trying not to laugh.
“And I can’t help the hair, I got a little wild and buzzed it off for Pride.”
“Doesn’t everybody do that at least once?” she asked.
I looked up into her sympathetic smile.
“Now try these on.”
I don’t even remember what the first pair looked like. I started to put them on and stuck the eyepiece into my right eye. Mercifully, I jerked my head back before I could really maim myself.
“Careful,” she said. “They’re loaded.”
As she tilted the mirror so I could look at myself, my head was swimming with embarassment and the possibility that the cute girl across from me was actually gay. Gay and cute and right across from me. Knee to knee.
She took the first pair off and handed me another pair, and then cocked her head as she studied me.
“Well, those look awfully butch. Is that where you want to go?” I could hear a little teasing in her voice.
I must have looked horrified because she whisked them away.
“Try these, they’re French.”
I looked at myself in the mirror, and even without my corrective lenses, I could see that they looked good. I looked smart and actually sort of hip. Maybe even hot.
“Wow,” I breathed. “These look good. Even with my hair.”
She reached out and touched the top of my hair.
“I like your hair.”
“Did I tell you I did it myself?”
“No. Go on,” she said, grinning at me.
I looked at myself from all angles.
“I really like these.”
“I like them too.”
I could swear her voice got deeper and huskier when she said that.
I started blushing at the roots of my ragged hair. I felt my ears get hot and then my neck began to get blotchy.
“Here, let me adjust them a little,” she said, pulling out some tiny tools.
I fiddled with the stuff on the table – the tissues, mirror. And then somehow, as I played with the aerosol lens cleaner, I managed to spray it straight into my eye.
“Ow. Oh shit. Ow.”
It burned like a son of a bitch. I bent over, holding my face in my hands.
“Oh my heck,” she said. “I’ll never get you out of here in one piece.”
I think I was rocking back and forth, moaning.
“You need to rinse that eye out,” she said. “Let me take you to the restroom.”
Holding one hand over my eye, with her holding my other, I let myself be guided to the restroom. I leaned against the counter as she ran the water.
“Here. Lean over the sink. Try to keep your eye open.”
She splashed water in my face.
The burning started to subside.
I straightened up.
“Let me look,” she said, dabbing me with a paper towel.
She peered into my face and lightly touched my swollen eye, opening it gently. My gaze met hers, as tears streamed down my left cheek.
“I feel awful about this,” she said. “You poor thing.”
I closed both my eyes for a moment.
And that’s when I felt her lips on mine, her body leaning into me, and her fingers curling into my short hair, and despite it all, I started to laugh.