December 31, 2006


An awkward scene in the food co-op. The cashier is a woman I had a date with two years ago, just before meeting K. We had soup at a Japanese restaurant and she complained about being chilly – she hadn’t worn socks – so I lent her the thick wool sock I use to store my digital camera. Every five minutes or so she would switch the sock to the other foot. It was a scene from a romantic comedy, and I liked her plenty besides: she was smart and funny and attractive, and the vibe between us was relaxed and flirty.

But then I made a stupid mistake. We were talking about the food co-op, of which we were both members, and I improvised the plot of a film, a romantic comedy set in the co-op, in which a character based on her gets a crush on a character based on me. Her character switches her work shift to be on same shift as my character, only their hippy fascist squad leader keeps sending her to other parts of the store to do jobs she doesn’t know how to do. Each time she complains about this, the squad leader says, “Co-op means cooperation.” I thought she’d find this funny, but instead it made her uncomfortable, doubtless because her character gets a crush on my character and not vice versa. If I had it to do over again, I would reverse the roles.

The next day I wrote to say what I nice time I’d had on our date. She responded with a terse email asking why I would write and not call, since I now had her number. If I had it to do over again, I would call and not write, but really, if mistakes like these are what matter, it’s time to move on. I realized this at the time, but just to be certain I called and left a message. She never responded. A few weeks later I met K.

Today she was my cashier. Thankfully I remembered her name.

“Hi, Virginia. I’m Michael.”

“I know who you are.”

Her tone was the same as her email. She meant to indicate I’d made another mistake.

I smiled and asked if she was cooperating.