I started there the summer before my sophomore year of high school and I was fourteen going on fifteen. Technically, I was not even old enough to run the box crusher, let alone a cash register but I did and I digress...
When I started there, the store was not nearly the size it would eventually become. The store was dark and dirty. It was, however one of the best places to work and I did not know it then. The smell of eucalyptus hung in the air and when smell it now, I am instantly taken back to that place and time... not the nice new building that it would become but the dank, dark place that I spent my high school years at.
Of course, I am looking at that time through rose colored glasses because there was always some kind of drama going on among the staff. Never mind that the managers that ran the place were a bit crazy all the same... I sometimes long for the simplicity of that job, that place. The mindless stamping of the price gun on endless packages of beads. The never ending need to put things back on shelves because customers changed their minds. The mind numbing chore of sorting and putting artificial flowers back into the holders until a customers would eventually pull one out and all of them would tumble to the floor. The quiet time in the ribbon department making bow after bow after bow and cutting yard after yard of ribbon.
It was an easy job. I know that now.
It was there that I would meet one of my dearest friends. She and I would remain friends for over 15 years. I can remember pricing various crafting supplies while discussing the new episodes of Dark Shadows or Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire. I still cherish the time spent in the tiny break room, eating popcorn and the kernels (yes, kernels and I don't remember why) and gossiping about our favorite bands or talking about her kids while I droned on about the trials of high school.
She made going to work tolerable during my high school years, at least until I met - The Art Dude. He was dark and incredibly handsome. He looked like Brandon Lee in The Crow (and he dress liked the Crow one Halloween, too). Dark, beautiful, and rich brown hair that was short in the back and long in the front. He would brush his hair away from his beautiful dark eyes in such away that I would melt each and every time. He was not just good looking though... he was talented! He painted, took pictures and made jewelry. He introduced me to comic books and illustrated novels. This man was so beautiful, inside and out.
Looking back he had to know I had a crush on him.
I have snippets of memories (that I cling to) of him doing the sweetest things for me... He made me a necklace once and then one Christmas, when the masses of crafty woman were out, shopping for last
Did I mention those brilliant, brown eyes that looked deep into your soul when he talked to you and made you feel like - The. Only. Woman. Alive. Ever.
When my older friends went off to college and all our letters about home got boring we started to write to each other as if we were each others crushes. Yes, I was a geek, even back then. My letters were all raunchy versions of what if, Art Dude and I got together, in detail... a lot of detail. And, yes, he was refereed to as Art Dude in all of the letters.
One day my children will find them, read them and cringe openly and probably gag a bit - okay a lot. I am actually okay with this though. Maybe they will learn something about it.
I really had it bad for this man and he had no interest in me... at all. But he was always so damn nice that it made the crush even harder. sigh.
I even wanted him to take me to prom. Never mind we did not go to the same highs school, oh and he was in college, I wanted to go with him all the same. I was not going to ask though. So... one of the moms of the store (and not my friend) asked him for me.
She told me, that he said, he would have but he had just started dating some girl (who I would end up taking a photography class with in college).
Of course, that is why they call them crushes and not "sweet, lovely feelings for someone who feels that way, too."
I ran in to him years ago while he was working at my favorite Mexican restaurant. He had two kids and was still painting... in fact, I have accidentally seen two of his shows. The only two times I had been to a local coffee shop, his paintings were hanging and they where good, really good.
I had the chance to go to one of the meet and greets for a show he had work in but didn't go... It was hard enough seeing him at the restaurant I frequented but to see him in his natural habitat would be to much to handle. It also did not help my fantasy of him when I had taken my husband (who was then, just a "friend") to the restaurant he worked at one night after seeing The Hulk at the theater and they bonded over comic books (what can I say, I like fanboys). That did ruin the crush a little but might make another kind of story...
The thing is... I cling to my crushes. I reference them, I thrive on the unrequited love, the sweet "what ifs" and the knowledge that the fantasy would be ruined if it ever came true.
Oddly enough - my friend never knew I had such a big crush on him until years after we stopped working there. Maybe, he never knew, too.
note: This story, may have been, ever so slightly, exaggerated for effect... may have.
This post was inspired by Mama Kat's - pretty much world famous - Writer's Workshop.