Thursday, April 25, 2013

Meticulous Hippie

Will asked if I'd do the grocery shopping because he had to pick up Katie from school after he got off work and he wouldn't have time.  I miscalculated how much time I needed to finish a writing project, so when I got to the store I only had an hour to stock up on our family's groceries, get them home, and get myself to "work"--my paid job--at the library.  I did the best I could but I ran out of time.  I managed to get all the perishables put away and I put up high anything our Great Pyrenees mix Earl could swipe off the counter and tear into, but I ended up leaving a bunch of jars and cans and bottles on the counters before dashing off to the library.

When I got home from work and saw that all the groceries had been put away in neat rows inside our cupboard, I thought fondly of the days when I first met my meticulous hippie.

Will and I met eleven years ago when we both worked at the library.  He's long ago moved on to other opportunities, but back then he had recently been hired as a Reference Page.  I saw him from across the library, holding a big book in his arm, walking forward, steady on his long legs, a big grin on his face.  He had on a bright blue button down shirt, almost too nice for a library job that requires a lot of bending and stretching to shelve heavy reference books in their proper place.  His long hair, half-way down his back, in-between dark blond and light brown, fluttered behind him as he kept a steady pace.

I said to my friend and co-worker, Brent, "That new Page is kinda cute."

I wouldn't have said it to The New Page's face, though.  I'd had the proper harassment training.  Plus I'm shy as hell when I first meet people.  So I said nothing to him.  Will had the mandatory harassment training, too.  But he was smoother than I.

He tells me the first time he saw me, it was Halloween and I was wearing my book worm costume.  My ex-girlfriend Kristin took a big box and designed it to look like it had the cover of The Color Purple on it.  I wore it with my face and hair painted green and wearing green pants.  I was the book worm inside one of my favorite novels.  When Will saw me he said to himself, "I wanna get to know that chick."

The first time we actually talked was at the Feed the Need chili contest in the staff room.  I had made some vegetarian chili with TVP.  Will sat across from me and took a bite of the chili I had made.

"Mmm.  This is really good," he smiled with those bright red lips of his.  "What kind of meat is this?" he asked.

"It's TVP," I explained, smiling shyly.

"What kind of meat is that?" Will took another bite and smiled as he chewed it.

"It's not meat.  It's textured vegetable protein.  It's vegetarian."  I explained.

"So it's not meat?  It sure tastes good," he said, taking another big bite.

Other than that Will and I rarely saw each other.  He worked nights and weekends and, at that time, I worked only days, Monday through Friday.  I recall showing up to work first thing Monday morning and there it would be: this colossal mound of mail, piled up in neat rows awaiting the courier to take it to the post office.  It was impressive how he managed to get it just so.

"Looks like Will worked hard again this weekend," my friend and co-worker Linda would say, glancing at the mountain of mail.

"Yes.  Impressive, I'd say."

It's weird that meticulousness turns me on but it does.  I'm terribly sloppy and disorganized myself.  I'm impatient.  I hate puzzles.  I don't want to bother my brain trying to figure out how to clean up a mess or assemble boxes and bags of mail so they can be most efficiently transported.  I throw them in a bag, seal it, and toss it into the postal box.  Done!

So I admire people like Will who takes such pride of ownership in his work.  He assesses the job and figures out the best way to tackle it.  He thinks ahead, works slow and steady, and ends up with not just a completed job but a thing of beauty.  This is a man who neatly arranges items on the shelf at his job at Whole Foods, then takes his six-year-old daughter to a pretend play place and proceeds to straighten the shelves in the pretend grocery store, then he comes home and arranges the items in our cabinets in proper order.

Will restocking the groceries at the pretend grocery store.

This is the same guy who likes to put together impossible puzzles.  For fun.  Puzzles like Phish's Lawn Boy, which consists of mostly bright green blades of grass.  

I don't know why it makes my stomach get butterflies when I see this man tidy and straighten and fit things together, but it does.  He was bagging mail in my department at work the first time he asked me out.  His schedule had been tweaked so he was in my department on Friday afternoons.  

He was so smooth about it, he caught me off guard.  

We'd been talking about movies.  He was getting ready to put the DVD "The End of the Affair" into a bag.  I said I loved that movie.  He asked how I could possibly love a movie that's about an affair.  We talked about art and morality and finally the conversation got less intense and we began talking about different movies we like and he asked me if I'd seen "Lord of the Rings" yet.

"No," I said.  He'd mentioned this movie once before, when we sat across the table in the staff room eating chili, after our little TVP discussion, now that I thought about it.  He must really like it.

"You want to go see it with me?" Will asked, smiling big and confident.  The big tower of mail in neat rows behind him.

"Uh, um...sure." I said.

He was 21.  I was 31.  I immediately thought to myself, "What have I gotten myself into?  Who is this kid?  Asking me out?  He didn't even know what TVP is!  But he did just defend monogamy and fidelity which is sweet and kind of cool.  Oh what the hell, this could be fun..."

I was so nervous and my inner thoughts were distracting me so much that when he asked me to write my phone number down (this was in the dark ages of no cell phones to instantly plug someone's digits into) I started to write "Becky's phone number 515-1234" but half way through I thought to myself, "Oh, but what if I'm not the only Becky he knows?"  So I thought I changed it to "Becky Burton's phone number 515-1234," but what I actually ended up writing down on the little slip of paper was, "Becky's Burton 515-1234."

Will took one look at it, smiled, and thought to himself, "This is going to be easy."

See, I'm so awkward and messy, I need my meticulous hippie to keep me from drowning in my anxious muck of a life.  To make things neat and easy.