by Karen Fayeth
Be cool, man, be cool, said the voice inside Billy’s brain as he looked at Josey Adams looking at a pillow top Posturepedic with double lumbar support.
Boy, I’d support every single one of her lumbar, that same voice said.
He knew every one of those beautiful vertebrae. Billy Anderson sat behind Josey Adams for community college business school. During Econ, Accounting and Marketing, she took studious notes while he took note.
“What makes a pillow top so good?” she asked with a tiny brow crinkle so adorable, he wanted to bite it.
“Well, if you sleep on your side, the pillow top gives your key joint points, you know your shoulder and hips…”
And, oh, what hips.
“…a cushiony softness while the mattress underneath gives your whole body support, keeping your spine…”
That xylophone of a spine needing a maestro’s touch.
“I see,” she said, further crinkling her brow and touching the tip of a finger to the bow of her lips. In lieu of fainting, he chose to turn away to point at another bed set.
“This one over here doesn’t have the pillow top. Tell you what, why don’t you give them both a test drive, you know, get right in there. I think you’ll see the difference.”
Sweat beaded Billy’s upper lip as Josey turned in one fluid movement and settled herself on the bed.
Look away. Look interested, but look away.
“As you can see the double stitching down here is solid construction. The side vents allow the memory foam to retain its shape.” His eyes seared into every portion of the mattress that did not contain girl.
“OK, let’s try the other,” she said, skirt inching just slightly above the knee as she slid down. His heart very nearly jumped out of his throat and went yelping down the street like a wounded animal.
She moved with grace toward the non-pillow top and landed with a thud, immediately scrunching her adorable face. Billy’s left hand twitched.
“I see what you mean, let’s go with the pillow top,” she said, popping up brightly and walking toward the register.
Billy had been employed by Snooze Whistle, a chain of mattress purveyors, for just eight months. He’d graduated with an associate’s degree in marketing and quickly accepted a commission sales job.
He’d only made a few real sales so far, and this was the first time he had to help a customer who made his foolish heart sing.
He could remember the curve of her hairline at the nape of her neck and the tiny mole on her upper left arm. She apparently could not remember ever seeing his face.
“I can offer you same day delivery, just add your address here,” he said.
I solemnly swear to not look up her address. I swear. I really swear, oh god, I’m weak.
Then just as quickly as the Josey zephyr had blown in, she was gone. A hint of raspberries and vanilla lingered, shop bell tinkling in her jet wash.
Billy went to the backroom to hand off the paperwork to the delivery team who immediately began pulling the items from the shelves.
“I’ll grab the free pillows!” Billy volunteered a little too enthusiastically. He hugged two pillows to his body like a drowning man awaiting rescue, then bent at the waist to slide the pillows delicately down to the very bottom of a tall cardboard box, imbuing them with his scent, his heart, and his intentions.
Tonight she would sleep on the very cushion of his soul.
Get a grip, Billy boy, she probably has a beefy quarterback boyfriend who will sleep on and thus crush your soul. Stand up and exit this box immediately.
Reemerging from the cardboard container of his intentions, he noticed three dockworkers spectating his odd behavior.
True love defies understanding, he thought, as he slunk from the room and back out onto the sales floor.
After a sleepless night he found himself in the doldrums at work, a mind-numbingly slow Sunday at the Snooze Whistle.
Just as a sudden breeze propels a stationary sailboat, so too did Billy’s sails fill when the raspberry vanilla zephyr returned.
“Excuse me,” she said, standing right in front of him with questions in her eyes.
“Oh yes, hi!” he said, completely on the back foot and hopeless to recover.
“Hi, do you remember me? I was here yesterday and bought a bed.”
Remember you? Ha! You are tattooed in the folds of my brain. You are imprinted in my heart. You are the map to my very soul.
“Yes, I believe so. You bought a pillow top, right? How is that working out?”
“Well, the bed is just lovely, actually. Thank you, but that’s not why I’m here. I found this under my pillow and I think it belongs to you.”
Her tiny porcelain hand opened like the first flower of spring to reveal a slim metal cylinder. His eyes blinked into recognition. A laser pointer, engraved with his name. The graduation gift from his father rested there in his true love’s hand.
“Is it yours? It says Billy Anderson on it so it must be yours.”
Take back your possession and stop nodding like a bobbing dog on the dashboard of a beat up Cadillac.
“Yes, it’s mine, I don’t understand how…” Then a vision of the inside of a cardboard box re-entered his mind. It must have slipped from his pocket when he was doing all of the imbuing. The thought of her sleeping on top of his laser pointer made him clutch it suddenly to his chest.
“Oh, I’m so glad I was able to return it to you.”
Billy’s nodding only intensified.
“May I ask you a question?” she said. “Forgive me but…”
Seriously, it’s too much nodding. Take it down a couple cycles.
“…didn’t we attend Chapman College together? You seem familiar.”
“Um. Yes, actually. We had a few classes together.”
“Yes,” she said and Billy noticed tiny beads of sweat forming above her lip. It looked like the very fluid that could quench his thirst. He yearned to have a taste, to touch the tip of his tongue…
“OK, so here’s the thing. I can’t live with this guilt. I took it. Your laser pointer. I stole it. I needed a reason to come back, and I saw it on the table with your name on it and I took it. Last night I swear I could smell you on my pillow, and I held it to my face trying to will you into being. I can’t stop thinking about you and I can’t stop talking right now and I didn’t really need a new bed and I actually can’t afford it but I think I like you and I couldn’t figure out how to get your attention any other way and so I stole it and now I think it’s weird and oh my god I think I’ve blown it.”
In the silence after her gust of words, the wall clock’s second hand ticked the passage of time. He stood gobsmacked, she stood dumbfounded, and no words broke the surface of the motionless air.
Say something. This is your moment. This is everything you’ve ever wanted.
“It’s green,” he said.
Her brow furrowed in that bitable way. “Excuse me?”
“My laser pointer. It’s green. That’s the best kind. You can use it on an LCD screen.”
“Oh. Really? You can’t use a red one?”
“No. LCD absorbs the red light. Green is best.”
“Here, I want you to have it,” he said and placed it back into her small cool hand.
“But don’t you need it?”
“It just feels better knowing that you have it. You’ll keep it safe.”
First he gave her his laser pointer, then he took her hand.
Finally, he gave her his heart.
She kept it safe.
Karen Fayeth was born with the eye of a writer and the heart of a story-teller. Fayeth’s work is colored by the Mexican, Native American, and Western influences of her roots in rural New Mexico and complemented by an evolving urban aesthetic. She now lives in the San Francisco Bay area and can be found online at karenfayeth.com