Saturday 21 June 2014

'Blink and Smile' by Jo Gatford

I don’t use that hackneyed line. I’m not on a stage, but in a supermarket queue. My line is worse than “look into my eyes” but it works, drawing attention to hers, instead: “My God, you have beautiful eyes…” And she’ll look away sideways, give a purse-lipped smirk, leave it there on her mouth longer than she needs to, and then - there it is – right into my gaze. She has to take those few little moments to decide if she’s flattered, freaked out, or if I’m worth flirting with. All I need is a slow blink and a smile.
The blink is the clincher. By that point I have my hand on her shoulder – just enough weight behind it to anchor my words – and the suggestion of acquiescence whispers across the checkout. Her eyes close and her heart rate slips a few beats per minute. I tell her not what she needs to do, but what she wants to do, what suddenly seems like the very best idea, to void the till and open the register, to shift her hips to the side as the drawer shoots out. Her conscience is clean, her intent pure. The purpose is not to violate, but to nudge, like a kitten weaving through her ankles, edging her towards the kitchen.
There’s never more than a couple of hundred, usually, in supermarket cash registers – but that’s plenty enough for five minutes of magic. I rub her collar bone with my thumb as she slides out the notes. Nothing quite like that little plastic clack as the cash holders run empty. She hands over the money with a face so empty, so serene, it could be a portrait on a dinner plate. If she’s sweet enough I’ll press my cool palm against her blushing cheek, tell her how well she did, how wonderfully she moved, how very, very pretty her eyes really truly are.
The store’s closed-circuit camera footage will show her consent and not every manager will believe her story. But even when she’s fired, she’ll retain a vague sense of accomplishment, she’ll remember the warm pride of pleasing some paternal figure she thought she’d outgrown. She won’t see me afterwards, tapping my cigarette into the puddles outside the automatic doors. She’ll frown at me when I half-cock a smile – just another pervert staring at her tits – and she’ll pass by to a bus or a car or a train or a wet walk home at the end of a shitty and wholly confusing day.
And I must resist, as she goes, complimenting her eyes.

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