that first look

Page

She stood there in front of me. So close, yet so far.

Indeed, in that congested shopping mall, I could have sworn that she had the most perfect body I had ever seen in human female form. She was wearing tight fitting jeans, dark green in colour, which took nothing away from the perfect ness of her figure. Her top was a riot of colours against a dark background of an indiscernible colour. The dress was faultless, and accentuated her natural beauty without being loud. I continued observing her as she stood there, scarcely knowing of my attention.

I was a sworn bachelor. Time and again I had told my friends that I would never find the girl of my dreams, because in my opinion, girls were not worth dreaming about. Even as a pre-teen, and later as a teenager, I had never ever been one of those guys who discussed girls with the rest of the gang. Those friends would laugh if they heard that I, a born atheist and sceptic, had actually been transfixed in my place in a crowded shopping mall by the mere sight of a girl. I could hear their deriding laughter now.

With such a history of apathy towards the female sex, one may be disposed to feel that I am going overboard in expressing my feelings in this fashion. But these were the memories and thoughts that occurred to me when I stood there watching her.

Dare I go to her? Dare I…even as I mulled over it, a well built man, with the looks which women dream for in a man, forced his way in front of me and with scarcely a ‘by your leave’, pushed me from my vantage point from where I was watching that goddess in human form. Maybe that is a little over the top, maybe even a little extreme, but those were the exact words that passed through my mind at that instant. I moved frantically, almost shoving a little old lady aside, before I remembered that the little old lady could well be her mother. I quickly restrained myself and as courteously as I could, allowed the old woman in front. I then decided that she could not be her mother.

It was just one of those things, you know. Like when you see a person and you instinctively know it is not the person you are looking for. The same feeling passed over me as I took a keen look at the old woman I had nearly sent careening to the floor. Nope, definitely not her mother. Very definitely not.

This time I moved with caution in her general direction trying my best to look like any other shopper on that floor, on which I was.
And on which the one woman who had had me stunned was.

Politely excusing myself, I moved into another position among the shoppers, from where I could carefully observe her, without giving a doubt to any of the shoppers or salesmen as to what I really wanted to do. Suddenly, I felt an arm on my elbow.

Wondering whether somebody had caught me looking at her, and also wondering about what I could say, I turned to find myself confronted by a salesman. He looked like one of those fellows who badger and convince and persuade a customer until, tired of all the sales talk or the ‘pitch’ as they call it, the poor beleaguered customer ends up buying something he is not interested in, or even wants, but has been forced into believing that he requires.

This guy proved all that I knew, by immediately launching on his sales pitch.

“Hi there, welcome to our supermarket! My name is John. John Barvon. I was just passing by and you seemed to be very interested in that item. Bachelor? Ah well, I thought so. That box contains the easiest ready-made soup in this market. Just the thing for a light supper. But for a man like you in the prime of your youth, it’s not enough. The best combo with it would be this here…”
“I really don’t like this soup…”
“Oh, that’s not a problem sir. We have another one hundred and eight flavours in that brand. So finding your taste in soup will not be a problem.”
“Actually I don’t like soup at all…”
“That’s not a problem either. Here come here with me. This here aisle contains all the other quick meals that we have available in our store. Which by the way is one of the largest stores in this city. Now this product…”

Damn! Johnny boy had taken me out of range of her. I was going to have to lose him fast. Besides with his pitch, either I was going to buy something or this store was going to find the body of one John Barvon in their storeroom.

Before I could get out of his clutches, so to speak, John, finding no response forthcoming from me, had thrust three packets of spring rolls into my cart, and was in the process of trying to put a packet of cheese dumplings in as well, when I tapped him on the shoulder.

“Actually I was looking for something else when I saw that ‘FREE’ sign above the soup. I really am not interested in food right now. You see, yesterday I finished all…”
“Oh dear me, I am so sorry. Of course I should have asked what you were looking for before I bombarded you with all that talk about soup, appetizers and all that. Now then, let’s empty your cart. There we go. Now what do you really want?”

If only I could tell him. I wanted a meeting with that girl. Man, she really looked good. Even from where I had been standing.

Suddenly, I realised that Johnny boy was waiting.
“I would prefer to have a quiet look around for myself.”
“Nonsense. Look, I made a mistake and I’m sorry. I got hired this morning and the boss warned me that if I don’t do well, I am out of here in the evening. He is watching me now. There he is.”
He nodded over my right shoulder and I turned around to find a young man in shirtsleeves hurrying towards us.
I looked desperately for an exit. Barricaded by John in front and the manager behind, and shelves on both of the remaining two sides, there was no escape.
“Is every thing alright, sir?”
I looked up in hope of divine intervention. Then I noticed the signs above the respective departments and their shelves. I strained frantically to see what the sign was above her head. C-L-O…
“Sir? What’s the problem?”
…-T-H-…
“No problem at all. In fact I was just asking John here where the clothing department was.”
John must have been surprised but he showed nothing of it. He was about to open his mouth when his manager spoke up.
“John, please take our customer to the clothing department. Introduce him to Barry, and then come back here. I want to talk to you about something to do with the store.”
Saved from a certain sacking, John was full of facts about the store, what the manager wanted to talk to him about, and me.
“Thanks a lot for saving my skin back there, if you know what I mean.”
“Don’t mention it.”
“You really saved me having to make up an explanation. Look, I know you’re after something else.”
My heart went cold, and I nearly stopped in my tracks. Sweat seemed to want to deluge down my face in spite of the air conditioners in the store being in full blast.
“I mean, c’mon, you just happened to look up and see that sign. Man, that’s some luck. For me, I mean. Anyway, what I will do is introduce you to Barry and then make sure he is preoccupied with another customer. Fair enough?”
I managed a weak smile and pretended to push my hair back as I discreetly removed the few beads of sweat that had formed on my forehead.
“Thanks.”
“Hey, no sweat man.”
Not exactly my choice of words.

As we approached the department, John quickly looked around for Barry, and made the introduction. Winking conspiratorially at me, he moved towards another customer nearby.
“So sir, what are you looking for?”
“Actually…”
Before I could say something, the woman whom John had gone to distracted Barry’s attention.
“Oh, God! I thought I had finished with her for now. What’s she back for?”
Excusing himself, Barry went to her. John gave me the thumbs up sign and moved away. I smiled briefly and turned around scanning the surroundings for a sign of her.
Oh God, where had she gone?

There were all sorts of people around with a fair predominance of women, but she seemed to have vanished. I moved around and continued searching for her. Suddenly, I caught a flash of colour. Even as I moved I strained to see whether it was she. Nope, not her.
Then, suddenly, I saw her.
I could just see her from where I was standing, and, as I was moving towards her I tried to imagine what her face would look like. That she would be ugly was inconceivable. With a figure like hers, she had to look good. What could her name be? Where…

I suddenly emerged into a clearer space where the crowd was lesser. She stood there in front of me. I moved faster, hoping against hope that she would not move away before I reached her. The fifteen odd yards between us came down rapidly.
Fifteen…ten…nine…eight…seven…six…
It was at five yards from her that I realised that she had not moved. I mean, when somebody moves towards you, you turn around. But she didn’t even flinch.
God, she couldn’t be deaf!
I moved slower those last five yards. Everything seemed to happening in slow motion. I moved around the desk which had allowed me to see her only above knee height.

As I rounded it, I felt that sickening feeling which I had felt at five yards grow inside me. I strode forward and stood in front of her. I then looked into her face.
Her grey-green eyes contrasted perfectly with her pale brown skin. Her lips were barely parted and were small and perfect. Her oval face bespoke beauty, and was frozen in an expression, which exuded sweetness. Her body was just as I had seen it first. Even in the same pose. Frozen like her face. And so it would remain.
After all, she was a mannequin wearing the latest in the clothing department.

Plastic, not human.

This is one thing that I could never tell the guys.

Suddenly, from behind, somebody tapped me on the shoulder. I turned. And inwardly groaned.
“Could I help you sir? Something for your girlfriend? Or wife, perhaps?” asked the saleswoman.

Uh, oh.

© Satish E Viswanath 2005

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