After my haircut, I was starving. I headed up a level to a place called P.F. Chang’s. It was an Asian fusion restaurant Mary had told me about–her bridge club went there once a month and boozed it up over fried wontons and sushi. I was hoping they had more standard Chinese fare. I didn’t like the idea of sushi.
I was seated right away and my waiter, a rather heavy-set middle-aged man named Harold, brought me an iced tea. Harold had a receding hairline and probably looked ten years older than he actually was. But he was very friendly and took my order for chicken lettuce wraps and Mongolian beef with a smile before departing for another table.
As he walked away, I caught myself mentally judging the man for his appearance, and I silently chastised myself. I had made the mistake of spending my whole life thinking I could never be good or do good because I was gay. And now, if I was being honest, I was making the same mistake by thinking Harold wasn’t as good as maybe another waiter, simply because he was heavier and balding. The size of a man’s belly or how much hair was on his head didn’t make him good or bad, anymore than who he had sex with. It was what was in his heart that counted. I just lost two thirds of the hair on my head. I didn’t suddenly become worthless.
I was thinking about that when Harold brought my lettuce wraps and started mixing a special sauce at the table–soy, mustard, and red chili paste. It was delicious. He seemed to really enjoy what he was doing.
“Hey, Harold. Can I ask you a question? Is being a waiter a hard job?” I said. He paused a minute and thought about it before answering.
“Well, I suppose it’s like this. The hardest part of any job is knowing what is expected of you, then deciding you are going to always exceed those expectations. It would be easy to say all I do is take orders and sling food at people. But that’s not how I see it. I’m here to help you have an enjoyable experience around the food. I don’t cook it but I’m its voice, its attitude, its human side.”
“Wow. I never thought of it like that, but it makes sense. Thanks. And may I say, you do a very fine job. I could see the great attitude immediately when I sat down. I appreciate it.” He smiled and went back to cleaning tables. He was still smiling when I paid my bill later and left him a big tip. I wrote a note on the receipt, “Keep up the great work, Harold! I loved my meal, Jack”.
My head was fixed, my stomach was full, now I needed to finish my shopping. I still needed underwear and maybe a few new work shirts and pants, if I could find those. That would be a good thing, too.
The next stop was Hugo Boss. I saw the underwear display from the entrance and had to go in, even if just to lust after the nearly naked torsos on the covers of the boxes. I picked up several boxes, pretending I was deciding on what style I wanted, but really I was just trying to see if they fully airbrushed the pictures or if you could see the outline of their dicks in the underwear. On some of them, you could. Hot.
I knew I wouldn’t look as good in them as the models on the box but I really did need underwear and I wasn’t picky. I knew I wanted boxer briefs and I preferred darker colors, mostly black. I had given up tighty whiteys in college. They had boxes of three, so I got three boxes in my size–medium according to the chart of the back. They were all black, which was cool. One less decision every day.
I hadn’t seen it when I first came in but directly across from Abercrombie & Fitch was an Apple Store. I decided to check it out. I was curious about iPads. I had no work use for one so I never asked Marcus to buy one for me to use at the office. And of course, I never had the budget personally so none for home either. But my apartment complex did have WiFi. The owners added it a year ago as part of a rent increase of only ten bucks a month. Not much for high speed internet.
The store was crowded so I almost didn’t go in. But this cute little Indian girl asked me if she could help me find something and naturally I started up with her. In just a few minutes, we had narrowed my choice down to the latest iPad for WiFi in black. She upsold me some additional accessories–an iHome box so I could play music at the apartment, a carrying case and a screen protector kit. She had suggested a stylus, but that didn’t seem necessary to me. The best part is she set it all up for me right there in the store so I wouldn’t have to connect it to a computer at work to do it. I’m sure I could have figured it out, but I didn’t want to have to explain the iPad at work.
I exited the Apple Store, further weighed down, arms aching from carrying all my goodies. But I was determined to finish strong. I spied the J. Crew store across the way. They had men’s dress shirts in the window and a cute girl waved to me when I looked at her. That was odd–most girls just ignored me like I was invisible. What was odder still was the even cuter Hispanic guy standing three steps behind her, looking at me the same way. I figured I better go see about their shirts.
Kylie, according to her name tag, flipped her curly blond hair behind her ear and smiled, greeting me.
“Welcome to J. Crew. How may I...”
“I’ve got this, Kylie. Can you help Samantha with folding those shirts over there? Thanks, love.” I watched as Kylie shrugged her shoulders, smiled again at me and nearly skipped over to Samantha, who looked anything but happy folding shirts and putting them back according to the size order on the display table.
“So how can I help you? My name is Jesse, by the way.” He stuck out his light brown hand and I shook it, thinking this was a rather personal greeting. But maybe that’s how they did things at J. Crew. Every store has a different angle to get you to part with your money. His black hair was cut very short next to his scalp with a matching amount of beard showing all over. It was a sexy look to say the least.
“Hello, Jesse, I’m Jack. Nice to meet you. I was looking for some dress shirts for work. Maybe some nicer pants. You know, office casual. Nothing super fancy. We usually wear Dockers and buttoned shirts with collars.”
“Sure thing, Jack. We’ve got lots to choose from in the back area. Follow me.” So I did. And I was rewarded with an ass that filled his pants like they had two cheek holders sewn in, perfectly proportioned to his measurements. A thing of beauty. The pants were a dark blue textured material and looked very expensive. I wanted some. And I wanted my ass to look that good in them.
Jesse was friendly and helpful but not flirty. I didn’t push it. I can usually tell when a guy is into it and he wasn’t. He was just really good at his job. And I mean really good. By the time I got out of there, I had five new work shirts and five new pairs of pants, including the blue ones Jesse was modeling, although my ass probably wasn’t nearly as spectacular as his in them. But it wasn’t bad either. Just as we were walking up to the registers, I saw a sports coat hanging on a mannequin. It was a charcoal gray, almost black, and it looked casual and sophisticated displayed over a light blue work shirt and the same blue pants I was buying. I wanted it.
Jesse helped me find the right size, and to my good fortune, it fit really well off the rack, no tailoring needed. He said that hardly ever happens, that I’d be a fool not to take it. Yeah, I’ll bet.
By this time, I had stopped thinking about the money. After you spend one hundred fifty dollars on shampoo and conditioner, you clearly have no financial scruples anymore. So when Jesse rang up the bill and swiped my Centurion card, I didn’t even look at the receipt. I had people for that.
I had no more room in my hands for packages so it was time to go home. I needed a nap and time to process what had happened today. Until I was out the door, I was determined to do only window shopping and guy cruising.
But of course, if you go window shopping with money in your pocket, you’re probably going to end up buying something. I was in the home stretch and walked in front of the TUMI luggage store. There was the coolest Arrivè Briefcase in the window. It was calling out to me, “Buy me, Jack, please, please,” like a puppy who wanted a new home. I had to go in and check it out. Then I saw the matching luggage and that was it. Time to retire the trusted duffel bag. I bought a Zurich large bag, an Orly carry-on piece, the briefcase and something called a Barajas Dopp Kit for my toiletries. No more plastic baggies for this traveler.
Thankfully, they said they had to order it all, so I did not have to figure out how to carry it home. It would be shipped within two days to my apartment. There was no rush, I had no plans to go anywhere anytime soon. I didn’t even have a passport.
As I drove home in the afternoon gloom, stealing looks at myself in the rearview mirror at every stop light like some narcissistic nimrod, I kept thinking about the crazy day I just had. I met some great people, got some great new clothes, a new hairdo and some cool luggage to carry it all in. Where to, I had no idea. Yet.
I didn’t even know what I was going to do about my job. What do I tell Marcus and Mary about the last few days? Do I say anything? They’re going to take one look at me and know something had changed. I didn’t know so I decided to pull a Scarlett O’Hara and think about that tomorrow. For now, it was time to go home and play with my new purchases. And maybe with myself a little bit. Damn, that Andy was hot stuff.