Those of you who know me understand that I like to have fun with people. Most of the interaction I have is with customers at Video Horizons, where I work part-time. This is a social outlet for me, better than striking up conversations at a bar, but I like that, too. I do a little teasing. I sometimes harass people about their film choices or their refusal to read subtitles. Three ladies came in one evening and brought their films up to the counter.
One looked at her friend and said, “I need to get a new ID. I want them to take my organs.”
I politely told her, “Normally, we only take cash or credit cards, but I can ask the owner if he would accept a kidney or possibly your liver.”
She stared at me. I really didn’t know her well enough to make this comment. But her friend laughed. Then the others laughed. So it was okay.
There was a young couple that used to come to the store every week. They looked to be in their early twenties. I haven’t seen them in a long time. He was handsome in a classical way, as in old paintings from the Renaissance period, with an eastern European look. His face was round, his eyes large, gentle and kind. She had a delicate beauty, possibly of Irish descent, a strawberry blonde with fair skin, a friendly, slightly shy smile, and pale eyes. I liked them both. During one of their visits when they walked up to the counter with a handful of movies to rent, I was feeling extra playful.
I looked at her and said, “What’s your phone number?”
We always ask for phone numbers, that’s how we pull up accounts, but this must have seemed a little more personal. She gave me the number and looked at her companion.
“Now he has my number,” she said with a smile on her face.
He looked at me and I said, “Don’t worry. I’ll forget it in a few minutes. I can’t remember anything.”
They went along with my joke, laughed and left.
Time passed as it does, weeks turned into months and they kept coming in regularly. It became apparent that the young woman was pregnant. Eventually, her discomfort was obvious as she grew into her maternity clothes. The time came when she could not have been more than a few weeks from delivering her child. As they approached my counter, I felt a twinge of sympathy. After all, I have three daughters and a son. I remember those tough months during pregnancy and know how hard it can be on a woman and sometimes a relationship. Men, no matter how hard we try we can’t know what they go through. It’s not in our physiological makeup. I pulled up their account.
“Whoah, you have some kind of nasty late fees. Ten dollars worth,” I told them. “What happened?”
“He was supposed to bring them back, but he just didn’t do it,” she said while scolding him with a look.
I knew money was tight for them with a baby almost due. I wanted to help. I looked at him, attempting to measure his remorse.
“What’s your excuse? Were you busy working?” I asked, thinking he was putting in those extra hours to get more money to provide for his new family.
“No, I just didn’t bring them in,” he said. I didn’t see any remorse in those eyes. In fact, his tone was a little crisp and brittle.
“C’mon, you have to help me here. I’m inclined to give you a break on your late fees, but I need a good story. What else have you got?” I asked, still looking for the right answer.
“I meant to bring them in. They were in the car but I just didn’t stop,” he replied.
I shook my head. “I can’t believe that’s the best you can do.” I looked at her as she watched him.
“What about you?” I asked her.
“He just doesn’t care,” she said. “He doesn’t do anything to help me. He waits for me to do everything. I cook, I clean, I wash his clothes. I have to clean up his messes. I’m miserable and uncomfortable and he won’t even look at me anymore. I’m not attractive to him. We sit and watch movies; we don’t talk. We’re unhappy all the time. I just need this to be over.”
My eyes misted up. Her words touched me deeply as I stood at the counter. I was speechless for a bit, and my friends know that’s rare for me.
“Here you go,” I said. “I’m erasing your late fees.”
They thanked me and walked out the front doors into the night, not speaking to each other.
This was many months ago. They have had their child by now. I’m sure it’s a beautiful baby. I’m certain they are happy again, living a good life and adjusting to being a family. Her beauty and sassiness have returned; his compassion and longing for her are strong. Love is in abundance. They don’t come into the store anymore because they don’t need movies. They are busy and tired, but they have rediscovered each other and the reasons they fell in love. Who has time to watch a movie?
This is my dream for them, these are my hopes. I don’t know how much of this is true, but it’s what I want. Because to think I may have embarrassed them oftentimes crosses my mind. I did not mean to pry into their personal lives. I was just being playful, as I will so often do. And I hope one day they’ll come back into Video Horizons. I want to smile and ask them how they are. I want to see their lovely child. I want to hear their new story. I am convinced it will be beautiful.