I sat in the puffy striped chair in the Towson Barnes and Noble today, furtively eating my Trader Joe's sushi out of the plastic bag I had it hidden in. I've never been spoken to by a Barnes and Noble employee for eating sushi and reading, which I do fairly often, but I didn't want to take any chances. I had the perfect spot for watching out for employees, as well as for watching people as they strolled around both inside and outside the store. If I turned my head just a little to the left, I could see the line of people buying books. I was reading The Fire Next Time while I sat there, but a young girl - round face, dangling jewelry, shiny dark skin, big bright eyes - caught my eye. She waited in line while a bony woman in beige asked for her special order, then proceeded to read the front and back of it while a line of people formed behind her. The girl never sighed or lost her patience. It looked like she was practicing in her head about what to say to the salesperson, and I was intrigued.
Finally, the willowy woman left the counter and the young girl walked up to it. Her mother, who I hadn't noticed before since she was standing a little behind the girl and was actually shorter than her, spoke. She said, "Hi there. I believe you have a book her for my daughter. A special order for Thomas."
The guy behind the counter looked, but there was no special order for Thomas. So the girl then timidly asked, "Um, well do you have book A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines?" Her voice was soft, unsure, cautious.
The man referred them to the help desk, who had referred them to the counter before that. I interrupted from my seat while the guy checked with the Help desk. "So, are you about to start school at ____________?"
They both sort of looked at me puzzled, so I explained that I was a teacher there.
Upon hearing that, the girl's face became flushed and she grinned, while she retreated behind her mother just a little. I told them I recognized the book title as our summer reading book for 9th graders, and that I knew because I'm the one who had made the assignment. I introduced myself and told her how good the book was. The girl asked me what I taught and I told her English I, that I just might be her teacher, you never know. They thanked me and I left.
When I was walking away, I saw both of them at the Help desk, again waiting in line to get this pretty common book. I walked to the G section of the shelves, grabbed it, and handed it to the girl. She got that shy grin on her face again and thanked me. I then told her there's a good movie version of it, too, starring Mekhi Pfieffer and Don Cheadle, but not to rent it until after she'd finished reading it. She was smiling the whole time, and seemed genuinely happy to be talking to me. I wonder if the prospect of high school is making her nervous and now meeting this teacher in his grubby, sweaty t-shirt (I was in between cardio and weights workouts at Bally's) made it more palatable. Or maybe she was just being polite. Either way, she said how nice it was to meet me and that she'll see me on August 29, and I was again reminded how excited I am to be getting back to school in a couple weeks.
It was nice meeting you, too, Brianna.
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