Lunch Break

July 31, 2008
By Maegan Clearwood, Middletown, MD

Alan Q. Twitch walked up to my front desk everyday for seven months straight; he’d ring my otherwise idle bell, whether I was there or not, ask me how I was doing in that squeaky, adolescent voice that I came to associate with him, and slide a book across the wooden paneling, flipped over for my convenience. His selections were always rather peculiar, without any rhyme or reason; The Road, You: Staying Young, The Time Traveler’s Wife, Prey, God: A Biography, The Wizard of Oz. His choices never ceased to amuse me, despite my increasing frustration over his puzzling character.

Usually, you can tell a lot about a person based on the books he reads; his hobbies, love interests, marital problems, hometown, favorite foods. I wouldn’t even look at their faces most of the time. It was entertaining enough to guess from what popped up on the computer screen; Psychic Academy, Brothers in Arms, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Body Language. At the end of each workday, my head would be spinning with gossip, sob stories, and romance.

Sometimes, after we’d set up for the night, I lingered behind to spend some quality time in the stacks. I could spend hours simply strolling up and down the aisles, lightly allowing my fingers to caress the endless covers, as if to absorb the stories through my pores. Occasionally, I pulled one volume that caught my attention off its shelf, carefully admiring its strength and beauty before searching through its contents. Just turning those ancient, worn pages, moistened with oily fingers and fallen tears, made me feel at home.

I never read the books. I never proactively divulged in their private thoughts, instead leaving them to be freshly admired by our visitors. Rather, whenever asked for a recommendation, I went to my intuition, my sixth sense. I studied faces, outer shells, covers and titles, storing them for later use. I was, at heart, a matchmaker, finding readers their true love. Mr. Twitch was my first real challenge.

Eventually, I had to surrender, acknowledge that I could not interpret the mind of the stranger whose presence and superiority continued to plague me. In an utter admit of defeat, after three weeks of fruitless attempts at victory, I looked Mr. Twitch in the eye.

As it turned out, his eyes were a good place to start.

Not being a particularly extroverted person, looking at anyone directly, even an acquaintance, requires great strength on my part. In this case, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself staring into the mismatched, green-brown eyes of the most wonderful man on the planet.

The rest of him wasn’t particularly arresting; his thin, red hair was receding, and, at five-foot-seven, we were just about the same height (as I saw him more frequently, however, I began to wear flats more often than not, to give him a bit of an edge). His body was perfectly proportioned to support his protruding stomach with cradling arms. He was constantly pushing his glasses up the bridge of his squat nose, and he blinked so often, it was as if a swarm of gnats was constantly attacking him.

“I think that I’ve gone through every book in this place worth looking at. You look like a smart, young lady; any suggestions?”

And, for once in my life, I let my guard down and answered truthfully; “No.”

I can’t remember the rest of our conversation that afternoon. I’m sure it consisted of him making witty observations and asking about myself, and me giggling nervously and trying not to make it so obvious that I was head-over-heels in love.

I suppose it was to be expected: boring old me, a stuffy 32-year-old who’d never been asked out, let alone be considered by a guy, falling in love with a middle aged geezer. I didn’t care one bit.

Starting the following afternoon, Mr. Twitch treated me to lunch almost every day. I usually stuck with a Caesar salad, no chicken, and water, no ice. Mr. Twitch would eat anything; calamari, PB

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