Turing Test

April 29, 2011
The fluorescent lights of the convenience store cast shadows on my face.
Some kids in the corner laugh as one flips a bottle of alcohol in an upward arc at 15 revolutions per second. He stares at me for an instant then returns to his joke.
The cold air that rushes in after me rustles the newspaper to my left.
The four men walk out without paying for the bottles. I make a motion to follow them out, but then I stop.
This does not elicit a response from the cashier. She is 1 meter, 66 cm tall. Approximately 25 years old. She is blonde, with blue-green eyes.
The young men who just left might call her pretty.
I grab a bottle of motor oil from the rack 75 cm to my left.
I walk to the counter and tap out “Jingle Bells” on the table.
She’ll look up; she’ll tell me how much she loves that song.
We will talk.
We will talk forever.
“Aren’t you glad the holidays are over?” She says, “I had to work Christmas evening, but I didn’t go. Nobody even noticed.”
I don’t even like “Jingle Bells.”
I move my elbow to a 90° angle, placing the bottle on the 85cm counter.
“One bottle of motor oil, please.” She gives me a bemused and weary smile.
“Motor oil this late? Must be one hell of a night.” She says.
“Longest night I’ll ever have.”
“Bet you’re looking forward to going to bed.”
“Yes, but I have miles and miles to go before I sleep.”
She chuckles and tilts her head, “That’s a pretty poem.”
Her laugh was pleasant and organic, the best sound I have heard in weeks.
I wanted to tell her a joke, the kind I’d heard people tell. I wanted her to keep laughing.
“Miles and Miles to go before I sleep…” echoed in my head.
Poetry is awful.
“I had to learn that poem for school, a long time ago.”
“I have it memorized.”
“Er, that’s nice.” She mumbled
“I know what it means, too.”
“It’s easy to memorize, it’s hard to understand it.” She casts a glance out the doors into the snowy street.
And it figures I have to be the one to understand.
“Yeah, I always liked poetry.” I lied.
“I thought I’d be a writer when I grew up, you know.”
“I bet you’re awesome, you even managed to memorize one poem.”
She gave a rueful laugh.
“Yeah, I was really bad, most writers in high school are.”
“It’s okay, I could never write anyways. People told me my writing had no soul.”
“Here, this will help you keep awake. It’s cold outside.” She hands me a cup of coffee.
“No thanks.” A thought stirs in my head.
I pick up a bottle of antifreeze and place it next to the motor oil. She stares at me blankly for a second.
“You need to get out.”

I exit the store, both bottles clutched in my hands. I can feel the cold, see the snow, but it is all miles and miles away from me. I think a lot about the convenience store. I remember the cashier’s laugh under the fluorescent lights and it feels just like heaven. There’s something only I saw there in that lonesome 7-11 on the corner of Birch and Chesterfield.
I glance at the bottle of antifreeze; it’s very cold outside. I smash the bottle on the ground, glass flying and green liquid staining the white ground.
I lie down in a bus stop a little down the road. My joints are stiffening in the cold. Someone has scrawled words on the wall of the bus stop: “What would it look like if you were happy?”
I try to find an answer, but it takes a long time, and I can’t think of anything. All I can do is listen to the sound of cars traveling by in the snow.

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