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Dancing in Color MAG
Name?" the clerk asks.
"Elsa." She flips her membership card.
"Elsa? That's kind of an old name for a girl your age." He wrinkles his nose ever so slightly, which Elsa finds ironic because he's wearing a purple uniform. Not just purple, but a purple so rich and dark that Elsa thinks she could probably smell it if she tried hard enough.
"My friends call me Elle."
"Like the magazine?"
"Like the magazine," she answers.
He leans on the counter, filing his nails with the edge of his pen. He has these incredible green-blue eyes, but they're hidden behind his glasses. They make him look kind of like a frog. A purple frog.
"You renting this for school?" he asks nonchalantly, still leaning on the counter, drumming his filed fingernails on the video.
"Not some extra-credit project or something?"
"Well, are you interested in it?"
She shrugs. He isn't even any good at making conversation. Why would she rent the movie if she weren't interested? It's really such a stupid question that she wants to tear those glasses off his face and chuck them at the window where all those stylized posters of new releases hang. She tips her change onto the counter and lets a nickel fall to the floor, just to see how he picks it up. She bets he's one of those people who squats just to pick up a nickel, instead of bending over. Then again, Frog probably isn't like anyone else.
"You're - well - it's due back Wednesday. You'll tell me how it is?" Frog asks, peppy.
Elsa responds inaudibly, moving toward the door before he can ask if she's supposed to be renting an R-rated movie.
"So, it's due back Wednesday." he reiterates, calling from his perch on the countertop.
The sidewalks are shimmering silver and white. It hasn't snowed this hard in six years, and it's such a relief to look out on the streets and see a snow quilt stifling the traffic. Three-foot snowbanks on either side of the street block the crossways, which suggest long, hard shoveling, all in vain, because it's still snowing. The snow piles atop air conditioners in high pyramids and whirls around awnings, all the while blocking out that overwhelming Manhattan color.
Frog, shivering, appears outside, coatless in his purple T-shirt. "You forgot a nickel."
Ah, the squatter's nickel!
Elsa walks over, but he extends a hand instead. "I'm Andy."
"I know," she retorts. He returns a quizzical smile, and in response to his amazement, she explains, "Your tag says so."
"Well, no, actually," he says, mildly excited now. "The tag says Andrew, but no one calls me that. You know how no one goes by their name? Like you! Like, your name's Elsa? But people call you Elle!"
"So, I'm thinking I'm gonna change the name on my tag so that people don't call me names I don't wanna hear, like Andrew "- or Frog Face - "or Drew. 'Cause, like, there's a lot of variations of Andrew but I only like Andy."
"I think Drew's kind of cool," Elsa mumbles.
"Oh, well," he says, suddenly flustered. "I think Drew's real cool too." A pause. "So, I'd better get back inside? You know, 'cause, it's snowing."
"Sure, nice meeting you, Andy."
He smiles this off-centered smile, but he's really quite good-looking if you ignore his glasses and the frantic way he talks. Andy hands her the nickel, and when she realizes it's a pretty old one, Elsa asks if he wants to keep it. He says no, he doesn't collect coins, but his little brother Thomas does. Elsa waits a beat, expecting him to list all the variations of Thomas (Tommy, Tom, et cetera), but he's given up and retreats to the safety of the movie store.
The truth is, Elsa's not really so interested in the movie. It's one of those classics that everyone has to see to be accepted into society. She'll probably end up watching 10 minutes, get discouraged by the stilted dialogue, and then imagine what the scenes would look like in blazing Technicolor with a chase sequence, staccato arguments, and hipped-out music threaded through the scenes. Then she'll find some Spanish soap on Channel 47 and get so enthralled in the dubbed sex scenes that she'll forget about the apple in her hand that'll brown before she can take an honest bite.
Then she'll sit and try to write a screenplay about a struggling artist or something since watching movies makes her want to feel creative. A bag of popcorn later, she'll be back at the movie store, grease on her hands, gabbing on and on about how that movie was the greatest of all time! Frog'll probably agree, thinking he'll impress Elsa, and then she'll leave, ambling through the blizzard, wondering if she'd better rent something else after all. God, who doesn't love the winter?
The wind whips around Elsa's ankles, and she feels exposed. She almost wants to run and ask Frog if he likes to dance or sing or run because he seems like the kind of guy who does everything but isn't good at anything. That's silly, she thinks, I don't even know him. But she can't help herself: she pictures him on summer days with cacophonous music blasting from his stereo, the kind of music that's so loud that you can almost see it. Well, Elsa thinks, I'm a poet at heart. And she feels satisfied with this thought even though it isn't true. Suddenly it bothers her that she can picture Frog only doing extreme things like dancing or ice-skating or mountain climbing. She can't see him eating or drinking or doing any mundane activity. Then she thinks of Frog as Andy, stripped of all pretenses, and can instantly see him doing a whole slew of domestic things now that he's shed his froggie form. Elsa chuckles aloud, and catches a gust of wind that knocks her sideways.
"What?" She stands upright, realizing she hasn't moved from the curb even though the light has changed to green twice since she exited the store.
Frog is again standing in the doorframe with a gray sweater clinging tightly to his chest.
She chokes from stifling a laugh. "Where'd you get that?"
"Oh, this?" he asks, gesturing to the sweater.
"Someone left it on the counter, and I figured, you know? In this weather, who's gonna come back for it?" Again he wrinkles his nose, and Elsa backs up against the front window, laughing, as a curmudgeon approaches Andy from behind.
"Son," says the man. "I
believe that sweater doesn't belong to you."
"Oh!" Frog cries, and lifts the sweater over his head quickly, "Sorry. You can, um, rent that movie for free?" Elsa squats on the sidewalk, falling over from laughter, until the man accepts the compensation and leaves the store in a huff. Sweaterless, Frog dances around in his T-shirt trying to keep warm.
"So, do you wanna come back inside? You can rent something a little more contemporary."
Elsa laughs huskily and focuses on his purple uniform. "You could really do with a different color, you know."
Embarrassed, Frog's hands fly to his purple-collared shirt and squirms a little now that it's no longer safely concealed under the sweater.
"It's all right," Elsa recovers. "Purple's very chic."
"Right." Andy waits a beat and then says, "I'm, uh, not supposed to be doing this because you're a customer and all, but do you, uh? Do you wanna go somewhere sometime? I mean, well, you know ... ?" He waits, twiddling his thumbs.
Elsa laughs again. "Well," she replies, sighing. "Do you like to dance?"