It felt a little dangerous when I spoke to him. I played the part of the puritan, offering to bless the turkey sandwich he bought from my deli counter every day around noon. He, in turn would hand me a twenty dollar bill and wink ever so slightly as I handed him the change, counting out carefully one ten, a five, and two quarters.
I wondered about the cross on his neck and figured maybe he was religious but either way he seemed to get a kick out of it when I made the sign of the cross over his sandwich as he grabbed a bag of barbeque chips and a chocolate chip cookie.
I couldn't tell what color the hair under his cap was but I guessed maybe it was dirty blonde and I felt pathetic at my age trying to pick up a customer when I knew that it would only lead to trouble and an awkward one night stand. I tried to look my best the following week and I wore ballet flats instead of tennis-shoes, my hair down instead of up, against regulations.
I saw him walking in with some co-workers and I tried to picture in my head what he might look like naked but there was always the cross around his neck and I wondered if his mother was still alive and I thought maybe they probably went to church together. I wondered if she made him his favorite foods every Sunday and maybe they sat in her kitchen together and listened to Christian music.
He slid his tray toward my cash register and I made the sign of the cross and he laughed and winked again and then he handed me the twenty and I made the change. As he walked toward the soda fountain I closed my register and asked my manager for a break. I sat across from him and took out my cell phone and sent a text message to my husband telling him we needed paper towels and Laundry detergent from the store.
I saw him watching me while he sipped his soda and sort of shook his cup and smiled and walked towards me and said something about his sandwiches being blessed and how lucky it was he had someone to take care for him like that and I laughed because it was kind of funny but I was embarrassed too.
Later as I curled next to his body I traced the cross around his neck and he told me he had never gone to church a day in his life but his mother came over quite a bit and would I like to meet her. I pretended not to hear him and told him I had to get back to work, cursing the name of the saint and protector of turkey sandwiches under my breath.
BIO: Melanie Browne's poetry can be found at various online journals including Madswirl, Commonline, and Houston Literary Review. She has poetry and fiction forthcoming in Word Riot,Yellow Mama, Writers' Bloc (Rutgers), and 34th Parallel. She is a co-editor at Leaf Garden Press. She lives in Texas with her husband and three children.