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Dear Grocery Girl,


It’s only been three days since we’ve made eye contact, but I miss you. I know I’ve never said hello or even told you my name, but I want to resolve that. I want to sweep you off your feet and make you my wife forever and ever, really, but I understand there are a bunch of steps in between here and there.

I ask myself which step is the first step? Is it a nod? A smile? Saying hello and asking how you’re doing today? I am terrified to do that in case your answer is longer than a minute or so. And it should be, if it’s authentic, I would think. I wouldn’t expect less than a half hour diatribe at this point, considering that I know more about you than I really ought to.

I desperately want your phone number. I can’t even describe the feeling inside of me, the urge to tell you I love you and I want to be with you for the rest of my life. Or the rest of yours, should that expire first, but that’s not as romantic sounding, is it? It sounds like you’re going through more than your fair share of shit these days… it’s made it through the grapevine that you can barely eat, which of course causes small-minded gossips to scoff since you obviously gained weight since you moved in with your parents.

I was thinking about how much I wanted you to message me the other day. I was trying to give you my phone number, actually. Several hours later, a message came through from a 314 number I didn’t recognize. All it said was, “Hello.” I desperately wished it was followed up by, “Will you marry me?” That part never materialized, which made me sad. I looked up that area code and found out it came from St. Louis, MO. Nobody’s ever told me where you moved from, so I’m guessing you never said where you were or it got overlooked. I would think if Mike knew that, he’d have told everyone. Maybe you don’t want everyone to know where you came from… I’m not sure. I would have expected some “she couldn’t make it in the big city” snide remarks, but I bet that’s not even true, either.

I must confess that I’ve been thinking about you nonstop for weeks now, if not months. I think something is wrong with me, honestly, as I obsess over how I’d like to share coffee with you. How I’d like to share a candle lit meal with you. How I’d like to share everything with you. Everything that is mine, you are welcome to. Absolutely everything. It’s not much, but I’m willing to help you out since your possessions never came. I guess the company moving them lost them all.

I don’t want to hold back when it comes to you, even though every cue in modern society tells me coming on strongly and asking your hand in marriage before I even get to know who you are is the wrong choice. I think the actual wrong choice would be to try to make myself wait. No doubt I’d pick the absolute worst moment to tell you I want to marry you, like when your mouth is full of food you are chewing still, and then I might have to wait what will seem like an eon to hear a reply, unless it’s a nod or the shake of your head.

And of course I’m overthinking it even now, so it’d be even worse in those moments of silence to wait. In the worst case scenario, you choke on your steak and potato dinner and I have to do the Heimlich maneuver and it’s absolutely my fault altogether and then we never see each other again because I’m a bonehead. It’s extreme, but I am catastrophizing because you are the most beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes on. A lot more people think that than just me, too, but word got around you’re “crazy,” so they stay the fuck away.

And that’s really it. You are clearly Helen of Troy. I’m no Brad Pitt to catch your eye in this goofy “movie” we call life. Still, you look at me, this mysterious air around your serious face. Sometimes, you even seem to be scowling, but I try not to read into it… maybe you’re just having a really bad day and you need a bouquet to cheer you up, or maybe even a hug and a kiss. (That would certainly be easier on my pocketbook, but I don’t care if you need some flowers… I want to put a smile on your face, no matter what it takes.) In fact, that’s something that scares me. I want to help you even if I get nothing in return. Ever.

I ask myself why I want to go to these lengths because I bet you’d want to know why yourself. It’s pretty simple… there was a day that I saw your smile for just a split second. I fell in love with that smile. Your face lit up like an angel and I wanted to not only kiss all over it but freeze frame the image in my mind for eternity, something to reference in moments of extreme duress, and hopefully the last thing I see before I die should my life flash before my very eyes.

That’s the exact moment I knew I’m already a sucker for you, as the Jonas Brothers have sung about. I’m such a sucker that I’m writing you an extremely lengthy letter, like I’m still in high school, hoping I can give it to you one day in the near future. No doubt, I’ll tear myself up about it because it’s far too long to read quickly, but I also want to give you my content in full. I think you deserve it since everyone gossips about you behind your back. Constantly.

I want to prove to you that I don’t want to abuse you or use you. I want to prove to you that my intentions aren’t motivated in the interest of self-gain. I want you to know that I have feelings that are driving this bus, so to speak, and that I’m more than just “some dude” lusting over you. You have got to know you’re insanely beautiful, turning heads everywhere you go. Especially when you’re fitting the rape culture mold.

I’ve started hearing the guys at work chit chat about you behind that deli counter. It’s basically my last straw. Everybody in my world now talks about you obsessively. They’ve been talking about how they’ve never seen you with another person on your daily(?) shopping trip. In fact, one of them insists you look behind the counter, at the people, on purpose. Every single trip. He can’t tell who you’re looking at, so he told everyone here that “she’s looking for someone and if none of you step up, I’m going to ask her for her number.” He also demanded whomever the lucky guy is takes him out to a steak dinner as a thank-you for alerting absolutely the entire crew of single men that work here every day (yes, somehow, they are all single right now and it’s going to drive me bonkers knowing I have all the competition in the world) that the beautiful (scowling) woman is on the hunt.

He’s a shit-disturber if I ever met one.

I’m also a little insecure, if I’m going to be perfectly honest. I know some of those guys would be labeled as studs and I’m not on par with their outward appearances. I’m using what I know about you to my advantage, though. Since I heard that you date online, I extrapolate (perhaps wrongly so) that you enjoy text-based communications. In fact, that makes even more sense with that mysterious text message the other day from a number I’ve never seen before. If you care more about a person’s content than you do what they look like, then I definitely have a chance at getting the girl, you know?

I happen to know you look at me. I don’t know if I’m the one you’re supposedly looking for, but since I was absent from the foray and he couldn’t tell who your search is for anyway I suspect it could be me. But now I feel pressured to tell you all about everything. I feel pressured to make a grand stand. “Go big or go home,” as they say. It might be the wrong move, but I’m going to give it a shot, because Helen was married to Hector after all, even if Brad Pitt tried to steal her away in a war.

Something about the day I saw you smile warms my heart rather than my loins. I yearn to just have a conversation with you, rather than the banter I hear behind the counter now all about how someone is going to “get lucky.” I don’t know if they understand they are fostering a rape culture here, but I feel uncomfortable speaking up without anything more direct and/or concrete to point it out and shame them with. Maybe the fact that they only look to get laid is rape culture to begin with. In fact, I just talked myself into giving them a lesson about it.

If they knew everything I knew, they wouldn’t be acting this way at all. They’d have to come up with a completely different approach. However, apparently, your earrings have sparked quite a lot of interest recently. They think you are a huntress with a target and now you’re ready to get to it. But are you? Or are you just a really sick woman who is trying to cheer herself up with a bit of glamour? They don’t know about your hair colors, I don’t believe. I think if you were to dye your hair and put on lipstick, they wouldn’t be able to recognize you. I know I didn’t.

Regardless of all that, I find it disgusting that they are trying to project themselves onto you. I happen to know the guy who started disturbing the shit is on the look out for flirting. I think it’s probably more than flirting, but I’ll just be a gentleman at this point and assume the best of him. There could be an alternate explanation for everything you do… that’s exactly why I’ve never approached you before, even though we lock eyes for many, many seconds at a time. Lately, though, I have been worried about what you’re thinking about me when these things occur. I’d pay money to know, actually, so I’d be happy to take you out to dinner sometime.

What daunts me is that you don’t smile at me. What haunts me is that I know you did smile at me once, for a split second, like you were caught off guard. Actually, I’d wager you were, since I was at a completely different station than usual that day: the dairy cutting station. Wegmans really tries to minimize cross-contamination by having designated areas like that, but I seriously doubt it’s fool proof. At any rate, I was having a great day and I spied you when I spun around and you were smiling and trying to avert your gaze the very moment I caught you staring at me. Bashful, perhaps. That’s what I thought, anyway.

I find I must ask you: are we flirting? Am I allowed to read into our several minutes of eye contact over the time we’ve spent looking at each other? Are you actually looking for me, the guy with the bandanna, every time you walk past? If you are, look no more. I’m right here. I live next door. The house right next to the church that faces your house. It’s yellow. You could easily walk outside and see me, if I ever went outside. I don’t, though… and I also I don’t know why I haven’t introduced myself sooner. I really could have. Months ago, if not when you first moved in.

I hope you don’t find this letter too creepy, since I’m your neighbor and all, but I didn’t want to interrupt you. Scratch that… I didn’t want to meet you and get slapped with a potential stalker charge. I really don’t need that in my life right now since I’m a recovering alcoholic already. I saw you drinking some wine on the porch a while back, but you seemed to have stopped, and if you wonder if that has some bearing on whether or not I came to say hello, it absolutely does…

I cannot be around alcohol at all. I will open it and I will guzzle it and I will regret life completely the next day. I raped a woman once by mindlessly doing this and I have regretted it ever since it happened. It really hurts my heart that I caused another human being so much harm, that I robbed them of happiness, that I am the reason they want to die.

This isn’t really a romantic opener and I know that. I just want to be up front and real with you. I want you to understand that I have limitations and I know them. I want you to know any potential deal-breakers since there’s a possibility that I make life awkward for as long as I continue to be your neighbor. Even though I do not intend to knock on your front door ever again, just knowing I’m someone who lives so close to you might perturb you, especially since I’m a registered sex offender.

I happen to know that the guys at work are right and you have no one to hold you at night. I’ve seen you doing things that a significant other should share in all on your lonesome, such as having dinner on your porch in the open air. What I don’t happen to know is if you have interest in me, specifically. I really wish and hope that you do, especially if you wouldn’t mind being alcohol-free for the rest of your life to be with me.

The guys I work with are now sleuthing to try to figure you out. They think you have a dairy allergy, specifically, and I thought about it. Could I give up dairy and gluten and all the rest of whatever it is you’re avoiding when you read labels and then set things back down on the shelves? I think so. I’m not sure, but it wouldn’t be right for me to ask you to give something up that I saw you enjoying if I didn’t also give something up that I enjoy. Especially if it means a better life for you.

I know I’m putting the cart before the horse. It shames me to lay it all out to tell you all my flaws and problems up front, especially when you might not give a shit. I’m a convicted rapist because of my flirtation with danger and alcoholism and blacking out drunk. The self I am without alcohol would never dream of doing such a thing, but the self I am when under the influence is as out of control as a misbehaving teenager who does not know better (or more likely does not even care.) It’s not a question whether or not I have to keep it out of my life. I absolutely do.

Now, I haven’t seen you outside in eons. I haven’t seen you actually purchase wine, either, which I’ve been told absolutely happened at Wegmans at least once by some people watching coworkers. I know it’s a big ask, but even your dad said you quit drinking, or so I heard. Something about it making you hurt. Maybe I’m telling you all these things and I don’t even need to, but it seems like the favored pass-time of most people in this city is solely drinking. I can get high, though. I haven’t seen any evidence of that in your activities and behavior, but at least it’s an alternative if we need one.

We.

As if it’s already a done deal. More like extreme wishful thinking. Please pardon me if I’m overstepping your boundaries. I almost feel like deleting this whole thing instead of going through with it, but it would never fix anything because I care about you and a salivating pack of jackals were just set loose on the very idea of you. Maybe I can save you some invasion of privacy if we just talk about everything. I’d love to meet you face to face, but I’ll understand if you prefer something more long-distance. Computer to computer, as it were.

I don’t want to change it from we to I, though. If you are interested in me (and trust me, I’m very interested in you), then I’d love to get to know you better. I’d love to learn your name. I’d love to IM you, but I’m afraid to. I have seen your vehicle, covered in childish stickers, with the Discord tag emblazoned boldly on the back. I wonder how many people actually add you to their Discord. I wonder how many you actually talk to. Probably not very many, since I’ve never seen anyone other than you and your parents walk into and out of that house. (I’d think by now I’d have seen at least one other soul, but you are a lonely lot that keep to yourselves.)

I’ve been living across the street from your parents for years. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them so happy since you came to live with them. (I assume they’re parents rather than grandparents, anyway.) Your mom will sit out there, reading and smoking, looking more relaxed and relieved than ever before. She used to look so grim and drawn. More like you do half the time, anyway. Not so much these days. I see her and Rick laughing and smiling or hear about it from other sources.

I’ve seen you screaming before, too. You sit in your car and you just lose your shit. Whatever you’re going through has to be really hard because it only seems to get better before it gets worse again. I’m sorry that it’s happening to you, whatever is happening to you. I sometimes want to hold your hand and tell you that you’re not alone, but I suspect you already know you’re not alone, since you have been helping your parents over the past year or so. I’m not really sure the exact day I saw your car show up, but it sent ripples through the neighborhood. “The new neighbor is one foxy lady!” Et cetera. It makes me sick, honestly. They’d rather talk about you than to you.

I have to admit I did something stupid. I took your license plate holder a while back, in the middle of the night. I thought for sure you’d be stalked with that thing on there and I Googled it after I saw that phone number pop up. The area was a 636 number, but it’s adjacent to St. Louis… The day after my stupid intervention, you started putting stickers on your car, it seemed. It was possibly longer than the next day, your car wasn’t always visible from the house, but the next time I saw it, it was covered in childish nonsense. I thought, well, if she wants to be stalked, so be it. Except nobody shows up, do they?

I always wonder about that part. I wonder how it is that you never have company. Nobody ever seems to be parked outside your house for you. I watch them park and walk to the church or maybe around the block to their friend’s house. I admit, I don’t know why someone would park there to go to the church since the church has a massive parking lot.

I am guilty of being a people-watcher myself. I think you must be one, too. I don’t know if you’re aware of all the ripples that you send through the community, but they are far from small.

There’s so much I want to tell you, especially since I’ve watched you do things like hold a conversation with an imaginary friend on your balcony. I’ve never really seen you even use a cell phone, so that points me to believe one thing: whatever is going on right now, you’re not employed. I can completely empathize with that.

I’m not sure how long of a letter I could write and keep your interest going, honestly. However, in for a penny, in for a pound. Go big, go home. I’m already home, of course, so now it’s time to go big. So big.

When you first moved in, the neighbor was all abuzz about you. Nosy Mike is what I call him. In fact, I saw him help you dig a garden bed in the front yard this summer, just taking over when he saw you doing something productive by yourself. I saw a lot of things that tells me you’re not doing great in some way or another. I even saw you in a dress to die for once, last year. And I watched him walk over to you and talk to you and you scowled so fiercely after he walked away I was afraid to introduce myself. I have no idea what he said or did, but I can imagine it was an epic fail.

Mike gossips with my roommate, Ted, who’s the guy with the white van that’s on all the time. They both like being outside instead of inside for the most part, which is probably healthier than sitting on one’s ass day and night, but suffice it to say I know more about you than I ever ought to. One thing I do know is they call you Toots, like Tootsie. Mike is more than happy to tell everyone how your engagement went wrong, by the looks of it, since nobody moved in with you and you never left. Either that, or it’s a really long engagement and a really long distance relationship. I profess, I have no idea, but I thought I’d put myself out there because I believe you already know how I feel.

Mike also assumes that you proposed to a woman, so I am not even sure where to go with that assumption at all. Is it true? I guess that’s why I’m telling you everything up front. That and the gossip just flies around here. My roommate is often chuckling about something Rick told Mike about you…

For instance, there are ants in your kitchen. They were there when you moved in and I guess your parents never thought about how this indicated they’re slobs or anything, but I hear you named them George. You can’t tell them apart, so they’re collectively named one name: George. That’s so hilarious… in fact, every George story is delightful to hear about, especially the fact that you want to make them a tiny picnic table in order to feed them. You’ve got to be quite the character. I can’t imagine not laughing with you around, especially since your parents are in better spirits than ever before.

Unfortunately, I’ve also heard dark things, like you told your dad that you are God. I thought at first that maybe you were incredibly deranged, disturbed, whatever, but since Mike stopped trying to talk to you, it seems like you’ve stopped going off the deep end. I don’t think he even realizes how he triggered you to behave in whatever way you behaved… and your dad was being shady with that story, I heard, too, because it seemed like he didn’t give all the details (or Mike wouldn’t part with them.) I’ve been wondering about that ever since. If you’re not a mind-reader, then you are a masterful manipulator of some sort. You’re ten steps ahead of them and they’re struggling to keep up. I don’t blame you, either; Mike’s foul and I never associate with him if I don’t have to. That’s the biggest reason I don’t go outside.

I don’t like hearing about you second-hand, Ms. Burgeson. I don’t like hearing stuff other people say because nobody talks about why you do anything you do. They merely repeat it like parrots, not giving one whit of reflection over the fact that this behavior speaks volumes psychologically.

I also want you to know the gossip stops with me. If you’re looking for someone else in this deli, I won’t say a word about any of this. I think it’s crappy and there’s something underneath it all that nobody is willing to talk about and I’m not sure that even starts with you. I bet it starts with Rick. I bet he’s the reason you’re acting unhinged (behaving, I mean, as I highly doubt you are putting on a show.)

I know Rick accused you of being a mind reader way back. He told Mike, supposedly, that you said to him everything on his mind once or twice (maybe even more than that if your dad likes understatement.) It’s like just about everything involving you is spoken to Mike, then Ted, then me. I feel like this is most likely an incredibly corrupt chain of gossip, knowing both Ted and Mike as I do. Anything to be a sensationalist and generate some sort of shock wave.

I know for a fact that Rick calls you his Tootsie Baby, but I don’t know why. I am loathe to think some assholes named their kid Tootsie. Is that like the kids’ candy? Or is it far more sinister like, “Come here, TOOTS!” I refuse to use this when I think about you in my head until I know it’s actually your name. Rick strikes me as a pedophile, so I wouldn’t put it past him. I see him staring at school age children, or used to before I had to work during those hours. Mike’s noted it, too, so it’s not just me reading into it.

That could explain so much, honestly, just that one thing. You’re trapped, living with a pedophile while you go through shit that means you can’t even dig a hole in the dirt. Except a few months ago, I heard that you did go out into the yard with a shovel… and you buried your cat. I’m so sorry that your cat died! It must be awful, having no one to hold you while you grieve, no shoulder to cry on. Then again, you seem resilient as all get out from everything I’ve heard and seen. Maybe you don’t need a shoulder to cry on. My gut tells me every human being needs a shoulder, though, or at least a hand being held.

The gossip is endless. You already know all the things you do. You did them! You don’t need me to tell you what they are, yet I don’t want to keep secrets. That whole in for a penny bit (a Tim Minchin reference, by the way) means I want to be as transparent as possible. I’m trying my best to write this from the perspective of a caring neighbor rather than an asshole with a hard-on, like the rest of the fools in my division at work. I hope I don’t deter you from them if your heart is set on someone else. I have a very low opinion of them since they run their mouths as often as they get shit done at work.

Anyway, you should assume that everything you’ve done, great and small, was funneled to me one way or another because my roommate is just like my coworkers: he sees you and he wants to wolf whistle and I swear he spends more time outside than he used to before you moved in with Rick and May.

I think I should spend some time telling you who I am instead of regurgitating old news, now that I think about it. I can tell you everything I think I know about you until I’m blue in the face, but it won’t reveal who I am, and since I want your hand in marriage (if you’ll have me), I know you need to know.

I was born and raised in California. I left when I turned 18, going to college in Edinboro and working through the summers in the area instead of wasting money to return “home.” I liked the turn of seasons and the thunder storms here and the lake is good enough when I miss the ocean, so I just transplanted myself just like that after graduating. I have a useless degree in psychology. I ended up moving into the city when I got a job too far away from home and decided commuting sucked too much. I’ve moved around ever since, all over the city of Erie. Oh, I’m 42, so it’s been a lot of moving around.

I have no idea how old you are. Mike never asked and nobody at Wegmans does, either, honestly. Everyone guesses a lot of numbers, starting at 16 even though they know that can’t be right if they really put their minds to it. You’re here when kids are in school. I talk as if I’m at the store, and I guess I am, composing this in my head as I stock the shelves with today’s staples for the deli. Some days, my heart’s not in my work, but I am determined to get ahead in life one way or another and spit on that degree. This job is enough to get me there if I just stick with it. I hope some day to claim the role of manager if I don’t end up going into a different line of work.

I saw you shoveling snow last winter. It sticks out in my mind, because I watched you go out there in one hour increments over several days. I don’t think you got so cold you had to go inside, but I could be wrong… People who get cold tend to end up giving it away with something like fiddling with a scarf or whatnot. I watched you stretch a lot while out there, so I think something must be wrong with your spine. It makes me wonder if you could file for social security or not, but I assume there are a ton of hoops to jump through for the stars to align on that one. Especially if the mere act of shoveling the snow makes you too “able-bodied.”

I’ve thought about going to school to become a lawyer, now that I’ve been on the wrong side of the law once myself. Then I tell myself no one will employ a convicted sex offender as a lawyer. Maybe I’m wrong about that. I’m still thinking about it. It’d sure beat listening to Ted groan all day once I can afford to live somewhere on my own.

I’d invite you over to talk, but my place is a perpetual mess. I’m a slob, but so is Todd, another roommate in this mix. I’m not really thrilled to be in an apartment with two eligible bachelors like myself, but it allows me to save some money every month toward some sort of goal. I’m not exactly sure if it’s another round of college or a house.

There’s some sort of impression at work that you are independently wealthy. I chuckle at that, but then I wonder if it’s true. Just because you are home without a job doesn’t mean you need a job, right? You shop nearly daily, far as anyone knows, spending whatever time to get to the store and back again just to have some fresh veggies.

Mike seems to be fascinated with your vegetarian diet and even told me that the house looked and smelled cleaner than he’d ever seen it before you moved in… and that you hardly speak to him or his wife. But you gave them Christmas cookies, which made them feel obligated to bring Christmas treats to all the neighbors themselves… so thanks for that, it was pretty tasty! I think I would have preferred your cookies, though. I’ve been wondering all about that ever since. He knows you did it because he caught you on his Ring camera, delivering them in the evening.

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you’re shy. I even said so to the guys at work but they’re ultimately convinced that’s impossible because you’re the super fox. (Ironic that you use that on Discord, I admit.) The longer I think about what to say to you, the more I wonder if I should just come over and knock and inquire if you’re available. It’s really easy to tell if you’re home or not currently, considering where you park. Then again, if you’re shy, you might not receive me as a visitor and I loathe the idea of walking into a cloud of indoor second-hand smoke, as well.

Still, I could ask you to take a walk or talk to you on the porch, and so I have very little excuse. I could have walked over there the days I saw you gardening, but I didn’t. I thought, “Maybe next time, I will.” I think that a lot and nothing ever happens, so, in essence, I’m writing a really long letter I’m starting to think I’m never sending. Therapy, I suppose. I hope you don’t mind, provided I gather up the courage to deliver it.

I think you have a borderline personality disorder. From everything everyone has said, that is the take I have on the situation. What that means is that you’re suicidal unless you have something to keep you alive. I was… am… shocked that you’ve lost your cat and you’re still here. I think you must have something else to live for, but I don’t know if it’s a human being or not. Your dad mentioned you’re online a lot and you meet people that way, so it wouldn’t surprise me if you had a long distance relationship with someone somewhere.

I guess I’m trying to ask you: Are you free? Would you marry me, if I’m the man you keep looking for? Will you be my lovely wife? I can find a career to sustain us both, most assuredly. I can do what it takes to keep us both afloat. In fact, I would do anything in my power to rescue you at this point because the parts that I hear that are light-hearted and good-natured are wonderful. They outweigh the parts I hear about that are dark and gruesome, such as you banging your head against the wall at 3:00 AM and arguing with someone you call Nick as if you have a telepathic connection to him.

Is Nick the person you proposed to? Why didn’t he accept? You’re lovely in every sense of the word. You’re beautiful, you’re smart, you’re funny as hell. People are still re-telling your coconut joke around here from time to time. What does one coconut say to another? NUTTIN’! They’ve forgotten how they even heard about it: you were screaming at your father “randomly.”

I know that Rick called the police on you last year. Apparently, you feared you were going to die, and laid down on the floor and waited. What the ever living fuck has happened that you think a police officer would kill you during a civil dispute? Was it a show to mislead Mike into believing you’re a woman beyond crazy? Eventually, he divulged he asked about your marital status, you know, because he wanted to marry one of his kids off to you. I’m wondering if you’re some sort of master mind (and maybe even a mind reader) who knows what to do and when to do it to make people stay away from you because you don’t particularly want them there.

There, I said it.

If you are a mind reader, then you’ve read my mind before. You must have. The day I saw you smiling softly blew my mind because that’s the day I decided I think I’m in love with you. Second-hand, based on gossip, and what I’ve seen in the store. Like when you dodge me putting things onto shelves, going out of your way to go around me. I was blown away because any snob would just walk right through and the “pardon me” would be optional. In fact, I wonder when I’ll see any evidence of a crazy woman at Wegmans. I never do. You’re calm and composed, if a little grim. I think I saw you talk to yourself once, but it’s not a crime to talk to one’s self. Plenty of sane people do it.

In fact, you strike me as incredibly polite, especially after I realized I inadvertently paid you a compliment on your choker the day you lopped your hair off and dyed it black. I really do like it, though I realized later that you modified it. I wondered why, but it looks nice nonetheless. The ears are pretty fun, too. I’m assuming they’re fox ears? I’m not really 100% sure, but I think they’re fun (and pretty.) I’m absolutely certain that you can make anything seem fun and no matter what you do, you seem set to stun. I can’t think of a single day I’ve seen you and your hair wasn’t just amazing, actually.

I happen to know you cut it yourself, too, which I find fascinating. You do everything to that head of hair all by yourself. Most women are afraid to go to the hair dresser for a trim because the hair dresser might be having a bad day and destroy their ‘do. But you? Nope. Your dad was talking about it one time in a very disapproving way, according to my sources, as if he thought you should have long hair like your mother. It makes me wonder if your mother wouldn’t like to have shorter hair instead; it’s far more manageable in the long run. I assume that’s why you do it. I’ve actually been thinking about lopping mine off to make life simpler and easier, but I’m hesitant to do so because it took years to grow it so long to begin with. Why change now? (Especially if I’m not sure if you find that attractive or not. I’ll wait, I suppose, until I’ve delivered this and — hopefully — gotten a response. I realize it’s stupid to manage my appearance to your liking, but I do like it long. I just yearn for something a little more practical. Like less blow-drying.)

The exchange about your hair gives me an insight that makes me uncomfortable. I believe he tries to force you into doing things you don’t like or want to do. A rapist, honestly. In fact, I happen to know he’s the reason why you had a TV in your rear passenger seat for months and months. (I drive past your house on the way home often enough since we’re neighbors.)

When it was still light out, it was plain as day there was something in there, so I took a gander. Some ancient CRT television, that’s what. But why? Because he won’t take it to the recycling center, that’s why. He’ll sit around, smoking cigarettes, telling Mike about how you do everything, just like Cinderella.

It makes me mad, actually. Has that man done a lick of work in his lifetime? I want to punch him myself for making you do it all, considering the difficulties I’ve seen you go through just walking. I’m almost sure of the fact that you’ve hurt yourself trying to fix their mess, actually, which is part of why I’m finding myself in love with you, girl.

And I’m beginning to think you’re not at all gay, like Mike assumes, especially since Rick apparently told him about your first fiance visiting over a decade ago. Mike is skeptical because he doesn’t think women should propose and people switch genders and sexuality all the time these days, but I bet there’s an epic story underneath that rather than a change in sexuality. Sexuality is far more fixed than most people can fathom.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that your father is shirking his duties and suddenly you’re trying to do everything yourself. If I was in your position, I don’t think I could keep from strangling my parents for making me take care of them as if they are invalids when they can clearly walk, talk, and read books.

In fact, I also happen to know that lately, Rick just bitches about the mess all around the place. Something happened since Christmas, obviously, but nobody actually talks to you about it to find out what. They think you broke up with your long-distance fiancee, but I don’t know if that’s the only explanation there is to consider after what I know about you and snow shoveling. And walking really slowly through the deli the other day. My heart went out to you, honestly.

I think I’m really worried about you, which is strange because I only know you through the recounting of the neighbor and my roommates (and, now, the other deli men.) They’re always ready to spread anything that makes someone gasp in shock or chuckle and you do a bit of both frequently enough that they never stop talking about you.

In fact, you have created a rather raunchy joke about two coconuts. It made them all chuckle, I must say, but they don’t realize that’s basically a dad joke in disguise. I think they’re stupid, to be honest, because they could have invested that time gossiping and wishing you’d look at them in improving themselves so they could actually get girlfriends instead of sitting around mentally groping the “smoking hot neighbor chick” that won’t look twice at them. (That makes me cringe, just writing it, by the way.)

If you are a mind reader, I’m really sorry. I myself do not have a pristine mind when it comes to you. I saw that you gained weight… it made me think it was to get people to stop barking up your tree. I can only imagine all the brains around here, whirring about how they’d like to have you beneath them (while you’re skinny, but not while you’re larger, of course) and all that because I’ve heard my roommates make stupid comments to that effect, not realizing if you are a mind reader, you know exactly what they’re thinking. And that it’s probably related — you gained weight on purpose just to make them stop mouth breathing at you.

(I’m really sorry if the weight gain has nothing to do with you being a mind-reading super genius. It sucks and I gained weight, too.)

In fact, I’m starting to think you’re a genius even if you’re not a mind reader. It makes me doubt my borderline personality disorder (unofficial) diagnosis. If you are as smart as I think you are (based on what I’ve seen/heard/been told), then you are a gem. And you know how to fake anything. Literally anything. However, faking things comes at a cost and I know that, too. It’s really difficult to keep a false narrative alive, especially for more than a year. Besides, it doesn’t fit in with the rest of you. You seem kind and generous and more than a bit disturbed, overall, which could have a million explanations, so I won’t speculate further. If you need an unofficial therapist’s ear, please consider me. I already told you that I’d do anything. And I don’t expect to be repaid for something like playing therapist since I don’t have a license, anyway.

Every other week, someone tells me you’re working on something different. Something difficult to do for most people, usually. Something that makes me think you’re multiple people. If you aren’t multiple people, then you’re some sort of super genius that can do anything, and I don’t blame you for telling your father you’re God, in that case. If I’m right, I think you are, at minimum, three distinct persons. You have a joker or comedian, you have the one who talks to Nick, and you have a third you that goes to the grocery store. If this is true, you can reintegrate into a singular personality with enough therapy, or at least most people can. There is hope that you could be “normal” again with enough medical/therapeutic care.

That is the crux of it. My impetus. Why I’m writing you a letter. Because if you are multiple people in truth, you’re going to need it in writing or you’re not going to remember what I said unless I talk to the same woman (or man) the next time I see you. One of your personalities will hear it and the rest of you will not know it even happened. Not only that, but I’m going to have to woo each of your personalities in order to marry you and I’m not sure how to do that without real conversations. Since your dad mentioned to Mike that you do online dating, it makes sense to me that you would want everything in writing, as well. That, and when it comes to you, I feel shy like a school boy all over again. (Can she read my thoughts?! Oh shit, I didn’t mean to think that one… et cetera.)

Regardless of that mystery, the stories I’ve been exposed to second hand are a classic MPD case. That’s multiple personality disorder. You buried your cat, sniveling and crying. That very day, within minutes of that all happening, I saw you. You didn’t look like you were even on the verge of tears, not one bit. I know it was within minutes of the event because I knew all about it from your mom… she told Mike within a few days of the event and I pieced together the timeline myself.

Essentially, you put your beloved pet in the ground, crying rivers — your mom said you cried so hard at the vet’s office — and then you turned around, like nothing happened, and went to the grocery store. You walked through, passing the deli as usual, staring me down, as usual. Neutral or potentially “grim,” as usual. I often wonder what’s going on behind those eyes, wishing I could read your mind. Screw everyone else’s, just yours would suffice. I wonder if it’s chaos in there or if it’s extremely orderly.

Either you’re a psychopath that can fake emotions or you’re multiple people (or there’s something going on that psychology cannot explain in this case, I’ll admit that now since your dad was convinced for a bit that you talk to God. Boy, was that sensational. And it keeps my roommates far, far away from you, genius.) Maybe you know something about the afterlife nobody else really knows and that’s the reason you weren’t crying anymore, too.

I don’t think you’re a psychopath. A psychopath would off your parents and take over the family fortune. Mike’s convinced they have endless money somehow, but I doubt that considering the state of that roof. I see it on my way back to my house from the other direction, of course. A psychopath wouldn’t lie down on the floor when the police are coming and insist she’s going to be killed. Not even if you’re an evil genius master mind. That’s not a behavior people exhibit, even when they’re of color. I know that people of color do practice what to do when stopped by the police, but it’s not that. It’s more like “put your hands on the steering wheel / railing / wall and narrate everything you’re doing.” A psychopath would do a lot of things differently, or that’s my firm belief in the matter.

Anyway, this is getting really lengthy and I should leave you room to respond instead of trying to endlessly guess what is really going on with you. I just want you to know that if your symptoms are genuine, you’re a shoo-in for SSI. I’m okay with that and would even help you get it, no strings attached. I know exactly what to tell the system in order to make it happen as a second-hand witness.

I’m also in love with you, second-hand. I’d be in lust with you if I didn’t think you could read my mind. If you are a telepath, which the neighborhood seems to think you are even though you ignore plenty of them trying to make you prove it, then you know already and I’m not even out on a limb… more like a day late and a dollar short. More like you’re just waiting for me to do something about it. Like you’re challenging me with your stunning blue eyes every time you walk past, asking me to make it real instead of play-pretend and all guessing.

The question still stands: Will you marry me?

Sincerely,

Bandanna Man.


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