I placed my favorite grocery bag on the conveyor belt (the one that has “My Resusable Bag Makes Me Better Than You” written on it). Behind it, I placed a two-pack of finely marbled steaks, an assortment of fresh vegetables, and a large package of Peanut M&Ms . The slender apron-clad bagger was working diligently to get my purchases put away before he moved on to the next lane. Once he finished with my groceries, he walked away with purpose. That purpose was not to assist the next cashier, but rather to take his leave of the store for the evening. It was quitting time for him, and he was not shy in announcing it. Before he could make his final escape, he was approached by a fellow bagger. He was equally as scrawny, but his energy was superior. Collectively, they took to taunting a third bagger who was just beginning his shift. He was an elderly gentleman who had “semi-retired” written across his wrinkled forehead. They announced that the “A-Team” was leaving for the day, and vehemently wished the “B-Squad” a fond farewell. Apparently, there are different levels of baggers, and the lower tier was just coming in to replace the “wonder boys.”
As I walked out of the store, the “wonder boys” were standing there talking to one another. By this time they had traded their Polo shirts and aprons for T-shirts. Skinny Bagger #1 was wearing a shirt with the original publicity poster for Casablanca on it, and Skinny Bagger #2's shirt one of those glittery Affliction shirts. I'm still not sure if they were testing the loitering policy or simply waiting for their moms to pick them up. Either way, I stopped to look at one of the free local newspapers while they went on with their conversation. I tucked the paper under my arm and began my trek to the parking lot. As I walked by them, Skinny Bagger #1 stated plainly to Skinny Bagger #2, “Dude, I heard her say that, and my brain got an erection.” I laughed audibly, and they heard me. I couldn't hide it, so I turned back and smiled at them to show them my appreciation for such a gem of a sentence. They did not take my smirk as a gesture of approval, but were actually embarrassed that someone had overheard them. At that point it was too late, the statement had been uttered, and there was no taking it back.
My first reaction was sheer glee. I was quite proud of the younger generation at that moment. All teenage boys speak of erections and their association with the female gender. However, this time it was not affiliated with their breasts or buttocks. No, these young gentlemen were expressing a carnal reaction to the mental capacity of their female counterpart. Not just that, but they had verbalized it in a manner that was poetic in nature and visually descriptive as well.
“There is hope for the future yet!” I thought to myself.
Those thoughts aside, my mind was sharp with visual pictures that consisted not of the literal translation of the statement (or the possible Mad Magazine cover my imagination tended to create), but rather of the metaphorical version of what this young man had proposed. In my head, I saw Skinny Bagger #1 standing across the gym room floor from a girl he'd had his eyes on for some time (keep in mind that two weeks is equal to 18 months in adolescent time). She was surrounded by a gaggle of faceless girls. At least, to him, they were faceless. They were at the high school dance, and a bland Top 40 song was playing in the background. His buddies would give him a nudge. He would resist at first, but eventually that would be the push he needed to approach her. The song would switch from an upbeat tune to a slower number as soon as he had gotten within speaking distance of his feminine target. His voice cracking, he would timidly ask her to dance. She would confidently accept.
As is customary for people their age, they would stand on the dance floor and sway to-and-fro as if they were floating atop a wavy swimming pool. The small talk would begin; each asking the other about their school classes and Facebook goings on.
Growing tired of the small talk, the girl would whisper to him sweetly, “I saw you over there talking to your friends, I was waiting for you to come over and ask me to dance.”
He would reply nervously through a cracking voice, “I was planning on it, I just didn't know how to...”
At that point, a second slow song would begin to bellow softly through the gym's PA system. He couldn't escape now; that would be ungentlemanly of him. So he would stay. At least through the first few repetitions of Na na na na in “Hey Jude” (the DJ was a Beatles fan).
After an elongated silence and a series of sultry glances were exchanged, he would let his hands droop slightly lower down her torso. His hands would stay in the northern hemisphere of course, because although he may have been a hormonally enhanced young gentleman, he was a gentleman nonetheless. Their conversation would turn to the possibility of them watching a movie together that weekend. They would quickly discover they were a couple of film snobs. Their respective parents had instilled in them an appreciation for the arts, and it had become evident that this was the glue that would solidify their fledgling relationship. As Mr. McCartney finished his final “na na na”, they walked hand and hand from the dance floor, right out of the gym, and into the early evening air.
Once they reached the doorway, their hands released and dropped to their sides. Instead of moving to the known make out spot behind the classroom annexes, they would decide to take a walk down toward the front of the school. They would find a seat on the curb by the parental pick-up area where they could talk alone. At that point, they would decide which movie they would be watching that weekend. This became the subject of major contention. He, being wiser than his years, would propose they watch a “chick-flick.” Either the new Justin Bieber movie Never Say Never or anything from the Twilight saga. His suggestions would be aimed to please, but he would quickly realize he was not as good a marksmen as he once thought. She would scoff at his suggestions, stating plainly that those weren't “her kind of movies.” She liked the classics.
It would take every fiber of his being to keep his cool. He too liked the classics! Her suggestion came swiftly and without question. She would say, “No, I would rather watch The Godfather.” At this point, he would have flashes of the stories his parents told him about their first few dates. He remembered hearing stories of them nestled on his mother's couch watching that very same movie drinking wine and eating fancy cheese and crackers. He had yet to read Oedipus Rex, but he was aware of its applicability. That being said, the nerve endings in his brain were sparking like a grand finale of fireworks on the Fourth of July. He was feeling love for the first time in his life, and he didn't know how to put it into words.
That is, he didn't know how to put it into words until he was standing out in front of the grocery store one day after work talking to his coworker. The idea of this girl had lit his poetic fire, and in a moment of clarity he explained that feeling to his friend and fellow bagger as he said, “Dude, I heard her say that, and my brain got an erection.”
Sophocles could not have created a set up so tragic. Wordsworth, Blake and Browning couldn't hope to have poetry flow freely from their tongues at such a young age. No, these were the words of Skinny Bagger #1. A renaissance boy, a lover of cinema, and the one who coined the phrase which we all aspire to match in our lifetimes. May we all experience a “brain erection” by the time we die. We could be so lucky.