“Sir, you look a little lost, can I help you with something?”

Mark trudges up to the fashion-diva salesgirl. She looks amused. This disconcerts him. “Why is she looking at me like that?” He wonders as he rubs beads of sweat off his head.

He momentarily wonders if it has anything to do with. . .He’s wearing worn generic tennis shoes he bought at Walmart ten years back. . .the ones girlfriend told him she’d burn if she ever saw them again. Perhaps his utilitarian stance over fashion will not save the boat-sized tennies for much longer. The Velcro is curling up at the sides, making them floppy and difficult to walk in. Not to mention the loud swishing noise they make when he walks across the room. Or as the girlfriend says, pounds across the room. What the hell? He refuses to believe he pounds. He walks with stalwart purposefulness, just like all the men in his family do. Hello! My feet are firmly planted on the ground, rooted in reality. Not like some people I know! he’d like to tell her. She flits around the room like a demented fairy half the time. . .what does she know? Women!

It bothers him why she finds his pounding feet or refusal to embrace fashion so entertaining. He’s befuddled by her peels of laughter at what she calls his so called “cluelessness.”

He notices the sales girls amused stares are now bordering on impudence. Dammit, what is so goddamn funny? Do I come across as some immense joke? I was born in right here in San Diego, lived here my whole life. . .Hell, I help build this mall before you were born, little girl, when there was nothing but cows and farm land here, what’s your story? Being a fashion diva? Hell, so I don’t know about fashion, it’ not like it’s gonna hurt my IQ, honey.

He’s dying to blurt this all out, but maintains his trademark unflappability. He sells Landrovers, gets to meet a lot of big shots, but a lot of narcissistic fools as well--and not once--ever, has he “lost his cool.” He’s also known for being about the nicest, guy you’ll ever meet. She’d probably thinks I’m a nerd. . . he surmises, impervious to the fact that the “nerd look” has become fashionable.

Maybe if he shows the clerk with genuine sincerity his confounding dilemma she’ll do something remotely resembling her job. Help! Help, help is all I need, he pleads. I’ve been to six department stores, Nordstrom and Macy’s included looking for shirts that still have button holes for the collar and can’t find one. Not a one. . .

Now she looks as if she is trying to stifle a giggle. This can’t be happening. He can’t help it, he starts to glare. This sobers up the clerk, and she slowly explains to him, so slow you’d think he was a foreigner with English as a second language, that they “don’t make shirts like that anymore.”

“Gosh, I’m soooo sorry, sir,” she oozes with sacharrine sympathy, “you had to make such a lengthy trek around San Diego to find that out. Maybe next time, find out first what you are looking for so you don’t have to waste so much time.”

Ah jeez. He thinks to himself: I wanna have a cigarette, and not the frigging ecigarette either. Nope the real deal. As a matter of fact, I don’t just want one, I will have a Marlboro. Hell, I’ve gotten much better, he tells himself. Gone from a pack of reds to two maybe three cigs a week. He makes a quick exit, grateful to the girl for giving him an excuse to smoke. . .

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