In college, I went on a date with the son of my mother’s coworker. I couldn’t remember if his name was Jason or Justin, so I spent the entire night maneuvering my way out of saying his name. He... [+]
"Do you need help with anything young man?" She said too sweetly.
"Yes, ma'am. How much are the records?"
"Well they're 50¢ each just like the sign . . ." and then she stopped herself and said, "ah, 50¢ each."
Edmund smiled as he rocked the records back and forth under his hands.
"No ma'am, I meant how much for all the records."
"Well, I guess that depends on how many there are." She started to reach for the box with her hand.
"Thirty-one," he said.
"Oh, ok then. That would make it fifteen dollars and fifty cents." She announced with satisfaction.
His hands stopped rocking the records. He rolled his head in her direction until his chin rested on his left collar bone.
"I'll give you five." he said flatly.
"Edmund!" His grandmother scolded in a hoarse whisper over the green-glass candle-holders she had been admiring a few yards away.
The woman smiled a bit awkwardly at Edmund's grandmother. She did not know whether she was obligated to respond now that someone else had interjected. And before she could make up her mind, Edmund repeated more loudly this time facing straight forward with his head back slightly,
"I'll give you five."
A man at a bookshelf with his small daughter glanced towards Edmund. His daughter openly stared. She had been watching Edmund for the past few minutes, too.
A bit annoyed and embarrassed now, the old woman asked, “Are you sure they are, ahh, ones you want?"
The man at the bookshelf with his daughter cleared his throat mechanically. "Ah-hm."
Ignoring her question Edmund pulled in his chin and scrunched up his face, and exclaimed even more loudly,
"These records smell old!" as if it had just occurred to him.
He turned his palms toward his face and he shook his head slowly in feigned disgust.
The little girl giggled and squeezed her dad's pant leg. Her father continued to squint at the titles on the spines of the books as he lowered a free hand to her shoulder to quiet her.
"Oh, Edmund." Edmund's grandmother moaned, mostly to herself.
Now Edmund turned up his nose and spoke as though he were reciting Shakespeare and lectured,
"How long have these records been in the sun?" and after a brief pause, "Don't you know vinyl records become warped when exposed to the sun?"
The little girl giggled at the performance. Somehow he was breaking the rules that all the other adults followed when they talked to each other and it delighted her. As she laughed, she twisted under her dad's hand, bumping her shoulder against his leg, while chewing on the drawstring of her pink sweatshirt.
"Ok, ok." Her father quietly consoled her as he patted her shoulder.
It got quiet.
Edmund was holding a dramatic pose with one hand placed on his back while leaning forward as if he were a headmaster awaiting an answer from a student. The little girl held her breath with her teeth gnashed together in a broad smile, her drawstring hanging in an arc from her mouth to the neck of her sweatshirt. She waited anxiously for what Edmund would do next. Even her father had to purse his lips to keep from smiling as he pretended to find interest in an old book.
The old woman fidgeted and looked around nervously hoping in vain someone would intervene.
In an uncertain voice she said, "Ten dollars?"
Edmund relaxed and smiled up at the sun again now and said, "I guess I can give you six dollars because two of them are double albums and," he turned his smile towards the bookcase where he had heard the little girl's laugh and continued, "they don't smell too old!"
The young girl bubbled over with a shriek and more giggles. Edmund's grandmother sighed and shook her head.
As the man and his daughter began to exit between tables of dishes and shadeless lamps he waved and mouthed a silent hello to Edmund's grandmother not sure if she would recognize him after so many years. Her tired nod revealed no answer.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
On the walk home the little girl kept thinking about what had happened at the church sale.
"Why was that boy so different, daddy?"
"He's not a boy, he's a man. In fact, he was in your uncle Jimmy's class in school."
"But why did he act so different?"
"He's blind, baby. He can't see." He wondered if his daughter already knew this and could tell that there was something else that made Edmund different. Something everybody knew since he was a young boy that his grandmother probably still pretended not to know.
"Why can't he see, daddy?"
"Well, when I was in highschool Edmund was a little older than you and he would come over to our house to play with your uncle. Back then he could see, but as he got older he could just see the shapes of things."
"Can Ebmim come over to play with us sometime, daddy?"
"I think he prefers to listen to his records now, but tell you what, next time your Uncle Jimmy comes home from college we can invite Edmund and his grandmother over for lunch, ok?"
They walked on.
"Do you think Ebmim knew that the lady was a white lady?"
"Yeah, baby, I think he knew."
And as they walked they both looked forward to a lunch with Uncle Jimmy or some other occasion where they might get to see Edmund again. Because Edmund, they knew, would break the rules.