Phillip Meets Chase
Phillip wanted to celebrate his promotion to National Creative Director of New Accounts. He’d decided to invest in a completely new downhill ski package: Rossignol skis, Nordica boots, poles, gloves, goggles, and the Roffe warm ups and jacket. He asked around and discovered that R.E.I, on Yale Street, was having an autumn sale.
He’d wandered into the store, shocked by the enormous space, the buzz, the caffeinated salespeople, several of whom acknowledged him with a “Been helped?” or “Know what you’re looking for?” which he politely declined. And suddenly, there he was- exactly what Phillip was looking for, though he hadn’t known it.
“Hello,” the man said, directly, openly.
Phillip was disarmed by his unwavering stare, immediately self-conscious, as when one wonders, is there food in the corner of my mouth? Sleepiness in my eyes? Did I brush my teeth before I left the house?
“Hello,” Phillip managed. He felt his heart accelerate, and grabbed the closest rack of women’s leggings to steady himself. “Do you, you work here?” What a stupid question. Of course he did, why else wear a name tag?
“Name’s Chase,” he said, holding out his hand.
Phillip noticed the calluses and tan, smooth skin, taut fingers. He was scared to shake, his palms were sweaty and he was sure he would stammer more. “Ph- Phillip,” he said with a nod. Did Chase wink, or did he imagine it?
“Very nice to meet you, Phillip. And what brings you to R.E.I. today?”
Oh, he was smooth and his teeth were perfect and god he hoped he was older than 18, was he? Yes, he had to be!
“I’m looking, thinking about-” Get it together. Phillip had to look away, at the rack of hiking boots adjacent. “Uh, any skiing packages on sale?”
“Great.” That smile again. “We’ve got some super promotions right now.”
Did he say super? Phillip nodded.
“Are you interested in downhill or cross-country?” Chase turned to walk toward the ski department, then turned back. Phillip wondered if he’d been caught staring at his rump. “Or both?”
Once again, Phillip felt tongue-tied. Was it him, or did Chase have the most seductive smile he’d ever seen? “Downhill.”
“Me too.” Chase lifted his hand to high five him, but Phillip had no idea what he was doing. Chase turned and walked away once again.
Nearly an hour later, Phillip was outfitted with fifteen hundred dollars worth of new gear. He’d overspent his budget, but had no control once his need to impress Chase was unleashed. At the register, Chase was ringing him up when he’d asked, “Ever do any climbing?”
“You mean, like rock climbing?” Phillip asked.
“Yeah, I wondered because I have a friend who built a climbing gym in her garage. Just wanted to know if you’d be into checking it out?” Chase handed him his Visa and receipt, grinning.
Was this a date? Phillip began to breathe a little heavier. “That sounds fun, but I have to warn you, I’m a virgin.” He blushed. “I mean, I’ve never climbed, indoors or outdoors.” He tucked his receipt into his wallet.
“Piece of cake,” Chase said. He walked around to Phillip’s side of the register. “You look fit,” Chase said. “It’s like climbing a tree. Ever done that?”
Phillip nodded, deciding this was not the time to talk about his fear of heights. He was in a trance, and at some point he was going to wake up.
Then Chase said, “C’mon, I’ll help carry these bags.”
The sun was high in the sky. The light of a lovely day danced off Chase’s sandy- blonde curls and turned the downy hair on his arms almost reddish-blonde. Phillip, although intrigued, was still confused. Was he blowing this out of proportion? He would rather know in advance, instead of getting his hopes up. Already at 25, he’d racked up his share of unavailable men: married, partnered, addicted, closeted. He was still tossing around the options in his head.
Chase placed the extra bags in Phillip’s trunk, turned to him and handed him a slip of paper that simply said: Chase 342-7107. “Call me?”
“Okay! Yes, I sure will,” Phillip said. “And thanks for all your help this morning,” he mumbled.
“Hey, my pleasure. Thanks for starting my morning right. I gotta head back in. Enjoy your weekend in the Emerald City.” He held out his hand again and Phillip shook it, firmly this time.
And, at last, Phillip relaxed slightly, sharing a lopsided smile that turned into a full, beaming, goofy grin. Their eyes locked. Phillip would never forget that initial contact.
He turned to get into the car watching Chase walk back toward REI.
Suddenly Chase stopped. Made a motion for Phillip to roll down his passenger window. He said, “Oh crap, Phillip, I forgot! Happy Valentine’s day!”