In line at the hardware store

I’m waiting in line at the hardware store to buy some nuts and bolts for a project. It’s the weekend, and the line stretches out the front door. It doesn’t help that there are only two clerks and self-service where you wander the aisles is mostly gone because of the virus.

I’m standing in line off to the side of the entrance. Trying to get some space from the crowd of people pressing to enter. I sigh and check my watch. The rate of people leaving out the exit is too slow. I’m going to be here in line for too long. There are too many people, and most of them are not respecting personal space.

Some dude tries to cut past me in line. A twinge of frustration, “does he think I’m waiting for someone?” I slide past him like a bishop in chess. More waiting while someone vaguely tries to describe a part to a clerk. Frustration building because I did my prep work and brought a list of exact part numbers.

I sense movement behind me. I tense. Someone else trying to cut in line? I panic freeze as I feel strong arms wrap around me. I tense up, preparing to fight. Looking left, I see someone that I recognize, one of my guy’s friends. My senses are in overdrive as I smell a familiar and safe person. I note the strength and coarseness of the arms around my waist. My conscious mind is still preparing for a fight. My body knows that there’s no need.

I lean back into his chest as stomach flips and flushes with warmth. “Oh, it’s you,” I say, tilting my head back to rest on his shoulder. “You scared me.” “I’m sorry,” he replies. “I’ll make it up to you when we get home.”

I’m next in line for the counter. We gently bump masked cheeks. “Hey, I gotta go,” I tell him. He lets go, and I step up to the counter with my list.

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