Jewelry. No, too personal. He’d only worked with her for six months. Jewelry would be creepy. He definitely wanted to avoid creepy. What about bookends? No. Who gives bookends? Maybe some type of clothing. He picked up a scarf. Not a winter scarf, but the kind that he’d seen women wear as an accessory. He looked at another and another, feeling the different textures, pondering the colors. No. Giving a scarf is like giving someone a tie. He wanted something that said, “Hey there. I am your friend and I’m not creepy.” Besides, he’d never seen her wear a scarf. Winter is coming. He could get her a hat and some mittens. Unless she’d prefer earmuffs and gloves. He looked for a plain hat. One that didn’t say anything like, “Let it Snow” or “Happy Holidays”. He picked up a red hat. It was plain except for some images of holly that wrapped around it like a crown of thorns. Maybe she doesn’t like having hat head. Maybe he should try the ear muffs instead. But only certain people wear ear muffs. What if she wasn’t one of those. He imagined how horrible it would be to watch her open his gift and say, “Oh look, earmuffs. How nice.” He would be shamed in front of everybody. Then he’d get the hiccups, which he always got when he was anxious. People would offer different cures like holding your breath, gulping water, raising his hands over his head, etc. Someone would leave the room to get him a glass of water. Suddenly he’d be the center of attention at the time he would most like to fade into the background. And those damn earmuffs would just sit there on the table; his shame exposed for all to see. No, earmuffs were too risky.

Maybe a humorous gift like a funny coffee mug might work. But what kind of humor? Most of the mugs he saw all had curse words like f*** and sh** on them. He didn’t think she’d care for anything like that. Then he picked up a Far Side mug that had a picture of a man standing in front of two doors, deliberating which to go through. One door said, “Damned if you do” and the other said “Damned if you don’t”. It made him snicker a little. “This might work,” he thought. Then he saw the price $9.99. Was he being too cheap? The last impression he wanted to make was being cheap. What if his gift was the cheapest one there? His palms were getting sweaty. He couldn’t take that chance. Defeated, he put the mug back on the shelf.

He was standing in front of Kitchens Etc. Maybe he should go in there. He could get her a lemon zester or a set of mixing bowls. Does she even cook? He didn’t know. What was he thinking? No one wants a lemon zester for their birthday. Maybe a set of mixing bowls, but only if she cooks. And he doesn’t know. So it’s best to stay away from kitchen paraphernalia altogether. This rules out cookbooks as well. For that matter, it would be best to stay away from all books, just to be on the safe side.

What about that store with all the smelly soaps and candles? He could get her a gift basket full of smelly soaps and candles. No, this might be considered too personal for a co-worker to give. She may not even like smelly soap. God knows, he didn’t. He needed to sit down. Sit down and think.

Finding an open bench, he sat with his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. His palms were sweaty. His brow and upper lip were wet. He wiped them on his sleeve. His heart was pounding. He expected his head to explode at any minute. What to get. “Think. Think. Think”, he said, as he pounded the sides of his head with his hands. A pair of older women stared at him as he did this and then quickly turned away. The pounding didn’t help anyway. It only made him dizzy.

How about a massage? Or rather a gift certificate for a massage? No. With all the nudity and body oils, it seemed inappropriate. However, another gift certificate might work. But for which store? He didn’t know where she liked to shop. And if he guessed wrong, it would seem impersonal, like he just went out and bought any old gift certificate just to get out of buying a real gift. His head was drowning in a sea of gift ideas. His blood sugar was low, so he headed towards the food court to get something to eat. As he sat eating his slice of pizza his head stopped buzzing. After finishing his meal he sat for a few more minutes, waiting for his head to clear. A restaurant. He could get her a gift card to a restaurant. But she was a vegetarian. And he was hardly an expert on vegetarian restaurants. This wouldn’t do.

But what about gift cards in general? They seem classier than a gift certificate. One has to stand in front of one of those big gift card displays and actually shop for the right gift card. That doesn’t seem too impersonal. But which one to choose. There was Target, Home Depot, Kohl’s, eBay and dozens more. How would he choose? He was back to the same problem. He didn’t know where she liked to shop. The wrong card could be as disastrous as buying earmuffs. His palms were starting to sweat again. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest. He picked up a Target gift card and held it. But he knew there were Target people and then there were non-Target people. He didn’t know which she was. So he quickly replaced the Target card on its hook.

This shouldn’t be this hard. He was standing in the middle of a mall surrounded by almost a hundred different stores. People buy gifts here all the time without a second thought. But this was the first gift he was buying for her. It had to be just right. He needed it to be *hiccup* appropriate *hiccup* to where *hiccup* *hiccup* their relationship *hiccup*… Those damned hiccups had *hiccup* started. *hiccup* *hiccup* He had to sit down until *hiccup* they passed. He found an empty *hiccup* bench to sit on *hiccup*. He put his hands on this head and held his breath. Other shoppers walking by stared at him probably wondering why he was sitting with his hands on his head. After a couple minutes the hiccups passed. Now he could get back to the business at hand.

He had ruled out jewelry. He’d ruled out bookends or a witty coffee mug. He’d ruled out any form of kitchen paraphernalia. He’d ruled out books. He’d ruled out gift certificates for shopping, eating out or massages. He had ruled out gift cards. What was left? The Sunglasses Hut. No, he could barely buy sunglasses for himself, never mind someone else. Sunglasses were meant to be tried on before they were bought. It would be like trying to buy shoes for someone else. He got up and took a walk to Wilson’s Leather. He stood and just breathed in the smell of all that leather. It smelled much better than those smelly soaps and candles. A leather wallet might work. Although he wouldn’t know what size to buy. Was she the type that kept everything in her wallet? Or was she more spartan, carrying only what was necessary? This was troubling. People get very attached to the type of wallet they carry. They almost never go from a fully packed one to a slim, no frills wallet, or vice versa. The wrong wallet could show how little he understood her. No, his gift had to show that he had a deep understanding of her. So deep that she would remember his gift long after her birthday was over. The wrong size wallet could doom his gift to oblivion, or worse, a possible re-gifting.

His legs were getting tired. His back hurt. The florescent lights were making everything strobe. He had now spent four hours looking for the perfect gift. It was time to admit that the perfect gift may not be out there. Or worse, it was out there but he didn’t know her well enough to recognize it. He may have walked by it a hundred times this afternoon and just not seen it, not made the connection. It was time to change his plan. Resigning himself to the fact that his quest for the perfect gift was a failure, he returned to the great wall of gift cards, hoping for inspiration. Macy’s, no. JCPenny, no. No to any restaurant card. Barnes & Noble, no. Ebay, no. Amazon, hmmm. Maybe. Kohl’s, no. AutoZone, no. Lowe’s, no. He was rapidly running out of choices. His new plan was to buy an innocuous gift with the perfect birthday card. Deciding that an Amazon gift card was probably the most innocuous gift he’d seen all day, he took one from the display and bought it. A rush of relief ran through his entire body. The hardest part of his day was over. Now he simply had to go and buy the perfect birthday card *hiccup*.

August 05, 2019 21:57

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