The Shim is back! And I we're totally BFF.
(Several of you already know most of this story so just sit tight while the others catch up)
Years ago I was in line at a certain bookstore near my work. I was buying the latest Georgia book, Dancing in my Nuddy Pants. The two teenagers in line ahead of me went up to the open cashier and a few seconds later both gave a sort of nervous, awkward laugh which made me look in their direction. I could tell right away that the cashier was clearly a man, and not just by the Adam's apple and male pattern baldness. He had very masculine feature. Middle-aged doughy man features. But he was trying to look like a woman. What hair he did have flowed passed his shoulders, he had make-up on and fake nails. He was wearing girly glasses, a pink silk top and more jewelry than I've ever seen any human wear. Even Mr. T. And he had breasts.
I tried really hard not to stare. But I must have been because when I got up there he leaned over and said, "Not yet, but I'm working on it." And yes, that's exactly what he meant. He's "working" on it! As in, these boobs may not be real now but a few more hormone treatments and they will be. How exactly do you respond to something like that? I probably mumbled something like, "Oh...um...that's...um...terrific. Good luck." Awkward! But he must have gotten it all the time because he just smiled and chatted about the books I was getting. He thought the cover was cute (don't you miss the old Georgia covers? I really do. Stupid Harper Collins!) After he was done ringing me up he said, "Do you know what book changed my life?" I said, "No. What?" "It's called Think Pink. It's over in the women's health section." Really!? Think Pink! You don't say.
I smiled all the way to my car and shared the story with everyone I knew, because you can't keep a good one like that to yourself. Naturally it goes down as legend in my book (right next to the classic one of Kim's cats trying to kill me one dark and stormy Halloween night.) and all of my friends and I started referring to him/her as Shim.
Flash forward to the release of the next Georgia book*, Away Laughing on a Fast Camel. After work I headed over to the bookstore, about as excited as a very excited thing. I practically skipped into the store and searched everywhere for it but couldn't find it anywhere. So I went up to the help desk and there he was, Shim, looking exactly the same, just like a man dressing as a woman. Apparently the "work" wasn't going so quickly. I asked him if he could help me find the book and he typed something into his computer and then turned and pointed his long acrylic nail at me and said, "I'll be right back, hon." He was gone for about 5 minutes and during that time I applauded myself for acting more natural than the last time. When he came back up he had the book with him and said, "This doesn't come out until next week but I'm going to sell it to you anyway." I was so excited that I gave a little victory squeal, and so did he. And, much to my surprise, a victory hug. And suddenly we were back to awkward.
Fast forward again to last night. I got home from work and plowed through the last 200 pages of The Golden Compass (I won't write a review for it until I finish the series but I'll give you a hint of how I felt: when I finished it I yelled out, "Wow!!!! This book was AWESOME!!!!!" just like a 13 year old.) If I hadn't already been in my jim-jams and snuggled up in bed I would have gone out and picked up the other two books in the trilogy right then. But I have a strict policy about leaving my house after 9 pm. I don't do it unless it's for ice cream. This is what happens when you get old. So I had to wait until my lunch break today.
I walked in and found the books and headed up to the check-out and, you guessed it, Shim was there! It's been years since I'd seen him so I expected to see some progress with the "work", at least to where I could start referring to him in female pronouns without feeling silly. But he still looked like a man dressed as a woman. He still had a man voice and an Adam's apple, although I think he's had some hair transplants because he wasn't nearly as bald as I remember him. My only guess for where he's been all of these years is on a silver mining expedition in the Yucatan because of all the jewelry he had on.
He greeted me like we were old friends who meet once a week for milk and cookies. And then he proceeded to tell me all about how he cut his finger with a pair of scissors and he showed me the bandaged wound and I expressed concern that it looked like he was bleeding through it and he said that he had just put too much antiseptic on it, that's why it looked all oozy. And then we chatted for a little bit about books and stuff and then he was all "it's so good to see you and please come again," and there wasn't a hint of awkwardness on my part. Not even when he shook my hand and I thought that they were the only part of him that seemed the least bit feminine. They were so soft, and he shook hands like a woman, you know, the half-hand shake where you just offer your fingers. Maybe that's what he's been working on.
*I think it is very fitting that two of my meetings with Shim have been centered around Georgia books, because I felt like they were very Georgia moments. I can just hear her now: "Great Granny's Knickers! That man's a woman! Call the Ace Gang."