Bankers' Hours(3)

By: Wade Kelly

I expected a smirk or a facial tick to reveal he’d heard my slip, but he only paused before answering, “No. Thank you.” He glanced at my name placard. “Grant, I’m sure I’ll see you again. Perhaps the next time you won’t need to ask for my license.”

Why would he say that? He couldn’t know I was checking him out. I’d barely made eye contact. Maybe he was repeating what the previous woman had said. “Perhaps,” I replied. “It was nice to meet Mr. Carr of Carr’s Automotive.”

He grinned again and stuck out his hand. As I went to shake it, I bumped the container of pens, which I’d set next to the window after I’d knocked it over in its previous location, and sent the pens rolling across the counter and through the window onto the floor at his feet. I was so embarrassed. “Oh God. I’m so sorry.” I gathered them up and set them in the container I uprighted.

Mr. Carr bent down, retrieved the pens from the floor, reached through my teller window, and put them into my container. Three were upside down, so I took them out and flipped them over. This time he smirked the smirk I was expecting and said, “Until next time.” He picked up one of my business cards from the stack next to my name placard and read it. “Grant Adams,” he repeated my name. “It was a pleasure to meet you.” He pocketed the card and stuck out his hand again. I didn’t knock over the pens when I shook it.

His hand was dirty and rough and completely swallowed my tiny palm. “Likewise.”

He nodded and walked away, and I glanced at my hands. They felt gritty.

I looked to the next customer and smiled as she stepped up, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the feel of his skin touching mine. I rubbed the tip of my nose. My hand had an oddly earthy aroma, which repulsed me almost as much as it intrigued me. I glanced at the unappealing bottle of hand sanitizer and considered it for a second. Which would it be—nauseating alcohol smell that made me sneeze or earthy mechanic smell? The woman set her money and checks on the counter, but I had to excuse myself. “I’m sorry. I need to wash my hands.” I took a step backward. “I’ll only be a second.”

She gave me a questioning look but warily conceded, “Okay.”

I dashed to the bathroom, pumped three squirts of foam onto my hands, and lathered thoroughly for twenty seconds. Mr. Carr’s hands had appeared greasy, and even though there was no evidence of grease or dirt on mine after he shook it, I still had to wash. I rinsed and dried my hands. I looked down at my open palms, fresh and clean. Sniff. The earthy scent was gone, and for some odd reason, a tiny part of me regretted it. He’d touched me. A man I’d just met had held my hand briefly. I’d introduced myself to countless people before, some of them male, yet Mr. Carr’s warmth still lingered inexplicably.

I heard a knock on the door and I jumped. “Grant? How long are you going to be in there?” Lucinda, another teller, asked. I opened the door and she said, “There’s a line. I don’t want to call Tracy over to help.”

Tracy was the bitchy branch manager I’d come to loathe from day one. She was not friendly by any means, but did her job well enough to garner the customers’ adoration. Lucinda had been kind enough to warn me about her before I got myself fired over nothing. Tracy was all business, and as long as I did my job to her satisfaction, Lucinda had assured me Tracy would leave me alone. Only I hadn’t been here long enough to earn a reputation for excellence. Tracy hadn’t worked with me at the other branch, and apparently word of mouth wasn’t good enough.

“No,” I replied. “I’m coming.” I shut the door and returned to my station. The same woman was waiting there. I greeted her with a smile. “Good morning.”

“It’s 12:10, therefore afternoon,” she corrected, handing me her deposit.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Time flies when you’re having fun,” I joked, hoping she would let my inattention slide.

“Or chatting up a customer,” Jessica commented as she walked past me on her way over to the drive-thru window.

I blanched and hoped my customer didn’t notice as I entered her account number into the computer. I couldn’t believe Jessica would say such a thing with a customer right there. Was this the type of person she was? How was I supposed to make friends with someone who embarrassed me in front of customers?

“That man did look dirty,” the customer said, oblivious to Jessica’s comment or at least ignoring it. “I don’t blame you for washing your hands.” She slid her license toward me without a prompt.