“I have some socks. Do you want some socks?”She held out the bag so he could pick a pair he liked.
“I don’t want socks. I want to come home with you.” He looked straight at her. Locked on her. She flinched and rattled the bag. “There are some really good ones in here. Thick. Pure wool.”
Every year she did a sock drive, collected socks for homeless people. She read about it online and decided to try it. Her friends and friends of friends helped. Sometimes, she couldn’t see her dining room table for all the socks piled there. Kids’ socks, women’s socks, men’s socks. She counted them up and then took them to shelters. It was her charitable thing. Her way to be kind. She liked hoisting the big garbage bags full of socks, liked when a shelter had to send people out to the car to help.
“The socks look nice. They look real nice. But that’s not what I want. I want to come home with you.” He looked a long time at the socks in the bag as if inspecting them and then looked up at her again. Locked again.
“That’s impossible. I’m married.” She closed up the bag, twisted the top into a knot and turned back to her truck.
“I didn’t say I want to marry you. I said I want to come home with you. Those are pretty different things.” He stood waiting, expecting her to turn around and she did.
“Do you have a spare room? A guest room? I could be a guest.” He could see her wariness and discomfort; it covered her like static electricity. Everything about her was on end, waving, sensing like a million antennae.
“Yes. We have a spare room, it’s sort of like a guest room, but it’s full of things, old clothes, extra furniture, boxes, a lot of boxes, barely room to move around in there, very cramped right now. It would never do. I wish I could invite you but you know it would never do. Too cramped.” She ran her hands down her arms as if to quiet the antennae and then folded her arms across her chest. “I’m really sorry. There are the socks, though. Are you sure you won’t?” She untied the bag and held it open.
“Ah, I was just having some fun with you. Sure, I’ll take that gray pair right there. Yep, those.” He’d picked the best pair, thick hiking socks, bought from the fancy outdoor store, good for sub-zero temperatures. He knew his socks, that was clear.
“I’m sorry I just have socks to offer.” She smiled and shrugged like the weight of the world had taken flight from her shoulders.
Her relief warmed him and made him laugh. There is being kind and then there’s being too kind, he thought to himself. She sure didn’t want to cross that line.
“The socks are great. It’s a good thing you do, bringing those socks down here to us. Bless you for that and for all you do to help us.” He meant it. He really did.
And she believed him and was proud of her work.