Sorry, but this guy is literally choosing to advertise Lord of the Rings on his body. I don’t think there’s going to be a whole lot of common ground.

We walk through the baby section, and the whole time, I get the impression that he’s trying to think of things to say. It reminds me a lot of those meaningless syllables people spew, like “Um, yeah, so . . .”

Reid doesn’t actually spew the syllables. He’s like the personification of those syllables. I wish there were a secret signal you could use to communicate: HELLO. I AM OFFICIALLY COOL WITH SILENCE.

Not that I actually am cool with silence, but maybe it would help him relax.

For a moment, we just stand there in the entryway to the back room, surrounded by cardboard boxes and rustic wooden furniture. I bite my lip, feeling awkward and unsettled.

“Welcome to your first day,” he says finally.

“Thanks.” I smile, looking up at him. He’s so tall, I actually have to tilt my head back. He’s not awful looking. He definitely has good hair. It’s this perfect, tousled boy hair—brown and soft and sort of curly. And he wears glasses. And there’s this sweetness to his mouth. I always notice people’s mouths.

“You’ve been working here for years, right?” I say. “I’ve seen you before.”

As soon as I say it, I blush. I don’t want him to think I’ve NOTICED him. I mean, I have noticed him. But not in that way. I’ve noticed him because he sticks out here. He doesn’t quite fit. I think of Bissel as a place for people who care about tiny details—like the texture of a woven place mat or the painted pattern on the handle of a serving spoon.

I would say Reid gives a pretty strong impression that he doesn’t notice patterns on serving spoons.

“Yeah, I’m here all the time. Kind of unavoidable.” He shrugs. “My parents.”

“Your parents?”

“Ari and Deborah.”

I clap a hand over my mouth. “Ari and Deborah are your parents?”

“You didn’t know that?” He looks amused.

I shake my head slowly. “Okay. You just blew my mind.”

“Really?” He laughs. “Why?”

“Because! I don’t know. Deborah and Ari just seem so . . .” Punk rock and badass and not into Lord of the Rings. “They have tattoos,” I say finally.

He nods. “They do.”

I just gape for a minute.

He laughs again. “You seem so surprised.”

“No, I’m just . . .” I shake my head. “I don’t know.”

There’s this silence.

“Um. So, do you want to unpack some baby stuff?” Reid asks, nudging a cardboard box with the toe of his sneaker. We settle onto the floor next to it, cross-legged. I’m suddenly glad to be wearing leggings under my dress.

Reid lifts a stack of onesies out of the box. “So these need price stickers,” he says. “Do you know how to do that?”

“Do I know how to use stickers?”

“It’s pretty complicated,” he says. We grin at each other.

I pick up a onesie. “This is very Takoma Park.”

It’s undyed cotton, gender neutral, printed with a picture of vegetables. Seriously. Babies here are forced to declare their allegiance to vegetables before they’re old enough to say, “Suck it, Mom, I want ice cream.”

“This is actually a reorder. We sold out of them last week,” Reid says.

“Of course it’s a reorder.”

“Vegetables are just really popular right now.” He looks down and smiles.

We work in silence, putting price stickers on the tags and folding the onesies up neatly again. When we finish, Reid says, “I think there are some swaddling blankets, too.”

I pick one up, reading the label. “Organic hemp.”

“Yes.”

“Really?” I look at him.

He laughs. “Really.”

So, I guess there are parents who like to roll their babies up like blunts.

It’s funny watching Middle Earth Reid while he works. All this delicate baby stuff, and he’s the least delicate-looking person I’ve ever met. He’s struggling to roll up the swaddling blankets. I think his hands are too big.

Maybe this is why they hired me: for my smallish hands and my blunt-rolling abilities.

He looks up at me suddenly. “So, can I ask you a question?”

“Sure.”

“Just curious. Why are you so surprised about my parents’ tattoos?”

Um. Because these people are related to you.

“Is it because they’re Jewish?” he adds.

“Oh no! It’s not that. I knew they were Jewish. I mean, the store is called Bissel. Their last name is Wertheim.”

He laughs. “Me too. I’m Reid Wertheim.” He leans forward and offers his hand for me to shake. He has a surprisingly confident handshake.

“Molly Peskin-Suso,” I say.

“Peskin!” he says. “Are you Jewish, too?”

“I am.”

“Really?” His eyes light up, and I know exactly what he’s thinking. I don’t think of myself as super Jewish or anything, and I basically never go to synagogue. But there’s this thing I feel when I meet another Jewish person in the wild. It’s like a secret invisible high five.

And it’s funny. Normally, I go totally blank and silent when I meet a boy for the first time—which is how a person can end up having twenty-six crushes and zero kisses. But around Middle Earth Reid, I feel exactly as nervous as I’d feel around any new person. No more, no less.

It’s actually kind of wonderful.

By three o’clock, Reid and I have unpacked, priced, and set out six boxes of baby stuff. And we’ve talked. There has been ample time for talking. So far, I’ve learned that he really likes Cadbury Mini Eggs. When I asked if this was relevant in June, he said Cadbury Mini Eggs are always relevant. Apparently he buys them in bulk after Easter and hoards them.

Honestly, I respect that.

I leave work exactly at three, and the Metro’s on time, so I’m early to Silver Spring. I walk down Ellsworth Drive and lurk near the entrance of FroZenYo. There are fifty billion restaurants here, and even on a weekday afternoon, it’s packed with people: dads pushing strollers and girls who look like they’re my age but dress like they work in a bank. My moms talk a lot about how Silver Spring was better before it got gentrified. It’s sad to think about. I guess it just sucks when change makes things worse.

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