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I watched teens loiter around the coffee house while I sipped a $3.90 cup of banana chai. Some were sitting on the ground against the old foundation smoking and staring off into space. A group of girls arrived out front dressed as if they were going to either a prom or a goth club. A tall and slender young man with acne was playing the guitar by the front door. A middle-aged man with a freshly-lit cigarette butt hanging from his mouth tried to talk to him, but noticed he was too focused on his instrument to pay him much attention.
I logged into the register and slammed the drawer shut, looking around. Lamar was acting goofy, yet endearing. He occasionally glanced at me but it was accepted I was only the cashier of the hour. I looked for his pet rock next to the computer he used to produce blueprints for customers but didn't see it. I wondered what the next everlasting gobstopper of humor might be in the unchanging retail environment. Later, I agreed to "flat-stack" two by fours, purposefully creating an avalanche of cedar to organize into a level plane. Just focusing on whatever task was at hand.
I pulled into a gas station after work around 10:30pm. It was a relatively new gas station with flat screens mounted on top of each of the six pumps. There was mostly just talk of the weather forecast while I listened to the gasoline rush into my car. I recalled deleting my account on myspace after adding the song, Boston, last night. When the pump clanked shut, I replaced the nozzle and unwrapped a soft taco that was curiously wet. I threw it out when I got home, wishing I had used more "please" and "thank-you's" while in the drive-thru.
This morning I learned I'd have the house to myself for a few days. Even though I vowed I would not tell my dad about my upcoming interview, I did while he was loading golf gear into his SUV. The rest of the day I read a few chapters of the Persuader and later found myself watching Twilight on Starz, fantasizing that night over being in love with a hot vampire baring his fangs at my neck. My thoughts then started pointing out the similarities between the main character and my friend, Amanda, an enthusiastic countenance, long flowing dark hair.
I walked into the looming office building and glanced at a convenience store before the elevators and thought of the many office building I visited off Westshore in Tampa with similar layouts. I can do this, I have experience now. Later, I sat for what seemed hours for the second half of the interview.
"Hey, how have you been?"
"I had you in here last year," he recalled. "We went ahead with another candidate."
"I checked your references though. Why were you fired from Bluewheel instead of laid off?"
"I, uhm, it was the panic attacks."
Herman's was packed. Tim walked away from our table toward the back door but it was locked so he tried the front and disappeared for long enough to smoke a cigarette. An old bouncer beat him back though and told us not to let him drink anymore. Time twirled around in his snakeskin cowboy boots when he returned and we all brushed off the bouncer's advice.
"Their brother died last weekend," I remembered Erin saying earlier.
She liked Tim's older brother at our table, engaged in a lengthy conversation.
"Hit the brakes," I thought, or let nature take its course?"
Hi, this is James. There was a pause, then 'click'.
"Who was that?" I asked Nikki.
"Probably Tom," she said.
So what's new and exciting? Mario asked while we were walking inside from Garden. Irritated, I barely mumbled an answer. Later that night he asked if I was dragging. I guess I was, that day, and being 'hung up on' didn't help the day begin professionally. So I rung up customers and said "Hi" and "Have a good day" flatly, keeping to myself in between transactions, browsing magazine covers and fixing loose candy bars, and rearranging the AA batteries.
I figured my mood must have changed since the last time I worked self-checkout. The computer saying, "Please Wait for Assistance" was much more annoying. The people looked at me like I was Frankenstein when I told them to have a good night. A customer left a cracked decorative mirror behind and I placed Mario behind it and watched him jump away uncomfortably. After work, spaghetti was on the stove and I watched a movie about a watermark mistaken for Christ on a man's house in LA with my dad. "Why doesn't anyone in these movies have jobs?" He asked.
I parked next to a motorcycle this morning. The rest of the cars were luxury sedans. Kris usually parked on the periphery, and since it wasn't there yet I knew there would be no getting into the boxy room. A minute later, I saw it and watched her slim figure exit the vehicle and retrieve a suitcase from the back.
"Getting ready for another fun-filled day!" I texted Steve.
I walked toward the building, hoping the men in the boardroom would notice somehow. "Ran into such a charming girl in the hall, but her tongue was pierced--how tacky," He replied.
Today Stu and I walked through the mall of Teaberry and off white marble flooring and cathedral ceilings housing offices above. After commenting on the movie marquees, we went down the west wing and turned right at a secruity desk which read University of Phoenix and proceeded up to floor 2, 3 and 4 for the sake of catching Amanda after work. I looked down from each Balcony, observing how the peach and cream marble fell away from me more with each flight, and I dreamed of returning to a supportive office environment. We met Amanda outside shortly thereafter; hair cut, belly bulging.
It always happens that on the mornings I'm able to sleep in I receive a strange or unexpected text. Someone told me they were dragging through the workday.
"Who's this?" I asked.
Come to find out it was Nera, the girl who sat across from me in art class and began shunning me for not being able to help her family move. I wondered why she was including me in her mass text messaging operations after ten years, but didn't wonder for long. I guess there really are limits concerning just how far and where into my past I'll go.
I had a short, but sweet conversation with a man who pours basements tonight at the contractor desk. He was a tall, blonde and muscular version of Peter Pan with a couple of ridges funning down the length of his nose. He had an excellent profile.
"What are you using all that fence for?" I asked while the lift trucks blew fumes through the air and beeped.
He explained it was for his grandma.
"I also pour basements and repair leaks."
"You should have seen my old basement--there were leaks in all four walls. Pulte's work." He laughed sourly, smiling.
Saturday night and a melon daquiri with Stu. We were surrounded by walls in a booth at the Backyard Barn, and couldn't scope. There were two screens projected onto the wall in each of our directions, and celebrity poker was on. Although we agreed it couldn't have been celebrity poker, because we didn't recognize anyone except for a very handsome blonde and blue-eyed player. "How can he get away with NOT wearing sunglasses?" Stu told me about his landlord trying to rip him off...and I occasionnally threw my head back and stared at the world flags on the ceiling.
Met Jack today, someone the candy perfume girl behind the hotdog stand set me up with. We met at Panera Bread. I got there first, so very slowly dipped my bread in my broccoli and cheese soup and bit off a small piece while we chatted. "I could never move back home, no matter what," he said. "Last January I was even homeless for awhile." I admired that somehow, so when he had to leave to pick up his friends from the airport, I tried my best to stay out until he called back, going to bookstores and pet shops.
Candy was unusually curt this morning while we placed over one hundred fifty phones in individual fed-ex boxes. When she used to tell me about the expected workload, she habitually say something like "I'm not trying to be funny by saying that" which initially made me wonder if I had a perpetual smirk on my face when I was listening to her. After two and a half hours, I'm already free to go...so drove home to wait for my other shift to begin, involuntarily falling asleep to a US House of Representatives syndication beforehand, but at least I'm working?
Jack was speaking with his hands and brushed his screwdriver over onto the table. I tried to prevent the drink from spilling onto the pink carpet and onto his shoes while he notified the clerk.
"Want me to get you another drink?" I asked.
"Don't worry about it," Jack said. "So why haven't you ever been with anyone longer than six months?"
I wished I hadn't brought it up.
"Well, I don't feel like I've missed anything," I replied, relaxing at the dots, pulling back the ball with some slack, thinking about a book I read and getting another strike.
While I was standing around today, I pushed the button for receipt tape. Ripped a piece off and began a couple 100 words entries I missed, gingerly counting the words manually. There were no customers to watch.
I looked up and it was the store manager. She smiled congenially, torn somewhere between professionalism and being more personal. I concealed my cell phone that I had been using to recollect the missed days from sent text messages.
"So you still going back to school?"
"Oh, thought you said you were going back to school."
Guess time's ticking.
Stu and I were out again shopping at an old grocery store in Bucktoo. He bought a serving of pasta salad and I bought an energy shot, using one of the self-checkout machines in the store. "I act like I'm homeless, buying pasta salad and eating it in the parking lot," Stu said. Later we were on a rooftop and I was standing under a smoltering space heater with a cherry bomb, quietly observing Stu observe younger men. I wished he could find the strength to untuck his shirt, while examining my own need to stay within my age group.
I walked outside to see Teri's tan sedan in front of the mailbox, waiting. She called to let me know she was there.
"Hey," I said, getting in.
We drove out of the subdivision and into the night the long way because there was a crash at the usual exit. I remember hearing it from the living room, that metallic clunking sound. We met Teri's friend Rochelle, who I met a few years ago. She was in town after living in Ukraine with the Peace Corps. She was fresh and more refined...pleasantly excitable over beers in Ypsi.
I watched the maple tree outside my dad's house be massacred slowly by a sweaty man in the branches with a chain saw. Sausages, corn and potatoes were on the grill. My socks were getting dirty from standing in the garage, and I finished my smoke, so I continued watching inside.
"There's a good job for you," Davos said.
We sat down to eat, listening to the tree and the memories being eaten--all because a few limbs were dead.
"We can't replace it with a shade tree," my dad said. "Maybe in two years, hopefully I won't still be here."
Stopped at Wendy's after work and ordered the infamous
combo. While I was waiting for my food, I checked out the front line and noticed it looked exactly the same as the Wendy's I worked at last year. Has it already been a year?
The only difference was the view from the drive-thru window. I reflected on the years while eating at a table by the window, and reminisced further on the time spent in Michigan since I moved back. I contemplated whether or not it'd make sense for me to move back to Florida a third time.
Cars painted candy red, yellow and black licorice reflecting the sun's glare, were huddled bumper to bumper under the overpass. My car still smelled like melting leather and new car scent, but was cooling nicely with the air conditioning cranked up. I flicked ash from my cigarette out the window as a bead of perspiration rand down my forehead and I watched one of the vents catch some of the ash and circulate it around the dashboard and onto some of the upholstery. The left lane was backed up from people entering the left-turn lane. "Be crazy waiting for that."
Tuesday. No work. I slept late, which is often easy to do in the cool, dark basement. Upstairs it was sunny. Dust was illuminated in the air around the windows. After showering, I fell on to poofy beige leather chair and opened
Storm of Swords
by RR Martin. Intermittently my phone chimed with a message from Stu, complaining about the ratio of men to women downtown. My eyes averted back to the pages in my book, not wanting to be disturbed. I even lost my phone within the folds of the chair later, asking someone to give it a ring.
Today was the day of Green Tea. This morning, I returned $13.10 worth of cans and bottles and splurged $4.37 worth of it on a Venti Green Tea Frappuccino at the Starbucks inside Kroger. Then, while helping my mom fill out a housing application she offered me a bottle of FUZE green tea with honey. I took the final swigs of the perfume-flavored beverage at work, thinking about the significance of green tea in the book,
The Good Earth
. Finally, while deciding what to drink after work, I poured a glass of it on the rocks. It was hot today.
I sat for hours in a booth greeting customers and discussing different types of flowers, herbs and fertilizers hoping it would rain. A wrinkled woman boasted of the margarita pizza at Braavos and pronounced the word tomato using a short vowel sound.
What's the difference between Basil and Thai Basil young man? She asked.
Another couple appeared in the doorway later while I was reading and sweating profusely, inquiring about the availability of a certain type of organic fertilizer with chicken feathers. After everyone sealed the deal, I found myself on Wiki researching cell senescence, apprehensively fascinated with aging.
Careful driving seemed to be the choice words of the day.
, I repeated, keeping an eye on my mom as she wheeled herself down the walkway and into her car slowly. Later, I was at a bar where birthday girl Nicolette twirled around in a classical floral gown, smooching me in front of her work friends. I ordered a five dollar draft of Arcadia Sky High Rye, miserly aligning the level of my drink to my time left. When I said my goodbyes, Nicolette shouted,
Careful driving! You're so cool, I never know when your drunk!
After work I was walking through the Garden center and spotted a beautiful Asiatic Lilly. Most of the plants were in full bloom; however, I wanted one less ripe so there would be more excitement when the venusian flowers finally did bud.
I'm so tired,
the cashier said. I told her that I was tired too and an energy drink would be nice.
Or just a DRINK,
she emphasized, smiling. After laying the plant next to my passenger seat, I realized I'd forgotten my strawberry Powerade at the register.
I said, raising my eyebrows.
Have a good day!
Today I returned to work for the second time for a meeting. Anastachia was flapping her jaws about another boy and was carrying a coffee cup from Bigby's. The more she spoke, the more incoherent she became, until finally she trailed off. We all roamed down the aisles like spores to an area littered with bright purple buckets. Long two-by-fours were laid across them shortly thereafter, creating makeshift bleachers of a sort. The grand-high manager appeared then. She turned with her whole body due to a long-term neck injury.
Does anyone know what the customer model, SOLVE stands for?
No there ain't no rest for the wicked, money don't grow on trees
"You moved down there by yourself?" Ben asked, lighting another Newport with the one he just smoked.
He started pacing.
"Catch you later." He said after only taking a few puffs.
Standoffish. Back inside, alone with my thoughts, observing customers. The plywood and lumber on fire under the florescent lighting. Pricing. The phone rang again from the front end.
"Did you see a woman walk in with sinks?" She asked, frantically.
Counting the drawer, then filling the coolers with soda, sports drinks.
Ocean city girl is fading.
I clocked out and noticed some twenty-something guys playing table hockey in the locker room. In the break room, there were red tablecloths, balloons and candy. Two large cakes sat by the sink: each half-chocolate and half-yellow. I dug the plastic knife into a balloon made of extra frosting, having a piece. The store was celebrating 15 years as a store and 30 years as a company. When I finished, I took a couple more pieces home with me as well as a couple jawbreakers. "See you tomorrow," Marty said. "There will be 4th of July decorations."
The Tip Jar