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People Change (pt. 3) by Ray Printer Friendly

I don’t cry when I get to the bathroom, and I don’t throw up (which is actually what I thought I might do—I’ve never been much of a crier, but sometimes when I get really mad, I puke). Instead, I splash water on my face, and try to figure out why it's so hot. I’ve never been too good at lying to myself, and I’ve never really tried to be.

If you’re an idiot, you’re an idiot—better to face up to it immediately and deal with the situation accordingly. If your feelings are hurt, they’re hurt. If you’re angry, you’re angry, and if you’re turned on, you’re turned on. I know that sometimes you have to lie to others—diplomacy, social graces, and all of that—but I’ve never seen the point of lying to myself. It just wastes time.

I fancy myself a bit of a women’s libber, and even ignoring that fact, there’s the simple matter of treating people with a certain amount of decency. You don’t openly disrespect someone like he had done. But I have to admit that I’m pretty turned on at the moment. I would like to say that my face is flushed because I’m angry, but that really only seems like part of it.

“Do you want to fuck?” Just like that. Part of my mind is still screaming about what a pig he is, what a creep, what an asshole. And then there’s that other part that keeps screaming something along the lines of, “Yes, yes I do!

And the latter seems to be the louder.

I had never emailed him, but he was in my address book, and there was many a drunken night that I had thought of confessing my love. Fortunately, I always refrained.

Although I had barely glanced at the card he had handed me, I had time to realize that the email address on the card was different than the contact link on his website. I also had time to memorize it.

I dry my face off and return to my register. I see Marcy digging through the trashcan, but just barely—one of her friends (Sandy? Mandy? Something like that, but I can’t remember) says something as soon as I’m in sight, and Marcy straightens right back up, pretending that she hadn’t just been fishing out the remains of the torn up business card.

I think about asking her if she found enough of the pieces to get the address, but I quickly change my mind. I don’t really care, honestly, it’s not worth the drama that would follow. Work drama is the worst, because it quickly descends into grade school bullshit; he said/she said, who’s mad at who, behind your back nonsense that never gets solved, and only gets forgotten when the next bit of dram rolls around.

“Thanks, Marcy,” I say.

“Oh, no problem. Are you okay?”

“Yep.”

“I mean, that was like totally rude you know? I like, can’t even believe that he w-”

“I’d rather not talk about it. Thanks for covering.” This doesn’t seem like a subtle dismissal, but I see her hesitate for a second longer, just in case she can milk it for any more gossip. “Thanks,” I repeat.

“No prob,” she says, almost sulking, and returns to the floor.

The next few hours pass by exceedingly slow, and they’re made worse by the fact that people keep trying to talk to me about the incident. I finally end up losing my cool towards the end of my shift.

This is after dealing with whiny-ass customers for over eight hours, and after being badgered by coworkers for over four of those hours. Blaine’s the poor guy that ends up getting the brunt of it, for no other reason than he’s simply the straw that broke the hypothetical camel’s back.

“Hey, Jackie,” he says, dropping his till into the register beside me, and going through the necessary boot-up functions to open his own check-out lane.

“Hey, Blaine. How’s it going?”

“Good. Good.” His last “good” kind of trails off, like he’s wondering how to proceed. “I, uh, I heard about what happened early today.”

“Yeah. I don’t really want to talk about it, okay?”

“Yeah, man, yeah. Are you okay, though?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Fifteen minutes left in my shift, and then I’m out of here. Blaine’s actually the one taking over for me, but even though he’s early, I don’t get to leave until the clock says so.

The old lady in my line is moving at a speed that’s almost exactly the opposite of light speed, like a plant growing, or paint drying. She takes a bottle of hair color out of the basket, slowly, and puts it onto the conveyor, slowly. By the time she finally releases it, I’ve already thought up eighteen snide remarks about how she should put it back—if she knew anything about using that product, her hair wouldn’t be the purple color that it is. Instead of saying anything, I just snatch the box off the conveyor and slide it over the glass-topped scanner. BEEP! it goes.

“I always liked him, you know?” Blaine says, flipping the switch that turns on the light over his register. “I never figured him for the kind of guy that would say something like that.”

“Blaine, man, I really don’t want to talk about it.” The old lady digs around in her little red plastic hand-basket and pulls out a cellophane bag of butterscotch candies. She sets them down on the conveyor with the same gentles she used with the hair dye.

I grab the candy before it even has a chance to conveyor-move towards me. BEEP!

“No, no, that’s cool. I just, like, can’t believe he would be such a jerk, you know?”

I grab the red hand-basket from the old woman, dump the contents onto the conveyor and scan them as they tumble out. BEEP! “Blaine, seriously,” BEEP! “I don’t” BEEP! “Want to talk” BEEP! “About it.” BEEP! BEEP!

“Young lady, I think you should be a little more careful with-”

BEEP! BEEP! “Forty-two eighteen is your total.”

“Wait, that can’t be right. The shampoo was ju-”

I grab the plastic bag from the little metal hangers and dump all of her shit back onto the counter. “Hair color, eight seventy-five, candy, one dollar, candy, one dollar, candy, one dollar, three Carpet Fresh, on sale three for three ninety-nine, sheets, on sale, eighteen ninety-nine, with tax, that’s forty-two dollars and eighteen cents.”

“Oh.”

“I apologize for my attitude ma’am, but someone came in here earlier and asked me if I wanted to fuck, just like that, and since then, I’ve been constantly hounded by my idiot coworkers about it. I have about five minutes left on my shift, and I just want to go home. So either pay me the forty-two eighteen, or walk away, okay?”

She just stares at me for about two seconds, and then pulls the exact amount out of her change purse and hands it to me. As she gathers up her bags, she mumbles, “Well, it certainly sounds like somebody needs a good fucking,” and then she’s gone.

I snap off my light and walk over to Blaine. “Listen, shithead, when I say I don’t want to talk about something, that means I don’t want to talk about it, okay?”

“Yeah, Jackie, sor-”

“Save your sorry and listen: I’m done talking about this. Anyone asks you what was Jackie ripping you a new asshole about, you tell ‘em this is why, okay?”

“Okay.”

“I like you, Blaine, which is why I didn’t just tear off your nuts. Anyone asks me about this bullshit tomorrow, and they lose body parts. Spread the word, okay?”

“Okay.”

“Thanks.” I stalk away, leaving him wide-eyed and embarrassed. Thankfully, no one talks to me as I gather my things from my locker in the break room, or on my way out.

I’m going home, gonna take a shower, take a shot of tequila, and go to bed. It’s not even about him, anymore. It’s about my lousy job, my lousy life, everything. I’m halfway home when I remember that I have the next day off, and that lifts my spirits a little. Just a little, though.

I stomp into my apartment, and without knowing I’m going to do it, I stomp over to my computer. “You’re an asshole,” I type. “What happened to you, man? You used to be such a nice guy!”

I hit the send button before I can change my mind, and then I just stare at my monitor for a minute. I can’t believe I just emailed that prick.

I shake my head and then go take a shower.

I’m tired when I get out, and too hot. I pour myself a glass of cold water, and while I drink it, I wander over to my computer. I have one email, it tells me.

I click on the INBOX button, and I see that it’s his reply. I have a brief thought about deleting it without reading it, but that thought is dead before it ever has a chance. I pull up his message.

Two words.

“People change.”


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