A Conversation About the Dead
"You're on Heart Tellers." The deep masculine voice said through my phone. It was about ten at night just when my favorite radio show was on. This show was the kind of show that required full attention, a quiet place so no one could interrupt you, and the loyalty of a football fan.
"Oh, hi." I said nervously. I placed the off white rotary dial phone in the counter while I leaned my back against it so I'd be more comfortable, essentially helping me ease my way into conversation. "Yes, I called because I have a problem, well not exactly a problem more like a concern or observation if you may-"
"It's just something that really bothers me-"
"Caller, just go" The host said irritably.
"Oh, I'm sorry, yes anyways, my boyfriend broke up with me the other day, I know it's common for that to happen-you know someone breaking up with someone... whatever, but I don't think it's common for him to call me the next day and demand of me to return his cat? His cat, the damn cat is mine. I brought him home, it was mere coincident that I brought him home when I was still with him."
"What's the question?" He asked.
"The question is, what should I do about it? I mean, it's my cat." I asked breathlessly. This story was much longer than that so I had to condense it a bit for air time but I hoped the hosts understood my problem anyways.
"I think you're overreacting about this, if it's your cat, then keep it." The radio host responded.
"I think this is more than just the cat." The in house psychologist chimed in. I furrowed my eyebrows and reached for the dangling cord.
"What do you mean?" I asked him carefully.
"I think you're still hung up on the guy, obviously you still have feelings for him because this is a non existent problem that you're making seem to be bigger than it actually is."
"Hung up on him?!" I squealed as I stomped my feet. "No, no way!"
"I think Dr. Jacobs is right, I feel like there's an undercurrent of something else here."
"No, no." I said firmly as my fingers twirled the cord.
"Excuse me." I faintly heard someone call from behind me.
"No, I just want him to stop harassing me about my cat." I explained simply. It was true, me ex boyfriend called me every single day asking me to return his cat back, I wasn't asking him to call me, he was doing that at his own accord. So here I was calling in for some advice but instead, I was listening to people tell me that I wasn't over my ex, great. Maybe this was a sign.
"Excuse me miss?" That same faint voice asked.
"I'm sorry, I'm in the middle of an important call." I told the faint voice who kept bothering me, without turning around to face him.
"I suggest you get some time alone, and think about your feelings towards your ex."
"Oh I already know how I feel about him. I hate him! I hate his guts, that's about it." I was so frustrated that my hands went up to massage my temples at one point.
"No, I think you really are still-"
"What do you know Dr. Jacobs? Obviously nothing! Because this has nothing to do with my ex, and everything to do with my cat!" I yelled into the phone when I tipped the edges closer to my mouth.
"I think we should cut her off now Dr., she doesn't get it." The host told the doctor.
"I don't get it? You guys are the ones that don't get it-Hello? Hello? Shit." I slammed the phone down into the receiver and crossed my arms, hoping that I could calm myself down.
"Oh, what do you want?" I asked as I turned around to face the customer.
I squinted my eyes at him fiercely. He was a guy who seemed to be around my age, scruffy brown hair and a plaid long sleeve shirt that made him look like a handy man. His arms were stuffed with chips, cream pastries, but his body didn't seem to give any signs of food addiction.
"I need you to ring me up, you are the clerk aren't you?" I rolled my eyes as he began to drop all the items on the counter. "Or are you just using the phone to make emergency calls?"
"That was an emergency." I said as I gathered the things closer to the register. He brought in the Coke's, the Twinkie's, the Ben & Jerry's, Snickers, Hot Cheetos and any other kind of guilty pleasure imaginable. "A private emergency."
"Yeah I heard. Are you even allowed to phone someone while at work?" He asked as he raised an eyebrow. "If that's what you want to do maybe you shouldn't be working."
"Not working is not an option." Was all that I answered.
I worked at a Liquor store called 710, a knock off of 711. It was a small place, like a gas station, only carrying the essentials, but it was always booming because of the convenience. I worked after school and on the weekends too, so it didn't give me much of a social life, but then again if I had a social life my life would be much more stressful than it is right now. After coming out of a relationship, that was the last thing I wanted. Sometimes it gave me a good excuse to be a hermit.
Working at 710 wasn't my dream place of course, but after applying in many places this was the only one that actually called me back, I'm in no position to be picky so I began working here. I even wore a tacky red vest to go with it. Oh, the things I did for stability.
"What, are you hosting a tween party?" I asked him while I scanned the products. "Cause this is pretty hardcore." I raised the package of Oreos so he could see.
He looked down at the things and said, "No, it's more of a self pity party." I looked up instantly, and then it made sense. This is what I did when Ryan broke up with me, I stuffed my face with junk food.
"Oh. I think I get it."
"Don't feel too bad, this will help." He said as he nodded towards the merchandise.
I looked at him again then looked back down at the things. As a clerk I was pretty good with linking foods with the buyers personalities so I brought a bag of chips up to eye level to see if there was something I could figure out about him by his choice of foods. He liked spicy chips, that said he was adventurous. He had Coke meaning he liked the classics. This is what kept me entertained around here.
"Yeah it does help, I went through this last week." I told him with a smile. He smiled back and looked around him as if to see if there were more people inside. "So if you don't mind me asking, what happened? You don't have to tell me, it's fine, I just want to know. I'm not nosy, by the way!"
"No it's fine." He answered while he gave me a suspicious look. "I was dating this girl for a couple of weeks, she was cool. Pretty... a bit smart, a bit mean, but I thought she okay, so I asked her to be my girlfriend rather quickly thinking that it would make me happy, but it didn't really. She was a bit-" he said as he snapped his fingers, "overbearing that's it! Yeah clingy, always accusing me of being with someone else."
"That's always annoying. " I commented.
"Yeah it was, but I didn't think much of it. But you know what they say, when your partner thinks you're cheating it's because they're probably doing it?"
"Oh no!" I said as I clamped my mouth closed with my hand. "She didn't!"
"Yeah with her ex."
"Shit. That's rough."
"What about you?" He asked.
"Me?" I asked while I pointed at myself, I always did that even if I knew I was the only one in the room. "Well I was dating this guy nothing very special about him to tell you the truth, and he broke up with me. I'm pretty sure why though, I don't think he thought I was sexy enough for him."
"I think you're pretty sexy. I mean you're pretty."
"Thanks..." I said as an awkward silence followed.
He grabbed some pastries from the counter and raised them up. "So this is how we deal with it."
"Well I drank my Coke happily, no regrets, and I think I even broke my personal record."
"What is your personal record?" He asked suspiciously as he grabed the six pack of plastic bottles.
I shrugged and said, "Well I'm not sure, I just know I can drink one pretty fast."
"I can too."
"Oh, really? Well, I'll race you." I took the bottles away from him, unlatched two of them from the plastic rings and handed him one. "Let's see who can drink the Coke the fastest, how about that?"
"What's on the table?"
"I'll pay for your Coke?"
"Hey, I can charge you double if I wanted but I'm not going to do that. So stop your whining."
"At the count of three." We both opened the bottles and kept them close to our mouths. "One, two, three!" I took a deep breath first, followed by me pressing the coke to my mouth quickly, and gulped the soda. There was no time to breathe after that, I just had to keep gulping it down until it was gone. Gulp after gulp after gulp, no thinking about it. I looked over to him seconds later, when our eyes met, him with an eyebrow raised and me with a smile as I drank.
Finally I yelled, "Done!" slamming the bottle down hard to where it toppled down. He finished a few seconds later to his disdain though. "Oh well, seems like you're going to have to pay for these."
"Damn, didn't think you'd actually win."
"Do you want to try the Twinkie's next? I can eat one pretty fast." I suggested as I began to open the Twinkie box up.
The door rang indicating a customer walking in, a man with messed up hair, oil stained shirt and a growing beard, I acknowledged his presence by peering from the corner of my eye but continued with the Twinkie's.
"Hands up!" He yelled as he reached into his coat pocket to retrieve something; a gun it seemed. He waved it up in the air until he let it rest against his grip in front of him. It was pointing at the guy I was talking with.
"What the hell..." I said because that was all I was able to spit out. My eyes rounded as I watched this strange man threaten us with our lives. Shit. I knew this was going to happen one day, I had been warned by just about everyone, it even came out in the news all the time too, people were being robbed at liquor stores for ages now.
"You shut up! I want the money inside the register." He yelled as the gun went back and forth between the guy and I.
"Fucking do it!" He yelled angrily at me.
"Dude, chill. No need to scream, just relax." The guy I was racing said as his hands went up in surrender. He was trying to act calm so he wouldn't startle him to the point where he'd actually kill us.
"You fucking relax!" The robber screamed at him while he pointed the gun to back him. My guy looked at the gun pointed at him, but raised an eyebrow as he squinted.
"Hey, that's a water gun." He said. The robber elbowed him in the nose before he said anything else and quickly went to me.
"Money. Now!" I looked at the gun and it did look like a painted black water gun, but I wasn't sure, I'm no expert.
"Do it or I'll shoot, I fucking swear." Subtly, I looked to my guy, he was holding his nose but he looked down to the counter. It was a sign. In the movies people always give each other signs like that, but I'm no mind reader, how was I supposed to know what that meant?
I turned back to the robber and mouthed okay, so he could calm down while I got him the money. I opened the register but looked over to the guy with obvious intent until the robber turned back to look at him. He fell for it! For a second I was in awe, my acting worked!
I snapped out of it and took advantage of his lapse of judgement to grab the Twinkie's in the counter. I threw one at him right in the eye. The plastic would hit his eye, no doubt.
My guy reached the robber from behind to hold him back while he was distracted by the Twinkie to the face.
"Are you throwing fucking Twinkie's at me?" The robber asked in disbelief.
"They're deadlier than you think!" I yelled at him as I threw each one harder than the next. When they ran out, I grabbed the soda bottles and threw them at him as well, some exploding as they hit him or the ground. My guy held him pretty tight, making sure the gun was out of his hands and far away from his as possible. I ran to the gun on the floor, picked it up carefully but then I noticed, it was indeed a water gun!
"Are you serious? A water gun?" The man made a growling noise, to which he followed by a knee to my guy's groin. He let him go and cupped himself while the robber ran straight to the door which he opened forcefully and left. I didn't even have a chance to hit him with the Oreo's.
I just stood there with my mouth open.
What just happened?
I analyzed the scene: soda splattered all over the floor and the Twinkie's floating atop prettily.
My guy was moaning on the floor with his hands still at his crotch area. I leaned down so I could hold him, carefully touching his arms, hoping that it could calm him down.
"Oh my god, are you okay?" I asked him as my jeans absorbed the soda on the tile.
"Fuck no. My balls!"
"What do I do?" He didn't answer but composed a little bit.
"Fuck, that guy packed a punch I'll give him that. But Twinkie's? Coke's?"
"There was nothing else I could have used!" I exclaimed. "Now, stand up and lean up against the counter, I'll get some bandaids for your scratches." I went over to one of the aisles that contained the generic pharmaceuticals and grabbed the first bandaid box I saw, followed by some tissues. When I came back, my guy had his elbows on the counter, as he leaned in. "Let me see." I told him so he knew I was there. He turned around but kept one elbow on the counter as one wiped his nose of the blood. I opened the tissue box quickly by punching it, and pulled out a sheet. I touched his chin softly, turning his head my direction so I could analyze the mess. Our faces were so close, his breath hitting the top of my nose gently as he tried to steady it. When I finally paid attention I noticed he was bleeding heavily, like expected. "You should probably go check if anything is broken."
He winced but replied, "Nah, I think it's okay."
"It's looks horrible." I told him as I looked at him squarely.
I wiped the blood away by patting the tissues on his nostrils. "Here hold the tissues against your nose." I instructed him. He did and leaned his head back. I put some bandaids on the scratches that lined his arms where the robber tried to fight back.
He looked down to the scratches. "Barbie bandaids?" He said with a muffled voice because of the tissues.
"There the only ones we have so, deal with it. We can't cater to everyone." I stepped back to give him a good look. "So, how are your, uhm-you know, balls?"
He closed his eyes and gave me a chuckle. "They don't hurt too bad now."
"That's great." I told him with a nod.
"Can you believe we were assaulted by a man with a water gun?"
"I know! He doesn't even have the decency to assault us with a real gun!" I yelled exasperatingly. "I was insulted. Did that mean he thought I was an easy target? Well he got a huge surprise didn't he?" I crossed my arms while I leaned against the chip stand.
"Are you going to call the police?" He asked when he grabbed a new tissue for his nose.
"No, I think he's too embarrassed to try it again. If I see him again I'll threaten to put the video on Youtube."
He responded with a laugh but didn't move. We stood there for a couple of minutes just looking at each other, I didn't know what to say, and I didn't know about him. I did want to say something, maybe joke about the situation or, I don't know-something, but I couldn't bring myself to say anything. I played with my vest, pressing my hands inside the pockets, and swinging them, but it didn't help, it just made me feel even more awkward.
"So do you want me to ring you up?"
"Oh yeah sure, but don't you want to clean this up first, I'll help." He told me.
"Oh no! I'll do it, I was the one who threw the stuff at him. Just bring new replacements." He walked away to the aisles while I went behind the counter to begin scanning some of the products.
When he came back, he placed the new Twinkies and Coke on the counter, moved the remains from the old ones to the side so there'd be more space, and held the tissue. His nose was still bleeding, but less now, though the Barbie bandaids took away from the tough guy act he alluded to. After I scanned everything with the machine, I told him the total amount of his shopping spree and began putting everything into plastic white bags, that said thank you on them. He handed me the cash, his fingers holding the middle of the bills just in the perfect spot where his hand eventually touched mine when he handed it to me. I received it, but I slowly let my fingers touch his. Just to get a feel of them.
"What an adventure huh? Who would've thought that you going out to the local liquor store would turn into a Texas hold up." I said to him when the register opened up.
"Yeah, maybe I should get out more." I handed him his change back, in the same process as before.
"Yeah." I said stupidly. Most of the time I was called out for talking too much, but in other instances I couldn't even formulate sentences.
He grabbed the bags from the handles, carefully pulling them up so nothing would get banged up.
"I'll see you around." He said carefully and all I could think of was to nod. He walked over to the door and pushed it open.
"Wait!" I called out. He turned around swiftly making his bags twirl around his hands. "Uh, do you want to grab coffee sometime?" I asked before I was able to chicken out.
The door closed because he ended up letting go of it, something that made my heart slow. It signified two things, one that he was giving me his full attention or two, that he might come over to me.
"Or not, it's okay I don't even like coffee, well I do, but-you know it's a bit cliche, hey you wanna grab coffee, who says that, right?" I pulled my vest closer to me as an attempt to shake off the nervousness. He let his arms down as he made his way over to me, my goodness he picked the second option!
He stopped directly in front of me with a smile, making me immediately go stiff with anticipation.
"I wanted to ask you that." He said with a chuckle. "Sure I'd loved to."
"And just to throw this out, I don't usually ask men out."
I smiled so hard that I felt my cheeks sting, but I didn't stop smiling.
"I'll come by tomorrow at the same time and we can grab some coffee after your shift is done." He suggested.
I put some of my loose strands of hair behind my ear and looked shamefully to the floor. "Okay. That sounds cool."
"Cool. See you tomorrow." He said and went the same way he came in.
I slumped down with elbows on the counter, and hands on my face. I felt so warm, I knew I had to be blushing or sweating. I kept picturing his face while I treated his cuts, as amateur as I did, his face in knots because he was hurting.
He was so cute, I finally told myself. I was actually looking forward to work tomorrow, to see him and to drink coffee of course, it all seemed like a great prospect. I would see him, hopefully no one would try to rob us again, but we would have fun, I know. Yeah we were both freshly out of relationships but it didn't take me too long to forget about that douchebag ex of mine, and hopefully he'd think the same thing about his ex.
Ha. Dr, Jacobs was wrong!
I am so over my ex.
And the cat, is mine.