It Could Get Worse

Criticism Or Insult

Soon after I got home Friday night I got a call to set up my first day of work. So, here I am. First day at my first job. ”Hey Mona! Ready for your training? ”

”Yeah! Super ready. ”

”Perfect, well hang out for a second. Theres another trainee coming soon. ” I check my phone and reply to a good morning text from Charlie.

”Oliver! Great lets get you two started. ” I look up to see an asshole. His face says exactly what Im feeling. ”So, lets show you two around the store first. When you have your first shift after training youll learn how to close with somebody else. There are also lists telling you what to do, and its not hard. ” He walks us through the store. He constantly sounds like hes trying to sell the store to us. Telling us fun facts, and about all its great features. He shows us where the products are kept, and how to stock them. ”Alright, now for the hard part. The till. Basically, and I know this is difficult, you scan each item. Then you hit total. ” He chuckles at his joke. Is that a joke? I don know.

He shows us how to put peoples gas on and give them lottery tickets. ”Now, we try to have two people working each shift since we are a smaller store. ” He brings us to the back and gives us name tags and our shirts. ”You can wear whatever pants you want, it doesn matter. Just make sure to wear your name tag and your work shirt. ” He gives us both paperwork to fill out, and then sends us out. The cashier I met the day of my interview comes in. ”Hey Gabe, Im gonna have you train the two new guys. I have to head over to the bank, so Ill be back later. ”

Gabe looks at us, sighs, and walks to the back. Dick head and I stand at the front desk and wait for him to come back. ”So, are you following me? Or am I just that unlucky? ” I let out a fake ha, and cross my arms.

”As if I would want to follow you around. I don like being around assholes thank you very much. ”

”It must be awful to be with yourself all the time then. ”

”Oooo, burn. ” We awkwardly stand and avoid looking at each other.

”Alright. ” Grumbles Gabe from behind me. ”Ill show you two the six things you have to do to open the place. After today they will put you guys alone. The manager tells everyone that theyll have two cashiers, but its a lie. You will be alone a lot unless somebody happens to have the same schedule as you. Also, the manager is hardly ever here. He only works like three days a week, and then he goes to the bank when he does work. Hes sleeping with somebody at the bank, so hell spend almost the entire day over there. If he ever tries to push the blame of something on you, let him know you know that. He tries to save his ass all the time by taking advantage of the newbies. If he knows you have that dirt on him hell leave you be, and you might get a raise. ” He shows us how to set up the pop machines, and turn on the pizza warmers.

”Closing shift is really just doing these 6 steps backwards, and mopping. The pizza guys come in at noon and start making pizza. If anybody asks, thats when they open. If someone in charge asks where the pizza guys are, you tell them they
e in the back. ” He shows us how to turn on both tills, and how to fill them. ”You guys get free pops while you work, and when you don . They tell us we don get free pizza, but we do. ” He unlocks the front doors, and we stand behind the counter and wait for customers.

Around ten we get a rush of people. Gabe shows us how to do it with a couple of people then he makes us take over the registers while he watches. Its pretty easy. It slows down again by eleven. ”Im going to stock the cooler and stuff. If you guys have a question or problem you can come and find me. ” He leaves, and Oliver and I are alone. We stand in silence for so long that time slows down just to make me miserable. Maybe I should just talk to him, so we can make this go faster.

”Sorry. ”

”What? ” He continues to look out the front door.

”I said sorry. I don like you, but I did accuse you of something you didn do. So Im sorry. ”

”Oh, thats okay. Not my first time being accused. ” I laugh awkwardly. ”So richy rich, whyd you get a job here and not somewhere in, like, the mall or something. ” He takes a second and then shakes his head.

”Is that where you think rich people work? The mall? ”

”No, I know they don work there. Rich kids don work, but they sure hang out there. Which, by process of elimination, means you
e not rich either. ”

”Never said I was. I have a scholarship to Preston. ”

”Why didn you assume I had a scholarship? Whyd you think I was just some thief? ”

”You didn , and don , act like a rich kid. If you were a rich kid, you wouldn get to the road with that thug chasing you. Also, you seem to know people from the Brink district gang. I don think out of neighborhood people know gang members. ”

”How do you know hes in a gang? ” He stares at me for a while then lets out a loud sigh.

”Well, the first clue was when he dragged you down the tracks. Normally, thugs stay where they are, take what they want and get out. He looked like he wanted to take you somewhere. Also, he knew your name and kissed you goodbye. ”

”None of that is evidence. ”

”Im a good judge of character. ”

”Okay, thief. ”

”I said character, not profession. Are you going to tell me youve never stolen anything? ” I squint my eyes at his stupid reasoning.

”Fine. ” I turn as a customer comes in. We watch him wonder around the store before buying a candy bar. ”Gas? ”

”No. ” He seems pretty young, maybe a couple of years younger than me. After he leaves, we go back to silence. ”Im Mona. ”

”Yeah, I know. ”

”Yeah, but others have introduced me, and I haven introduced myself. ”

”Okay then. Im Oliver. ” I offer my hand and we shake hands.

”Thank you by the way. ”

”For what? ”

”Helping me that day. I wasn sure how I was going to get away. You saved me from him. Not a lot of people in that neighborhood would have stepped in. Especially with Leo. ”

”Yeah, well, I have no reason to be afraid of him. ” I guess if you don live in the ghetto you don have to worry about the gangs.

The rest of the day drags by. Gabe never came back up to the registers, and we were mostly standing quietly. Oliver left and stocked some shelves for a little while. We got a little busy around 3. Then we both left at four. Other than our conversation earlier in the shift we didn really talk.

I feel my phone buzz as I unbutton my work shirt. Charlies face smiles at me from my cracked screen. ”Hey. ”

”Hey, so I know I was a bit much last night. I apologize. I was hoping I could make it up to you today? ”

”What did you have in mind? ”

”Movie, bite to eat, a romantic walk by the moonlight where I confess my love? ”

”Well, lets start with the movie and see where that takes us. ” We laugh.

”Where should I pick you up from? ”

”Um, I just got done with work. Im close to the gas station you picked me up from last time. Want to just meet me there again? ”

”Okay, make sure to tell me all about your new job. Ill be there in a few minutes. ” Oh shit, we should probably figure out what fake job we took up. Whats around here? I could say I work at the nursing home. Or at the mall.

”Hey babe! ” I didn even hear him pull up to the store. I slide in and notice a different smell in the car.

”Why does your car smell different? ”

”Oh, I got it touched up inside so some of the leather is new. ” He starts driving to the theater. He always goes to the nicest one on the south side of town. They have nicely cushioned seats and complimentary snacks. ”My parents left yesterday, so you can come over again. They won be back for a couple of months. ”

”Does that make you happy or upset? ”

”Happy, I don want them around. ”

”But you miss them. ”

”You can miss somebody and not want them around. I miss the idea of parents. Not them. I know they don actually care. Doesn matter though, cause I got you to keep me company. ” He grabs my hand and gives me the most gullible smile. We both quietly sit knowing that hell probably break up with me again in a couple of months. Or maybe hell go through with it and cheat on me. I know he flirts with girls in front of me, so Im sure hes also been texting them. Charlie is sweet, but only when he wants to. Anytime he has a bad day, or somebody makes him feel bad hes always very nice. Its as if hes trying to convince everybody including himself that hes nice. Like he can bare the thought that somebody would think less of him. I don know why he doesn always try to show me that side, but whatever.

He pulls into the parking lot of the theater. The tickets at this place are so much more expensive than other places, and its ridiculous. Charlie always pays, though. He says its because he hopes to use as much of his parents money as he can, but I tell myself its cause he secretly wants to be a gentleman. Its not true, but it makes me feel better to pretend its true. He picks out some horror movie with a really bad cover photo.

”If you get scared, you can always hold onto me. ” He smiles and offers me his arm as we sit down.

”I don get scared of horror movies, and I especially don get scared of horror movies with cover photos like this one. Why did you pick this? It looks like cold garbage. ”

”Cold garbage? I thought it was hot garbage. ”

”No, cause hot garbage has something good about it. Warmth. Hot garbage is movies where its really bad, but you like it because its garbage. Cold garbage is when there are no redeeming qualities. It gives you nothing but garbage. ”

”Okay, well, I figured it would be funny. You know, like those movies where they
e so bad, you just laugh at them. ” I chuckle and take his arm.

”Okay, as long as you
e excited, then Im good. ” The lights start to go down, and the screen starts playing the previews.

⇜ ⇝

”You were right, that was cold garbage. It wasn even funny, bad. ” He was right, it sucked.

”Dates are nice, though. ”

”Yeah, ” He slides his hand into mine and swings our arms. He drives us over to main street on the south side, and we walk down the strip. We get sandwiches from our favorite shop and look at the lights. They have a light show on Main Street once a year. All the shops dress up their shops. They chose rose gold, silver, and orange for their theme colors this year. We go to the little jewelry shop where they always dress their shop up to look like a smoke shop. We go inside to look at the beaded doors, and the pot leaf made out of lights on the wall. They always make it look different, but it always has something to do with marijuana.

”Here to buy something for your date? ” The shopkeeper asks Charlie as we look at the lights. Shes dressed in a very real looking hippie costume.

”No, we
e just looking at the lights. Your shop is our favorite. ” I tell her.

”Do you have a bathroom I can use? ”

”Yeah, inside to the right. ”

”Ill be right back babe. ” I smile and let go of his arm. She smiles and goes into the back room. I stand and watch the families go down the street. Parents with their little kids showing them all the cool themes. A little girl with light up wings bounces around when she sees the candy shop. They dressed their shop up as a fairy wonderland or something. Their son drags his feet while their dad laughs, and the mother takes his sister inside.

I smile at my own memory of these lights when I was a kid. My dad took me down here to see them. I was 8 and he said that all kids should get to see the lights. It was one of the biggest years, because they decided to have a light parade as well. He made me a little flower crown with old Christmas lights that mom always left up. He took me down the strip. My favorite shop was the pet store, because they gave all the dogs little collars with lights on them. I begged my dad to get a puppy, but he just laughed and moved on. We sat and watched the light parade by the pet shop. I hardly remember if the parade was good, because I spent most of it looking at the dogs. Id put my hand on the front window, and theyd come over and lick the glass.

”Ready to go? ” I turn around and take Charlies extended arm. I see the empty pet store building across the street. Its dark, empty windows in the midst of brightness. ”Lets go to the park. I want to swing. ”

”Okay, ” I smile. We walk down to the park while we talk about our favorite lights this year. ”Remember when we went last year. It was, like, our third date and I thought it would be cute to bring you to the light show. Then I felt so stupid and embarrassed. ”

”It was cute. You were just spending too much time trying to be macho. ”

”Hey, I am macho. ” We both sit down on a swing. As I push forward, he pushes back. I start to pump my legs slightly. Not enough to start getting height, but enough to get me going. ”So, last week when I was an ass. ”

”What time? ”

”Shut up. ” He pushes my shoulder and laughs. ”I mean when I broke up with you. It was a dick move, but um, I got you something. I mean, like, I got it for that day and then got nervous, and decided to be an ass I guess. ”

”Whyd you get me something. ”

”That was our anniversary. ” He lets out a tiny laugh. ”I mean its stupid, but itd been a year so I figured Id get you something. ”

”Oh, what was it? ”

”It was flowers, but they
e dead now. I also threw them away. ” He takes a little box out of his pocket and hands it to me. ”I still wanted to give you something. The flowers were lame anyway. You deserve something nicer than that. ” I open the box to some gold hoop earrings.

”Thank you, they
e so pretty. When did you get these? ”

”When I went to the bathroom. Ive been trying to figure out something to get you, but couldn figure out what didn suck. I know you like hoop earrings, and yours broke last month. They
e real gold too. I was going to get these silver ones with little diamonds on them, but the shopkeeper told me no. She said the gold ones suited you more. ”

”Thank you, this is so thoughtful. I didn even get you anything; Im sorry. ” I take them out of the box and put them on. ”How do they look? ”

”Perfect, they were made for you. ” He kisses me, and we hold hands and swing for a while. Me pushing forward, and him pushing forward. We laugh at the parks attempt to be a part of the light show with their three strings of lights. While we laugh, I consider telling him about myself. Telling him about the real me. Why shouldn I be honest with him?

Because nobody wants the real you. He knows and is dating the fake you. He picked the girl with money and confidence. Not the poor you without a place to sleep, and food to eat. Hes not dating you; hes dating the idea of you. If he wanted to know you, don you think he would have asked?

We leave the park once the night chill starts to make me shiver. Our seats swing when we leave as if we
e still there. The walk back is less exciting. A lot of the shops are starting to turn off their lights and closing up. The jewelry shop has their closed sign up, but their lights are still on. Most of the shops to our left are closed and dark.

On the drive to my drop off spot Charlie plays soft music while he hums along. We kiss goodbye, and I watch him drive away. I start to walk back to the apartment, but decide not to ruin my good day. Why would I go back there just so I can feel shitty about myself. I take a left and go to my friends house. Their parents are surprised to see me again so soon, but they let me in.

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