Price Breaks and Heartaches
A journal of retail and failed romance
Panties Half Off
“Heaven... I’m in Heaven...” I sang as I pirouetted into the back room of the Julia Shop. There were boxes of clothes everywhere, they crowded into the break room, they blocked the restroom, the fire door was a lost cause. “and my heart beats so that I can hardly speak...”
The assistant manager Maddie stormed in after me, “What are you singing about Bruno? Have you seen this mess? I have half a mind to fire you right now-”
I stopped in mid-pirouette and hugged her, “And I seem to find the happiness I seek...”
I never saw that woman run so fast before or again.
“-When we're out together dancing cheek to cheek...”
“Everyone says you’re in a good mood.” Beverly walked into my fortress of cardboard and started perusing the clothes I had unpacked. She had gotten a loose perm a few weeks ago and ringlets of chestnut colored hair framed her face. There was a soda from Empire Burger in her hand.
I gave her smile, “And everyone is right.”
“Is it that girl that's been by here to pick you up these last few nights?”
Beverly took a sip of on her straw, “She's pretty.”
I actually giggled, “Oh yes.”
“I hope you're not falling all over her.”
“Only when we're in private,” I opened a fresh box and pulled out a handful of pink dresses, each one was wrapped in plastic. I counted them jauntily.
“You're a sweet guy Al...” Beverly began.
Dresses fumbled from my hands at that, I wasn't used to being called sweet and I certainly wasn't used to being called a guy. Most women saw me as an irritating non-sexual being. I thought to myself that it was true, the minute you were in another relationship other women started to gravitate towards you. Finally the Bruno charm was kicking into high gear. “I'm very flattered,” I began, “but you know I'm spoken for.”
Beverly had been in the middle of taking another drink of her soda and her spit take took out an entire rack of blouses. She coughed for a few moments, “I’m sorry, that was just too funny.”
“Yeah, kinda like I planned it that way. What were we talking about?”
“This girl of yours, I think you’re acting too lovey dovey with her.”
“I don’t think I understand,” I took a paper towel and tried to clean the worst of the soda off the blouses.
“What have you done for her so far?” Beverly asked, “Flowers? Candy?”
I nodded, “Yeah.”
Beverly rolled her eyes, “Oh you sap. I’m surprised you didn’t buy her a puppy.”
“Do you have any idea how hard it is to wrap one of those things? They’re so squirmy.”
“Just kidding,” I said, “but I still don’t get what you are trying to tell me.”
Beverly looked me dead in the eye, there was real concern there, “If you want this girl, if you want to keep her then you can’t let her be too sure of you. Otherwise she’s gonna dump your ass.”
“Am I being dense here or are you being crazy? Are you saying I’m going to lose my dream girl for being too nice?”
“Happens every time,” Beverly explained, “you’re a nice guy and nice guys always finish last.”
“Well, that depends on what you mean by ‘finish’.”
“Never mind,” I said, “but you are a woman and you are telling me to stop being so nice to women. Can you see why I don’t get it?”
“That’s the way he game is played, if you don’t go along with it you’re gonna get burned every time.”
Now, what she was telling me was something I’d heard a lot over the years, from men and women alike. I just never liked it and I wanted to be different, after all being different was kind of my forte. I said, “I’ve played a lot of games, I don’t want to play games with anyone’s heart. Especially not hers.”
“Well, I’m sorry then,” she said. “You’re in for a rough ride.”
“Doctor doctor give me the news...” I sang as I rolled a d20, “I got a bad case of lovin’ you...”
Adrian looked up from the cardboard wall of his Dungeon Master’s screen, “Critical fumble. Roll to see how bad.”
I grabbed my percentile dice and made a roll, “No pill’s gonna cure my ill I’ve got a bad case of lovin’ you...”
Gordon flinched, “Oh that’s bad.”
“Well, Al,” Adrian snickered, “your dwarven fighter has beheaded himself.”
Daniel shook his fist in the air, “Damn you Arduin Grimmoires. Damn youuuuuuuu!”
Gordon asked, “But I thought you hated his character?”
“Yes!” Daniel said, “I wanted to kill him myself.”
In case you haven’t guessed we were over at Adrian’s place having a game of good old Dungeons & Dragons. Back then D&D was every nerds gateway drug in to roleplaying and social ostracism. All you needed was a couple of books, some paper, some dice, lots of imagination and a complete aversion to sunlight and fresh air.
We had decided to shelve our Champions game due to an increasing character attrition rate and subsequent personal insults. The problem with this game was the same as the last one- whenever Adrian was a role playing related Dungeon Master he started to act like a sadomasochism related Dungeon Master in the sense that he seemed to get off on breaking our spirits and making us cry.
But still we showed up every week with our pencils, character sheets and hopeless dreams of making it past fifth level.
Of course this week I was past getting frustrated about such things.
“A pretty face don’t make no pretty heart...” I snapped my fingers and danced in my seat as I started to roll up a new character, “I learned that, buddy, from the start...”
Finally Daniel had to ask, “What the Hell is he talking about?”
“He’s singing,” Gordon said, “because he’s happy.”
“That’s singing? I thought he had a sore throat...”
Considering my choice in musical accompaniment I felt it was only appropriate that my new character would be a cleric, “You think I’m cute, a little bit shy...”
“We most definitely do not,” Adrian said.
“Momma, I ain’t that kind of guy...”
“If you don’t cool it I’m gonna call your Momma to come and get you out of my parents’ house.”
And at this point my Momma did have to pick me up from Adrian’s place because my car was still out of commission but I would have the money saved to re-re-repair it soon enough.
“You know you’re right on the bus route,” my mother said, “I don’t see why you can’t do that. You take the bus to work in the mornings.”
“There are too many weirdos on the buses at night,” I replied.
My mother smoked as she drove, she smoked so much that her car smelled like the Marlboro Man had taken a dump in the back seat. She knew it was bad for her but she just couldn’t shake the habit despite her worries about her health.
“I just think you know how good you’ve got it and you take advantage.”
“Some would say that, others might say I was getting my fair share of the parental pie.”
We turned on to Central Avenue, “What the Hell does that mean?”
“You like Phil better then me and my sister gets to be the prodigal son... I mean sister... so what do I get?”
“You get to live at home rent free and your Mom still does your laundry. Heck I don’t even care if you have girls in your rooms.”
I felt uncomfortable and indignant all at once “I am not having sex in my room.”
“No. You’re just not having girls in your room,” she said.
I crossed my arms, “I don’t see what you’re getting at.”
“Al I do your laundry.”
“I still don’t get what you mean.”
Mom’s voice was even, “I do your bedsheets...”
“Oh...” the blush working its way up my face felt like napalm.
“...and apparently so do you.”
The thought of throwing myself out of the car into traffic occurred to me but I had a date with Lilly the next night. Would I have the nerve to tell the girl that I don’t want anybody else? When I think about you I touch myself?
And how did that date go?
Well we had dinner at a local place called Smilies that was not quite a chain restaurant and not quite fast food. We shared a milkshake. Then we saw a movie- Nightmare On Elm Street III- and all the way through like long time sweethearts.
When the movie we walked the mall until the time seemed right. We parked in our favorite, secluded spot held each other for a while.
And then I made my move, but once again I didn’t quite make it to the finish line. Hell I didn’t even get my belt loosened before I had a mess on my... well not hands but you get the idea.
So much for my chances of seeing Paradise By The Dashboard Lights.