Price Breaks and Heartaches
A journal of retail and failed romance
Panties Half Off
Each day I went to work at the Julia Shop desperate with the hope that Lilly would stop by and talk to me but with each day that passed I lost more hope. I didn’t have the nerve to keep trying to call her anymore, not with Jessie back in town. To have been so close to winning the love of my life only to have everything fall apart was almost too much to bear.
As soon as my car was fixed I started driving by their place at odd hours while listening to heartbreak-centric mix tapes. I know it was creepy and pathetic but I was powerless to stop myself.
Then I got my first employee review and it was a complete disaster. I was warned that if I didn’t pick up the pace and get the boxes cleared out I would be fired.
Of course after right after that they had me spend the rest of the day rearranging signage.
“What are you doing?”
I was hard at work cleaning mirrors and trying not to look at my reflection. I sprayed layer after layer of Windex on the glass and watched it trace patterns down to the rug. My head was full of songs from the mix tape that bore Lilly’s name. What could I have done wrong? What could I have done right? Was this what a Total Eclipse of the Heart felt like?
Finally I realized someone was addressing me, of course it wasn’t the voice I wanted to hear. I looked up to see Cloe, the girl I had replaced. “Hey,” I said, “what are you doing here?”
“Shopping. Why do they have you out here?” She asked, “This is a salesgirl job.”
Sighing I stood up, “My duties, like my waistline, have expanded.”
“Management feels that I should be able to handle both jobs.”
Cloe gave a shrug, “Well I suppose. I used to have a bit of free time in the afternoons.”
“Free time? What? How?” I asked, “I’m weeks behind.”
“They have you out here that much?”
Somewhere nearby Maddie was shouting at a salesgirl for letting a customer try on a bathing suit. The customer stormed out around about the time the word ‘crabs’ was used.
“No,” I explained. “It’s just a lot of work to count all those dresses and match them to the packing slips. Well, it is for me anyway.”
“You’re counting the dresses?”
“That’s the job description.”
“I never counted them, I just hung them up and signed the order as complete.”
It took me a moment to digest this, “So you cheated?”
Cloe nodded, “Yeah, every stock person does it that way.”
“But the inventory is all wrong. I had to take a lie detector test because they thought employees were stealing.”
“They probably are,” Cloe explained, “half of Beverly’s wardrobe comes out of the back room.”
“God. Damn.” I slumped against the damp mirror, and promptly slid to the floor with a squeak.
There is a place on the border of New York and Vermont called the Tomannock Reservoir, a slender body of water about three miles in length. A pitiful dirt road circles the reservoir, slithering through the thick copse of trees that covered the area. My friends and I had taken a likening to prowling around that road in our cars, with the windows wide open and Alice Cooper songs blaring away. After all we were 18, or close to it, and we didn’t really know what we wanted.
Well, I had known what I wanted, but I had blown it and I knew in my heart of hearts that this had been my last chance. Once I was deep in the woods I killed the Monte Carlo’s headlights and sat there in the dark for a long long time.
I didn’t see how I could go on.
I didn’t really want to go on.
A quote from Lovecraft bounced around in my head, “…in oblivion there is no wish unfulfilled.”
Well, if I wanted oblivion this was the perfect place, all I had to do was gun the engine and tear through the treeline and into the deep waters of the Tomannock Reservoir. No one knew where I was and I found the thought of just disappearing darkly attractive. They might never find me and I would leave everyone with a mystery to ponder.
And if I chose oblivion how long would the mystery I created endure? Would I be mourned by my family? By my friends? By Lilly?
As I’m sure you guessed dear reader I didn’t go through with it, I don’t think that they have internet connectivity in Hell. Well, maybe dial up…
Before heading back home I threw all my mix tapes out the window, leaving them on the dirt road to rot away. I was going to go on, but for now I would do so alone, and in silence.
A short while after that I simply stopped going to work. I stopped doing a lot of things, like hanging out with my friends, writing and behaving rationally.
It was the first or second day of June when Paul DeSanti came to call. He was one of my stepfather’s friends and there were two things I had realized about him; first off, he didn’t seem to have a real job, just innumerable moneymaking schemes, second of all he wore a toupee that looked like a corduroy beret. I left my room to get a bite to eat; I had been holed up in there for days watching Doctor Who videos and giving the finger to old yearbook photos.
My Mom, stepfather, brother and Paul were sharing beers and laughter. They tried to make small talk with me as I made a sandwich but I wasn’t even remotely interested.
Paul said, “Your Dad tells me that you’re looking for work.”
“I wouldn’t exactly call it looking,” I said, “and he’s not my Dad.”
“You should come to work for me,” Paul said, “I’d pay you cash, no taxes.”
I chewed my ham and cheese insolently, “Doing what?”
“I’m in the art business, selling velvet paintings at abandoned gas stations,” He explained, “you’d be working with kids your own age, like my niece.”
My stepfather’s voice was a growl, “Do you have to be an asshole?”
“It’s a lifestyle choice.”
Before the argument could progress further I heard the sound of the toilet flushing and then the sink running. The door opened and a girl walked out of the bathroom; she was around my age, tall with white-blonde hair and gray eyes. She was wearing tight red shorts, sandals and a t-shirt for a rock band I had never heard of.
Paul said, “This is my niece Athena.”
I had just taken another bite of my sandwich, it took me a moment to choke it down. Then I asked, “What time do I start?”