Price Breaks and Heartaches
A journal of retail and failed romance
“Howdy stranger!” a voice called from across the parking lot of Guptill’s Arena.
Guptill’s Arena was more than one of the largest roller skating rinks on the East coast, it also had an arcade and a dance floor. It was the go to place for high school Junior and Senior girls looking for a good time. It was also the go to place for college Freshman and Sophomore guys trolling for high school girls.
I got out of my car and saw my almost-normal friends Marvin, Corey and Kevin waiting for me near the entrance. Marvin the pseudo-biker, quiet brooding Corey and the eternally rumpled Kevin.
“Al!” Corey started yelling my name and waving his arms, “Hey Al!”
I waved as casually as I could. I wondered Don’t they realize they’re making a Goddamn spectacle of themselves?
“Woo hoo!” Kevin’s voice was an uneasy falsetto, “Woo hoo!”
I wanted to get back into my car and make a run for it but Kevin had called to invite me along for a guys’ night out. I felt I should be grateful, after all no one else was seeking out my company these days.
All three of them were good guys but there was something about their company I found skin-crawlingly embarrassing an awful lot of the time.
Especially when there were girls around.
Still though I was sharply dressed, and clean shaven. Why should I worry what other people might think about the company I kept? And for all I knew it might work out in my favor, I liked to think that compared to them I looked suave and debonair.
I smiled at that thought as I locked up my car and pocketed my keys.
A piercing siren began to howl turning every head my way, I turned back to my car and started frantically trying to turn off the anti-theft alarm. The damn thing always seemed to go off when it was raining.
The dance club part of Guptill’s Arena was called Secrets, most likely in honor of all the hooking up going on that technically qualified as Statutory Rape. You had to walk past the roller rink and through the snack bar and take a right at the arcade to reach the dance floor. I paused to stare out at the younger couples, it was couples skate and they were all hand in hand.
It wasn’t all that long ago that I had been out there holding hands with Lilly as we made lazy circles to the synthesizer-heavy music of our generation. We were only sixteen then, and we were smiling and kissing. We had our whole lives ahead of us and I was sure we were making memories that would last a lifetime- not laying the foundation for future regrets.
“Earth to Al!” Marvin shouted in my ear.
I started walking again.
“So like I was saying,” Kevin explained, “there’s a good chance I can get an internship in the spring. It will look great on a resume.”
“Oh really,” I nodded, “you’re going to work at a hotel?”
“What? What are you talking about?”
“Well...” we moved through the snack bar where everything smelled delicious and unhealthy, “I thought you were going to school for hotel management?”
“What?” Now it was Corey’s turn to look confused, “I thought you were learning about computers.”
“Duh,” Kevin said, “that was like two majors ago. I’m totally going into mortuary science now.”
“Wow you are totally burning through your college fund aren’t you?” I said.
There was a bit of a bottleneck as we made our way past the arcade so we had a chance to ‘Oooooo’ and ‘Ahhhh’ at Defender, Robotron, and Pac Man in all their 25 cent glory.
Then we were in Secrets. We tried not to ogle the pert breasts and shapely legs on display but we were too young and desperate not to.
“Hey!” Marvin said, “That one over there gave me the eye.”
Corey frowned, “I think she was rolling her eyes.”
“Gentlemen,” I said, “lets get some drinks.”
Secrets was a nightclub for teens, it only served soda and juice, so I couldn’t really say that what we sidled up to was a bar but we made a good show of it anyway. We got our drinks and scanned the room. I must admit I felt conspicuous, but I always feel conspicuous at bars and parties and police line ups.
My buddies didn’t feel the least bit conspicuous; Marvin was snapping his fingers to what I can only imagine he thought was the beat of the music, Corey was staring contemplatively into his RC Cola and Kevin was picking his nose.
He wasn’t even trying to hide it he was just digging his finger right in there until I started to wonder if he was trying to scratch the underside of his eyeball.
“Well,” Corey said, “what now?”
Kevin examined the tangled snarl of mucus at the end of his finger, “We get some girls to dance with us.”
Two songs and one soda later we were still standing at the bar. I said, “And when is one of us going to do that?”
Corey was still staring into his cola, “This is not my song.”
I thought to comment that Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley didn’t seem like anyone’s song to me but didn’t bother. It wasn’t like I was ever going to hear that song again once 1988 was over.
After all that would be crazy!
(Damn you Internet! Damn you!)
Another song later and none of us had gotten up the nerve to leave the bar. Finally Marvin said, “Fine I’ll show you boys how it’s done.”
Marvin waded out onto the dance floor alone and started shaking his groove thing towards the nearest cluster of unattached hotties.
Once the hotties saw him coming they started dancing to the other end of the room floor but Marvin was a man on a mission and he cut off their retreat with a well timed split and a moonwalk.
I turned to make a sarcastic comment but I suddenly found myself alone. A cute brunette had taken a shine to Corey and was talking him up. Kevin had wandered back to the arcade and started pumping quarters into the crane machine. Persistence and fifty dollars would win him that California Raisins belt buckle by the end of the night.
Suddenly I was the wallflower but I decided to throw caution to the winds. There was a trio of girls sitting at a table near the back- a brunette, a blonde and a redhead or as we called it in those days ‘The Charlie’s Angels Variety Pack’
Three girls alone at a table with four chairs. I realized I knew just how to make my move.
I sauntered on over and flashed the kind of smile I now reserve for traffic stops and job interviews. “Ladies,” I pointed to the empty chair, “is this seat taken?”
The blonde narrowed her eyes at me, “No.”
“Well, then...” I spun the chair around and straddled it the way I had seen it done in countless movies, “you girls from around here?”
“Actually...” the redhead explained, “the other chairs are free too. We were just leaving.”
And with that the girls got up and left me there alone. I began to blush, I was sure everyone was laughing at me. I couldn’t imagine feeling more humiliated.
But then the brunette came back to the table. “Wait,” she was almost smiling, “aren’t you Phil’s older brother?”
“I think he’s so hot! Would you give him my number?”
“Sure,” I said through gritted teeth, “my pleasure.”