Price Breaks and Heartaches
A journal of retail and failed romance
I walked Athena back to the motel, she was full of stories from college and I smelled like a mixture of gin, tequila, run, vodka and cola. She told me that she attended a lot of sporting events- because she wore the mascot costume.
“So you’re in show business,” I joked.
“Oh no no. I’m like a cheerleader but without having to worry about the whole school seeing up my skirt,” Her laugh was a thing to behold, she had a way of looking at you out of the corner of her eye that made my lower extremities flutter.
“Do you have set routines or do just kind of improvise?”
“It’s lot of goofing around- which I’m good at and lots of running around like a fool,” she explained, “it’s a good work out too. I think I sweat out five pounds every game.”
“I never thought of that.” Actually I had never in my life given even the tiniest thought to the trials and tribulations of your average sports mascot. After this summer I never would again.
We were getting close to the hotel, I fumbled through my pocket for my room key and tried to make out my room number in the pale glow of the streetlights. Athena said, “The costume is pretty warm in the winter and fall but when springs come I just wear my underwear so I don’t get heatstroke. Even then- ALBERT!”
She had cried in alarm because the moment she said underwear I walked right into a lamppost.
Conrad, my co-worker in the roadside picture business, was in the room. Our boss Paul Desanti had insisted we double up. Actually the moment I found out I was going to share a room with Conrad I felt like doubling up.
Look, I never thought of myself as the most macho guy in the world. In fact one of my date to the senior prom told me that her father had thought I was very effeminate.
A lot of the kids I knew in high school told me the same thing in lots of different and insulting ways.
And so did my gym teacher.
And the substitute bus driver.
And most of my D&D group.
And several members of my family.
How did I feel about this? Well most of the time it left me wanting to scratch someones’ eyes out but it also made me sensitive to the way other people were perceived.
That being said Conrad was a scrawny bitchy little fruitcake.
His voice was squeaky, his eyes were watery, his body shape was willow and he whined all the time. He hardly did any work, sending most of the day sitting in the back of the truck reading romance novels- and not just for the hot parts.
This was not at all the person I wanted to be sharing a room with.
Conrad was sitting on the room’s single bed in his floor length green nightshirt. When I walked in he squawked, “What happened to you?”
“Nothing,” I spoke as clearly as I could through my swelling lip. Those lampposts were hard!
“Are you going to be all right?” he asked, “I don’t want to have to go to the site alone!”
“I'm fine,” I walked into the bathroom.
I turned on the cold water and ran one of the complimentary washcloths under the top. Once it was nice and chilly I put it to my upper lip.
Again and again I ran the night’s embarrassments through my head. My Dad had told me I could make Athena interested in my by pretending I didn’t care what she thought of me. I had tried but I didn’t think it was working out.
I wondered if there was another way, a better way.
Then I paused. Still holding the damp cloth to my face I walked out of the bathroom. I asked Conrad “What are you wearing?”
He looked up from his dogeared copy of Loves Savage Fury, “A nightshirt.”
“I thought so,” I went back into the bathroom and rewetted the washcloth.
A few moments later I left the bathroom to ask, “Why is there only one bed?”
“That was all the hotel had left,” Conrad whined, “oh sure Paul and Athena get the double but we have the share this single.”
“How about thad?” I went back into the bathroom and rewetted down the cloth. It looked like the swelling was going down.
After a while I heard Conrad getting ready to go to sleep. I walked back out of the bathroom again, “Are you really going to wear that nightshirt thing?”
“No,” he replied, “this is like my bathrobe.”
And with that he took off the green nightshirt to reveal he was wearing a matching pair of bikini briefs. He got under the covers.
“Good night,” I said to him, “if you need me I’ll be sleeping in the bathtub.
“With the bathroom door securely locked behind me I climbed into the crusty tub. It was cold and uncomfortable but I managed to lull myself to sleep by counting the silverfish crawling on the ceiling.
After an hour or three I drifted off.
A little while after that I found out about Conrad’s night terrors.