Price Breaks And Heartaches
A journal of retail and failed romance
Remaindered, Rejected And Irreconcilable
Hot and cold was how things ran for most of September into October, we fought as much as we made love and I was starting to feel punch drunk. I was walking on eggshells and I couldn’t even ask her what was wrong because that might make her all the madder.
At least my second year of college was going smoothly, I was doing well in any class that didn’t involve math or science. I had my friends, my fun after school activity with the literary magazine and since Kevin, Corey and Marv had all either dropped out or moved on I didn’t have to worry about any public embarrassment.
Of course they didn’t know I was avoiding them, I just kept telling them I was busy but unfortunately most days I was more busy gathering rejection slips than I was spending time with Tallulah. She had gotten an increased class load at college and a new job at a craft store so we only managed to make time for each other on the weekends now.
I was sure this was just a rough patch, a stressful period we would soon find our way out of once we made it to winter vacation. I promised myself to do something special for her at Christmas- maybe we could take a trip or something.
When I talked to my friends at school about it everyone had a different answer.
“Don’t you think,” Ginger, our token returning student, began, “you’re a little too young to be thinking about marriage?”
The four of us were sitting in the cafeteria; we were also sitting as far away from the jukebox as we could. Since we hung out there a lot we had begun to understand that while the human mind might be a powerful and wonderful thing- it could only hear American Pie so many times during the course of the day before insanity set in.
“Well,” I explained, “I'm not thinking of getting married tomorrow or anything but I do want to marry her someday soon.”
Will, my karaoke loving study partner, nodded with understanding, “So it's like an engagement.”
“Yes.” I said.
“Except there's no announcement or engagement ring.” Priscilla, the girl that had banished Will to the 'just friends' zone, said.
“There's a ring.” I said indignantly.
Ginger asked, “A gold ring?”
“Well it's a ring... and it's metal... I'm just not sure what kind... it's kinda green.”
Familiar faces walked by we offered waves and smiles. Last year's literary magazine had been a hit and we were each making plans to find ways to make this year even better. I was working on a novella that would take up roughly half the page count. I was already using the literary magazine credits to puff up my submissions letters. Instead of Dear Editor my name is Al Bruno III a new writer and I hope to interest you in my story of an angry Witch Doctor with the power to make asphalt come to life. I could now say Dear Editor, allow me to introduce myself. I am Al Bruno III, writer, editor and featured contributor for Rhythms Magazine, which is as I said a real magazine and not some college literary rag. I submit for your approval a story about Siamese twin serial killers adjoined at the penis.
“Maybe the two of you have different expectations about the relationship.” As always Ginger was the voice of reason, “You might want to talk it over instead of making wisecracks.”
“I don't make wisecracks.” I frowned, “I make witticisms and damn good ones. Women are supposed to like men that make them laugh.”
Priscilla nodded, “Well I suppose that's true...”
“You know,” Will interrupted, “this reminds me of a joke I once heard...”
“But we want the whole package. We want a guy that's smart-”
“Hey Al did you need more help with that Algebra homework?”
“Did anyone else finish the last story in Dubliners yet? It was so sad.
“-and a certain je ne sais quoi.”
We all turned expectantly to Will.
He just shrugged his shoulders, “I got nothin’.”
It was my birthday before I knew it, my Mom's part of the family had a cake and relatively civil conversation, my Dad brought me to a his favorite restaurant and spared me the usual lecture, my college pals gave me cards and in one case a thesaurus, work begrudgingly gave me the day off so that I could have a night out with my girlfriend and some of my friends.
Kevin K. Hanson's cabal of geeks and goofs were footing the bill and we were at the only Denny's in the Capital District that hadn't blacklisted us.
“You look beautiful.” I said to Tallulah as we sat on the far end of the biggest booth they had to offer.
“Aww you're sweet.” Ida said from the other end of the table, “I think you're a beautiful person too.”
Tallulah said, “He didn't say beautifully demented.”
And let me tell you something, she did look lovely that day with her blouse and skirt and hair pulled back with barrettes. We were getting along again and she had that old look in her eyes, the one I had reveled in all summer.
“You too make such a cute couple.” Joanna said.
I tried not to roll my eyes as I thought to myself that every party had to have a pooper. “Thanks.” I said, looking anywhere else.
“Al's gonna be a regular Moses tonight.” Marv said.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“What I mean is you're going to be talking to that old burning bush!” Marv thought the joke was hysterical, the girls at the table didn't.
“Don't be a pig.” Joanna blushed.
“No I mean a burning bush. He'll be like- talk to me! Talk to me!”
Alice's hands tightened around the ceramic chemical free water glass she had brought from home, “We get it. It's gotten.”
I leaned over to Ida, “Did you teach him that joke?”
Corey had his head down on the table, his expression miserable, Sarah was trying to get him to cheer up or at least appear less dead. “Come on Honey.” She said, “Let's have some fun tonight huh?”
“I can't.” Corey wouldn't even look up, “I've got problems.”
The waitress came over with our drinks and Kevin almost instantly spilled his. He cursed wildly and headed to the bathroom to dry himself. Marv gave Alice a grin, “You're going to have to get him out of those pants tonight.”
“Whatever.” Alice said.
“You know...” Tallulah whispered in my ear, “...my parents aren't home tonight.”
I grinned in anticipation, “Well I think we better go by and make sure the house is secure.”
“Sounds good to me.”
Kevin came back bearing a handful of gift bags and trailing a bit of toilet paper from his shoe. “Here you go birthday boy!”
“22 years old.” Tallulah announced and everyone clinked soda glasses, “He's an old man now.”
“A whole year of drinking legally.” Kevin said, “How did you like it?”
I decided it was best not to mention the Fresca incident and instead I answered semi-truthfully, “I never did have a drink this year.”
“What?” Joanna boggled, “Not even one.”
“Well I guess I find my girl intoxicating enough.”
Ida gasped, “Must... get... insulin...”