I worked eight hours and made six dollars in tips. I trained a new guy and he was pretty good. He was kind of gorgeous, too. He looked like someone from an 80s music video, with dark wavy hair, one lock in the back braided but messy, like he slept on it. It was tied with a small lime green rubber band. He couldn’t have put it there himself. I had an urge to take the bagel knife and cut it off. I didn’t know if I would throw it out or keep it. Maybe I would offer to braid some more, I don’t know. His eyes had dark circles around them, but like, in that good way. And when we both reached for the soy milk I could feel the calluses on his fingertips. I said sorry and let him take it.
I walked over to the radio as he finished steaming some milk. “Do you have any music preference?” I asked, plugging the store iPod in. He must be a musician. This was a lot of pressure.
“No,” he said, as he poured steamed milk in a practice latte. I put on an 80s hits playlist, hoping he’d be impressed. He really was so handsome. I wanted to talk to him but didn’t know how, so I kept pretending I was deep in thought. Sometimes my thoughts would take way but he always drew me back, aware of his presence and how I looked. At some point, he took his phone from his back pocket, stared at it for too long, eyebrows muffled, and pocketed it again. A minute later, when he passed me, I could hear some music sounding from his behind.
It was close to the end of my shift. I asked him if he had any fun plans for the night.
“No, probably just going to my friends later.”
“Cool.” I was planning on going home. I had to feed my cat. But I didn’t tell him this. He didn’t even ask.
When I got home, I took off my bra, got into my sweatpants and baggy shirt. I grabbed the bagel I took from work and started eating as I opened my laptop. A photo of me and my ex-best friend was staring back at me.
Emma, we care about you and the memories you share here. We thought you’d like to look back on this post from 5 years ago.
I got the Ben and Jerry’s from the freezer and sat back down. I clicked the little red flag; six notifications. Lindsay shared a Reductress story, Tim and Ray are interested in an event near you tomorrow. Jenny, mom, tagged you in a photo; Dolores commented on a photo you were tagged in. It was a photo of my uncle from my cousin’s graduation party. I was sitting in the background talking to my baby cousins in the photo. I looked awful but it was too early to untag myself. “Empty nest syndrome!” Dolores commented.
I said I would give myself one more day with social media and then I would be done. Today was the last day I wake up and scroll. Tomorrow I’ll wake up at nine and read or make breakfast. I downloaded the Self Control app but didn’t block anything yet.
“I will,” I told Linus, my cat. He meowed at me so I got up and fed him.
The next morning, I woke up with 80s Boy on my mind. I wanted to see his face, what he did lastnight. I grabbed my phone from the bedside table, I didn’t have to move. I looked up his nameand found his face in a small dark photo. I scrolled through his page and was sad to findeverything was from seven years ago. He was in the photos but looked smaller. His hair wasstraight, covering his eyes and he was wearing all black. There was a photo of him on stage withother musicians. He was holding a guitar, no, a bass. It was black, too. His about page said hewent to Holy Cross and that he was in a relationship since 2011 but didn’t say with who.
I looked up the work schedule next, hoping he would be working today, thinking about what I could wear in front of him. I frowned a little too much when I saw I was only working with Sabrina. I got up, brushed my teeth, fed Linus and plugged in my hair straightener, only to unplug it and tie my hair up in a bun. I put some makeup on and dressed in some jeans and alight pink tank top with flowers and coffee stains on it.
At work, Sabrina was flirting with a tall string bean-like man across the counter while I did all the work. There was a line already forming when a big group of guys walked in. They all had long hair covered with baseball caps. I saw 80s Boy walk in with them and had the immediate urge to leave Sabrina at the counter to deal with him. He saw me before I could hide. He said hey and that he forgot his sweatshirt yesterday.
“Okay, yeah I’ll go grab it for you,” I said, stuttering a little. He already started walking around the counter and was there standing over me as I grabbed one of the hoodies from the back room.
“It’s this one, actually,” he said, pointing to the neon pink and green one.
“Oh yeah.” I picked it up and handed it to him.
“Hey, what are you doing tonight,” he asked as took off his denim jacket. I could see a
can of beer peeking out from the corduroy lining. I told him I wasn’t doing anything but might go out with a friend, to seem more casual. “You should come see my band play,” he said, putting the sweatshirt on. I thought of the picture of him in all black playing a black bass and I started blushing, feeling guilty, like he knew I had stalked him online this morning.
“Yeah, sure,” I said, staring at the coffee stain on the wall. “I’ll see if I can.”
He nodded but wasn’t smiling. He wrote down the address and the name of the venue on a napkin. “Show starts at eight. We should be going on around nine thirty.” My ears started
ringing. He put his jacket back on, on top of the sweatshirt, and made his way around the counter again. I saw one of his friends leaning over the counter to Sabrina, handing her a napkin as an annoyed String Bean Man towered over the two of them. Some of the other guys from the group looked at me underneath their baseball caps as they left. I crossed my arms to cover my ugly tank top. My ears kept ringing until I realized it was the next customer in line ringing the bell.
When the line died down I texted Lindsay, asking if she’d go out with me tonight. She had been shopping at Urban when she got back to me an hour later saying yes, followed by some snaps of outfits, captioned “For tonight?”
I went home at five, twelve dollars in tips in my pocket. I fed Linus and started going through my closet. I tried on seven outfits before I started shaking, before Lindsay got there, ripped the tags from her new shirts and gave me one to wear. “You should wear your boots,” she said as she pulled out a forty from a bag. I put on dark lipstick but it smudged on the lip of the forty bottle. I didn’t want to drink it and Lindsay had drunk most of it anyways, so I wiped the rest of the lipstick off.
It was seven thirty by the time we were ready. I said I would call an Uber but Lindsay yelled at me saying it was too early. “We’ll be the only ones there. We should get there around nine.” I reminded her it started at eight and 80s Boy’s band went on at nine thirty, but she insisted on nine.
By the time we left, the forty was gone and Lindsay had moved onto the second. I was feeling buzzed and just wanted to lie on the couch but she got me up and out the door. I called the Uber and in the fifteen minutes to get there we discussed with Paul, the driver, all of his problems with his girlfriend who was also named Lindsay, spelled the same way and everything.
“Paul, you should dump that Lindsay,” Lindsay said as we got out of his car. “I’d take care of you,” she said, shutting the door. She laughed and waved as Paul drove away and I looked for 1632 West Newmond. “Five stars for Paul,” she said. We walked up the steps and I asked the guy at the front door, “Is this Crybaby’s?” even though I could hear the music inside.
“Yep,” he said with a sharpie pen in his mouth. “Three to five dollars.” I felt the back of my pocket for my money, worried it had fallen out. I didn’t know we would have to pay.
“I’ll venmo you,” Lindsay said expectantly. I handed the guy my twelve dollars and he drew stars on the backs of our hands and handed us two solo cups. “Why’s the place called Crybaby’s?” Lindsay said, as we went inside.
It was full of people wearing the same baseball caps and boots similar to mine. On our way to the kitchen, I saw someone petting a cat in their lap while someone took their picture. The cat did not look happy. We filled our cups at the keg as a group of guys ran in from the back yard, yelling. “Fill ‘em up ladies!” one of them said.
We went down to the basement where the music was. Lindsay danced around and I swayed for a little before I realized it was 80s Boy’s band playing. I looked at my clock, it was quarter past nine. He was there, sweating through his t-shirt. They were playing their last song, which they ended with a lot of noise.
The crowd started toward the stairs and I had to beg Lindsay to stay downstairs with me.When I got the chance, I made my way up to 80s Boy. I felt better than I did at the café, I wasready to talk to him about music and Catholic school, if I could somehow bring them upcasually. “Hey!” I said, suddenly thinking I should have checked my lipstick first, notremembering I had taken it off. “You guys were great.” I folded my lips and clamped them downwith my teeth so he couldn’t see them.
He looked up at me, smiled and said thanks. He was breathing heavily as he wrapped up the cords and threw them in the back of the speakers. I was at a loss until I remembered Lindsay was next to me. “This is my friend Lindsay.”
“Hey,” she said, looking around. He didn’t say anything. I grew anxious, looking at the other guys who were talking to other girls as they wrapped their cords. I hoped those girls weren’t going to leave with them. Or if they were, should I try to talk to them?
“Do you need help carrying anything?” I asked as 80s Boy picked up his case. Lindsay looked at me, annoyed. He accepted my help and we carried some equipment up the stairs, hitting it against everything as we went to their car. They took their time to smoke their cigarettes before leaving. The same girls from downstairs were outside but Lindsay and I made the effort to talk to them and they seemed open and happy to talk to us. They let Lindsay have one of their cigarettes. We learned they were the girlfriends of the singer and the guitarist. They said we should come back with them, to even out boys and girls. It took everything in me not to smile too much.
I thought of the twelve dollars we paid to get in and how we only spent twenty minutes at Crybaby’s, but I knew we already got our money’s worth. We hopped in the van and sat on the boys’ laps. Guitar Man drove while his girlfriend was in the back seat, along with Singer Man and his girlfriend. Lindsay was rubbing up against the drummer next to me in the middle seats and I just sat there on 80s Boys lap, hands folded in my own, eyes staring out the window. “I’m Lindsay,” she said, making herself comfortable. Drummer Boy smiled underneath his mustache, said it was nice to meet her and placed his hand on her waist.
I couldn’t wait for the ride to be over. The boys just talked about the show and what they could do next time to make it better and cracked jokes I didn’t understand but still laughed at. I
thought I should try to say something but if I did, it would have to be funny and confident. I just stayed quiet. I didn’t know what to do with my body, either. Where should I put my hands and which way should I be facing? Lindsay’s arm was around Drummer Boy’s shoulders and the other hand placed on his chest. I wondered if 80s Boy preferred to have her on his lap instead.
“Can we stop at Checker’s? I’m starving,” Singer Man said. I wished I was home, where I didn’t have to talk to anyone and didn’t have to spend money I didn’t have.
“That one closed last month,” Guitar Man said. “Health code stuff. I have leftover fries back home you can have.”
We went over a big bump, so 80s Boy held onto me tighter and didn’t let go for the next five minutes. I relaxed a little and leaned into him some more. He asked for the aux cord, reaching over but still holding onto me. He plugged his phone in and sang along to the song he picked. They all stopped their conversation to sing and nod their heads and clap and bang their hands on the doors and steering wheel. I asked 80s Boy who this was and he gave me a look of surprise.
“This is Dr. Dog. You gotta’ know them,” he said, kind of confused but also teasing. He asked for my phone. I grabbed it from my back pocket, brushing against his leg. I gave it to him and he opened my Spotify. He looked up his name and had me follow him and his favorites playlist. He handed it back to me, smiling.
“Oh wait,” he said, grabbing it back. He looked up his bands name and pressed follow.
“Thanks,” I said, smiling back.
We got to their apartment and helped unload their equipment again. I noticed 80s Boy
stayed close to me. When we were done, he sat next to me on the couch and we all startedwatching Death Note. Lindsay was still next to the drummer and asked for a hit when he lit a
joint. They passed it around two times, each time I rejected it. I felt awkward doing so; I hated missing the opportunity to brush hands with 80s Boy again. Instead, he leaned over me and passed it to Guitar Man’s girl instead.
I grew more and more tired. Nothing else went on, everyone grew a bit quieter. I didn’t know what was going on in the cartoon. Lindsay rested her head on Drummer Boy’s shoulder and he rested his head on hers. They changed Death Note to the Simpsons and Singer Man went to get some food. Everyone ate and got back some of their energy.
The boys stopped watching cartoons and decided to play some video game. As they were setting it up, they discussed amongst themselves all the problems with corporate shopping, brought on by Singer Man’s girl asking Lindsay where she got her shirt.
“Urban Outfitters is a horrible corporation. I hate that I used to spend my own money there. Their CEO is a big donor to conservative political campaigns,” Guitar Man said, counting off on his fingers. “Their clothes are made overseas by little children. They try to look vintage and thrifty yet charge, like eighty bucks for a t-shirt.”
“I got this shirt at a salvage sale for fifty cents,” Singer Man said, chin high.
“One time, they sold a Native American headdress for like one hundred dollars.” All the guys shook their heads simultaneously. The girls nodded in compliance, so did me and Lindsay.
Guitar Man left as 80s Boy and Drummer Boy sat on the floor to play first. Guitar Mancame back in with a bong. I looked at Lindsay, whose head was now resting in her hand. She wassitting on the side of her chair like she was waiting for Drummer Boy to take his spot back nextto her. She was staring and smiling at the boys who were all in the middle of the room now. Sowere the other girls, staring, looking like they were asleep with their eyes open. I put on apretend smile, staring at the boys as they did their thing. 80s Boy turned his head back and
smiled a crooked smile at me while the game was paused for bong hits. I smiled for real. He looked at me a little longer than comfortable and I flinched, pulling out my phone to cover it up. I pretended to do something important, but I didn’t have any service. I waited a minute, going over how to ask for the wifi password. It became the scariest question in the world. I tapped on 80s Boy’s shoulder. He smiled at me as I asked him.
He started saying what it was until Guitar Man interrupted with “Take a hit then we’ll tell you!” holding out the bong. They all cheered. “It’s the rules!” I looked at 80s Boy and he was smiling a lot. I wished he wouldn’t. I looked at Lindsay smiling and cheering. “You got it!” she encouraged.
I grabbed the bong and lighter from Guitar Man, thinking of ways I could say no. It was cold to the touch from the ice in the tall part. “Could you help me?” I asked 80s Boy, trying to pretend it was just the two of us. He agreed and helped me light it, telling me what to do. He kept saying to keep going, keep going, now! He pulled out the thing and I breathed in heavy. It was cold and smooth down my throat until I breathed out, sending me into a coughing fit. Everyone cheered and said I did good. Guitar Man grabbed my phone, asked me to unlock it and put in the wifi password. 80s Boy kept rubbing my back while I coughed.
I felt fine for a moment until my head started swimming. The room got a little cloudier and everyone sat back down and grew quiet again. I sunk into the couch, eyes heavier, the sound of gunshots getting louder from the video game. All the girls sat around in their spots, not saying a word, just watching the boys. They all looked the same, me included, like I was staring at hundreds of mirrors lined up back to back.
80s Boy kept looking back at me. Every facial expression I made felt so important. I onlyhoped I was making the right one every time he looked back at me. I started to think he was
getting the wrong impression of me, that I was smiling too much or frowning and not even realizing it. I hoped that every time he looked back at me, he couldn’t see my heart beating through my Urban Outfitters shirt. I told myself to keep staring at the TV, the guns, the targets. I wasn’t here, I was there, somehow safer in a war zone than here. 80s Boy stood up when his turn was up and walked over to take his place next to me again. My heart was beating faster and my face felt hot. A few minutes later, Lindsay stood up, hand in hand with Drummer Man. They started walking towards the hallway.
“Linds!” I whisper-yelled. I hoped my face wouldn’t fail me now and that she could see how panicked I was.
She looked back at me. “Let me know if you leave,” she said, nodding, smiling. I leaned back when she disappeared, looking at the heartbeat through my shirt. 80s Boy looked down at me again, his head a few inches above me. He raised his eyebrows as if to say he was impressed with Lindsay and Drummer Boy. Or was it him implying he wanted to take me back to his room too? I just sat there, going over what it was 80s Boy wanted, what I could do for him but what I didn’t want to do. I liked him, I did. But I kept thinking up excuses.
I think I smiled and said I had to make a phone call. I got up and went outside so he couldn’t see what I saw through my shirt, that horrible pounding heartbeat. I don’t know if he cared but I felt like he never stopped staring at my back as I made my way out the front door. I sat on the pavement outside waiting for him to come out, wanting him to but also not wanting him to. I thought he really would.I called Lindsay but she never picked up. I considered walking back in so I could go find her but I didn’t want to interrupt her. I didn’t want Drummer Man to get mad at me. I didn’t want
to ask everyone in the living room which room they were in either. I didn’t want to go back in at all.
I called her two more times before I called an Uber. I stared at my phone as it picked a driver. His name was Paul, the same Paul and he would be here in eight minutes. I didn’t want to see Paul again. He was so nice, he deserved five stars, but he would know I was different. He would ask me where my friend went and would think how boring I was without her. He would ask me how my night went and I would have to say fine.
Or maybe Paul was never really nice. Maybe Paul was waiting for the right moment to get a girl alone at midnight, to take her somewhere she doesn’t know and do the things he really wanted to do with her. It could have all been an act.
For twenty dollars, I canceled my ride with Paul. I waited five more minutes for 80s Boy or Lindsay to come outside and invite me back in or take me home. I walked home in the dark, keeping my phone in my front pocket with the GPS on, my mace and keys in each hand. It took me forty minutes, enough time to think of all the ways in which I wouldn’t make it home. But Idid get home, without anyone talking to me or touching me. I felt relieved, lucky. I picked up Linus and went to bed without ever really sleeping, thinking what a bad friend I was leavingLindsay there alone.