PART II OF V
MONDAY AFTERNOONYou know it’s pathetic, but your boss at Turn! Turn! Turn! is the closest thing to a father figure you’ve ever had. His name is Peter, he’s in his forties, he’s a retired D-List rock musician, and he’s so cool that if you’d met him when you were younger, you’re certain you would’ve filled your head with fantasies about him. Knowing nothing about your biological family except your mother’s name, you would’ve compared yourself to him both consciously and unconsciously, writing yourself into his history because you both had sandy hair and played guitar. When you were twelve, thirteen, fourteen, you might’ve asked: what if he really is my father? Things are different now that you’re older. Your mother’s name is still all you have to go on in terms of where you come from, but you know better than to look for your father in every unmarried middle-aged man you meet, and at twenty-one, you’ve been taking care of yourself long enough to understand that it does no good to wonder who your parents are at all. You’re an adult. You don’t need them now any more than they needed you then. Still, you can’t help but feel like a troubled child whenever Peter reprimands you for doing something stupid, and today is no exception - although you’d never admit it. It might have escaped his notice during the first half of your shift because he was doing paperwork in the office, but he finally caught you guzzling beers behind the bar when he stepped out to go on his lunch break, and in keeping with his de facto in loco parentis, he’s worse than pissed: he’s disappointed. You’re sitting across from him at his desk in the office waiting for him to speak. The assistant manager, a well-intentioned albeit timid Irishman named Rory, is standing behind him, leaning awkwardly against the wall. He offers you a nervous smile that you suspect is meant to be reassuring and you stifle a laugh when the thought occurs to you: if it weren’t for [____]’s mom, maybe Rory would be the closest thing to a mother figure you’ve ever had. “You can’t keep doing this, Mat,” Peter says, staring at you from behind a pair of thick glasses that seem to endow him with the ability to see into your soul as he reads you the Riot Act. “What?” You ask. “Getting loaded while you’re on the clock.” “I wouldn’t call it getting loaded.” “What would you call it?” You shrug. “Making sure what we have on tap doesn’t taste like Pabst Blue Ribbon?” Rory snorts at your joke and attempts to cover it up with a cough. Peter gives him a disapproving glance over his shoulder. You smile. “Mat,” Peter says. “I like you. I know you’re a good kid. I know you’ve been through a lot, I know you’re under a lot of pressure this year, but—look, it’s bad enough that you come to work drunk as often as you do, but when you come to work and throw back beers instead of doing your job, it’s my ass on the line, alright? I could lose my job.” “I’m not even that drunk,” you say, dismissing his concern with a scoff, your smile widening into a toothy grin that is nothing if not an indicator that you are that drunk. “You’re overreacting. I don’t need to be able to walk in a straight line to stand behind a cash register and tell people to buy the new Jens Lekman album.” Peter eyes you skeptically, removing his glasses and letting them hang down on the chain around his neck. “Mat. I’m not fucking around. This is the only warning you’re going to get from me and it’s more than most employers would give you. If you pull a stunt like this again, I’ll have no choice but to fire you. Alright?” You lean back in your chair until you’re dangerously close to falling over and let out an exasperated sigh, folding your arms against your chest. “Fine, alright.” “What’s going on with you?” “Nothing.” “You’re telling me you decided to get drunk at work in the middle of the day for no reason?” “Yes,” you say. Peter closes his eyes and brings his hand up to pinch the bridge of his nose between his thumb and index finger. He’s annoyed. Even in the state you’re in, you can tell that he knows you’re bullshitting him, but he knows you well enough to know that pressing the subject won’t get him anywhere right now - or possibly ever. You’re too stubborn, too uncommunicative. “Rory’s going to drive you home now.” “What?” You ask, throwing the weight of your body forward so fast that the legs of your chair hit the floor with a violent crash, making Rory jump. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me! I’m not a kid. I don’t need a fucking babysitter. Just let me finish my shift.” “Don’t argue with me.” “I’m not even that drunk,” you say, as if repeating it over and over will somehow make it true. You seem to be applying this drunken logic to a lot of things these days. You’re not even that drunk, you’re not even that jealous, you’re not even that lonely, you’re not even that— Rory clears his throat. “C’mon, lad,” he says, stepping out from behind the desk and pulling you up gingerly by the arm. “We can listen to Frightened Rabbit on the way.” You yank yourself free of his grasp, scowling at him, then Peter, then back again. “Don’t fucking touch me, alright, Rory? I think I can manage walking out to your car by myself.” “Go home and sleep it off,” Peter says, calling out after you when you stumble from the office, Rory in tow. “And don’t even think about calling in sick tomorrow.” As you leave the store, shouting expletives while your coworkers and customers look on, poor Rory dragging you away, you earn yourself a reputation as the troubled kid who only got to keep his job because of “nepotism.”
TUESDAY AFTERNOONWhen you go into work the next day with a mildly bruised face, a lingering headache, and no alcohol in your system, every part of you - physical and otherwise - feels like shit. You apologize to Peter and Rory and hide behind the cash register with a bottle of blue Gatorade, hunching forward to rest your elbows on the counter where it sits, pressing your palms against your temples, lifting your head up only to wait on customers and tell them to buy the new Jens Lekman album. On a cigarette break, when you finally read over the text messages you sent to the coworker who was kind enough to look out for you last night, you feel even shittier, but you remind yourself that it could’ve been worse. You could’ve texted [____] about being drunk and hard and asked him if he wanted to fuck and it would’ve been the most honest thing you’ve said to him in months. You can’t imagine anything worse. You’re already broken in half.