When he turned back to me, I’d finished helping the last customer in my line. He shrugged his left shoulder and stepped closer, rubbing the back of his neck. “I don’t think I’m gonna be able to get those things today. Sorry. I can put the stuff back on the shelves. Sorry. Sorry.” He kept apologizing.
My gut tightened. “It’s okay. Really. I’ll handle it. I’m getting off work now anyway. I’ll put it all back.”
He frowned again. I wished he would stop doing that. “Okay. Sorry.” I wished he’d stop apologizing, too.
When he left, I glanced inside his grocery bags. Studying the items in the bags was heartbreaking. The stuff added up to a total of eleven dollars, and he couldn’t even afford that. Ramen noodles, cereal, milk, peanut butter, and a loaf of bread—items I’d never had to think twice about buying.
You never knew how good you had it until you saw how bad someone else did.
“Hey!” I shouted, chasing after him in the parking lot. “Hey! You forgot these!”
He turned around slowly and narrowed his eyes in confusion.
“Your bags,” I explained, handing them to him. “You forgot your bags.”
“You could get fired.”
“For stealing groceries,” he said.
I hesitated for a moment, a bit confused as to why his first thought would be that I stole the food. “I didn’t steal them. I paid for them.”
Bewilderment filled his stare. “Why would you do that? You don’t even know me.”
“I know you’re trying to take care of your mom.”
He pinched the bridge of his nose, shaking his head back and forth. “I’ll pay you back.”
“No, don’t worry about it.” I shook my head. “It’s no big deal.”
He bit his bottom lip, and brushed his hand over his eyes. “I’ll pay you back. But…thank you. Thank you…uh…” His eyes fell to my chest, and for a second I felt a level of discomfort, until I realized he was retrieving my name from my nametag. “Thank you, Alyssa.”
“You’re welcome.” He turned and went on his way again. “What about you?!” I shouted his way, hiccupping once or twice—or maybe fifty times.
“What about me?” he asked, not turning to face me, still walking.
“What’s your name?”
He could’ve definitely been a Mikey.
“Logan,” he said. He kept walking, not looking back once. I placed my shirt collar in my mouth and chewed on it; it was a bad habit my mom always yelled at me about, but my mom wasn’t there, and small tiny butterflies were taking over my stomach.
He looked like a Logan, now that I thought about it.
He came back a few days later to pay me back. Then, he began showing up weekly to buy a loaf of bread, or some more ramen noodles, or a pack of gum. He always came to my checkout lane. At some point, Logan and I began to talk during transactions. We learned that his half-brother was dating my sister, and they had been together for what felt like forever. At some point, he almost smiled. Then once, I swore he even laughed. We kind of became friends, starting with small exchanges of words and building up to bigger conversations.
When I’d leave work, he’d be sitting on the parking lot curb, waiting for me, and we’d talk even more.
Our skin tanned together under the burning sun. We left each night beneath the flaming stars.
I met my best friend in the checkout lane of a grocery store.
And my life was never the same again.
His soul was set in flames,
and he scorched anyone who stood too close.
She stepped closer,
unafraid of the ashes they were destined to become.
Two years, seven girlfriends, two boyfriends, nine breakups, and a stronger friendship later.
I’d watched a documentary on pie.
Two hours of my life were spent sitting in front of a tiny television, watching a library DVD on the history of pie. It turned out pie had been around since the ancient Egyptians. The first documented pie was created by the Romans; they made a rye-crusted goat cheese and honey pie. It sounded completely disgusting, but somehow, at the end of the documentary, all I wanted was that freaking pie.
I wasn’t much of a pie eater, more into cake, but at that moment, all that flew through my mind was the thought of a flaky crust.
I had all the things needed to go upstairs to our apartment to make the pie, too. All that stood in my way was Shay, my now ex-girlfriend, I’d spent the past few hours sending mixed signals.
I was crappy at breaking up with girls. Most of the time, I’d text them a simple, ‘Not working, sorry’ or have a five-second phone call to cut it off, but I couldn’t with this one, because Alyssa told me breaking up with someone over the phone was the worst thing a person could ever do.
So I’d met up with Shay in person. Terrible idea.
Shay, Shay, Shay. I wished I hadn’t found the need to have sex with her that night—which we had. Three times. After I broke up with her. But now it was past one in the morning, and…
She. Wouldn’t. Leave.
She wouldn’t stop talking either.
The cold rain whistled as we stood in front of my apartment building. All I wanted to do was go to my bedroom and relax for a bit. Was that too much to ask? Smoke a bit of pot, start a new documentary, and make a pie or five.
I wanted to be alone. No one liked being alone more than I did.
My cell phone dinged, and I saw Alyssa’s name appear on the screen with a text message.
Alyssa: Is the good deed done?
I smirked to myself, knowing she meant me breaking up with Shay.
I watched the three ellipses appear on my phone, waiting to see Alyssa’s reply.
Alyssa: You didn’t sleep with her though, did you?
Alyssa: Oh God, you slept with her, didn’t you?
Even more ellipses.
Alyssa: MIXED SIGNALS!
I couldn’t help but chuckle, because she knew me better than anyone else. Alyssa and I had been best friends for the past two years, and we were the complete opposite of one another. Her older sister was dating my brother Kellan, and at first, Alyssa and I were convinced we had nothing in common. She happily sat in church, while I smoked pot around the corner. She believed in God while I danced with demons. She had a future while I somehow seemed trapped in the past.