The time is ten years ago. My short-shorts clad self is pedaling frantically on a Huffy. I have gone in pursuit of a cigarette.
The city is looking mildly pleasant today, I think to myself. I’m home for the summer from college, back to my parent’s abode. A hostage situation is going on down the block, and a SWAT team has closed off the street. Mr. Jenkins from the East Side is pushing a pilfered shopping cart full of cans to Consumer’s Beverage. The rattling glass bottles create music in the air, like wind chimes.
And then – I get a whiff of those familiar fumes. Someone is smoking nearby! I ride up to the skinny, 5′ 4” dude in cargo shorts puffing away in front of Consumer’s.
“Hey – can I bum a cigarette?”
“Yeah, sure,” he replies, removing a Marb Light. “I’m Travis.”
We begin to chat. Travis has half-closed stoner eyes and a receding hairline. His Molson Canadian t-shirt hangs off his scrawny physique. I learn that he is 24 (old enough to buy booze!) and lives nearby (in his own apartment!)
“Do you need a job?” Travis asks, exhaling a final plume. “We’re hiring here.”
Well, yeah, I guess I do…. Just something for the summer until I return to school. But this Travis fellow could just be the cherry on top.
I am given a navy blue Consumer’s tee, and a name tag. My boss, Seth, is a 30-something lamebrain who hates black people and girls. He mostly sits in his office, which overlooks his dominion. When people come in with a rattling cart full of empties, he shouts “fuckin’ scumbags!” and pops in a juicy wad of Skoal.
I’ve come to know the regulars, including Janelle, who lives next door. One time she begged me to blow in the breath allyzer installed in her car, so she could leave for work. She also has Seth and/or Travis deliver Mike’s Hard Lemonade and cigarettes to her house. Travis was gone for an hour one time, and returned saying she “took off all her clothes and started reenacting soap operas.”
That story gives me a mild pang of jealousy. Why doesn’t Travis ever do anything romantic, like take me anywhere to eat? Our after-work “romance” has consisted of me going to his house to smoke pot and watch Roseanne. Despite my flirtatious efforts and the shortest of shorts, which even made Seth shake his head in dismay, Travis falls flat. He is usually slumped over the counter, chewing on chips.
“So, Travis, what are we doing tonight?” I flutter by, tossing my hair. He looks up – a chip crumb is stuck to his lip.
“Let’s go to Bill’s and play beer pong,” he says.
That has become the plan for tonight. I’m upstairs in my bedroom getting ready when I hear the familiar sound of Travis’s car. It has a broken muffler or something, and it’s so loud you can hear it coming a mile away.
“Oh, he’s here, your man,” my mom says, rolling her eyes. Travis beeps his horn. “My mother always said to never go out with a guy who beeps his horn.”
“Oh, whatever!” I say. “I’ll be back later! Late. So don’t bother waiting up.”
We go to our co-worker Bill’s house. Bill is a decent looking 25-year-old with manners, and I think he has a crush on me. But I’m more interested in Travis, for whatever reason. I’m wearing a shredded-up denim mini skirt and white tank top. Forgot to put a bra on. After a few rounds of beer pong, I’m three sheets to the wind and have tossed all regard for getting home safely to the wayside.
The three of us go sit on Bill’s porch and stare off into the dark night. Travis pops some pills from a prescription bottle. The two of us decide to leave, and go back to Travis’s house, muffler vroooom-ing all the way.
Travis has a pitbull named Max, who starts barking as we creep up to Travis’s second floor apartment. We have to creep, because Travis lives above his mom and her boyfriend. His mom’s boyfriend usually stands in the front yard with no shirt on. He makes me mildly uncomfortable.
“Yay!!!!” I squeal, taking my shirt off and whipping it around my head. “Woo!”
“Calm down…calm down…Daddy’s tired,” Travis mumbles, schlepping across the kitchen floor to his cupboard full of E-Z-Mac.
We both pass out on the couch in the middle of a Cops marathon, and wake up to Seth’s gruff voice on Travis’s answering machine.
“Hey, fucks,” he says. “Ann’s parents are looking for her. So if she’s there, you might want to call them.” Click.
Just then, I hear someone rapping on the front door. Travis jumps up, and peers through the blinds suspiciously. I hear my mom and dad shouting “Annie!” from below.
“Oh God, my fricken parents showed up?” I say.
Travis has decided to hide in the corner, behind a stack of Maxims as tall as him. I slip into my flip-flops, knowing full well that I reek of multiple Labatts.
“They called the cops – they called the cops! They called the cops?” Travis is walking in circles like a maniac. I peer out the window. A police car is parked down the street.
“No, they didn’t, a cop car is just coincidentally parked on your street – there is always a cop parked on your street, hello!”
But I am not getting through to Travis. Does he feel I am deserting him? I don’t want him to dump me… The whole time I’m collecting my belongings, Travis is silent.
Once I get home, I plop my weary body down at the kitchen table with dry toast and a Vitamin Water.
“You don’t even have a bra on!” my mom says. For the first time, I see the time. The clock tells me it’s only 8 a.m.
I finish the toast and go back to bed.
The next day at work, Travis gives me shocking news.
“Your dad was here, and he called me a drifter,” Travis says. “What the hell is a drifter?”
“Someone who wanders around, aimlessly,” I say.
“Fuck that. Fuck this. I’m moving to Colorado with Max,” he says.
And he did. The next week, he is gone, with cash that he stole from Consumer’s through bottle return fraud. I am completely torn apart inside, tearing up all my issues of Cosmo with the sex tips I’ll no longer need.
“Why???????” I yell. “I cannot go on!”
I’m in my bedroom blaring Britney Spears “Toxic,” drinking a bottle of Steel Reserve. Bill had to get it for me at work. He seemed concerned.
“Life is meaningless!” I say. “Meaningless as fuck.”
I’ve finished all 24 Steely ounces of beer and have moved on to my parent’s boxed merlot. In my frenzy, I consume a giant cup, wishing there was a bottomless fountain of everlasting liquor. Lying face down on my bed, vomit rises up in my throat and I throw up all over my white comforter. It’s nothing but an ocean of red wine all over my white comforter – and I’ll be damned if it didn’t look like Travis’s face.