I return to work. My anniversary surely could have gone better. I could have scored higher. I’d give myself a B. The Broadway show was something special (even though we fell asleep), and something is better than nothing, but I could have fit the French restaurant into my night rather than going to Whitman Burgers and getting that Reese’s cupcake which I ate by myself. I could have taken her on that boat ride in Central Park that she has been trying to plan for however long now. I could have taken her to the oceanfront in reminiscence of her proposal method on the West Coast. But, like I said, at least I took her to the Broadway show.

Roll is called. Assignments are given. I am put on registers. They made me work registers almost every day last week. Nobody else has to work them as much as me, aside from the people who only want to work them. Alyssa, one of my managers, who I was told was into astrology, but then ended up not being into it, told me that the reason I have had to work them so much is because none of the other new-hires have been trained on them yet.

It took me forever to get onto registers. Training takes place in segments. Register training is like the fourth segment in. There are a lot of new hires. I am the oldest of the bunch. The most veteran. I’ve been there almost two months now. My co workers constantly say that it feels like I’ve been there longer. We have been getting along, them and I.

There is this new hire, Clarice. She doesn’t want to work registers. She’s nervous. She worked register at her last job, a clothing store: Anthropologie. She always wears dresses. Her hair is short, curly, and dyed red. Some of the people who work at the store don’t like her, especially Jeremy.

Jeremy is a new hire who was hired just after me. He thinks Clarice has an annoying voice and that she is lazy.

He complains to me one day:

“She comes back to info every ten minutes when stocking fiction, to drink her coffee.”

Jeremy is older than me. He comes from another bookstore. It was an independent bookstore, not as big as the one we work for now. He was a manager there, before they closed. He is a capricorn. As soon as he told me, I instantly thought of Kirk, my former coworker who reminded me, and everyone else, of Tom Cruise.

Jeremy doesn’t look like Tom Cruise. He is bald. There is this beggar who sits outside the store all day and night, longer than any of us have shifts for. One day, he sees Jeremy walking past and he calls him Kojak.

Jeremy wears his shirts tucked into khaki pants, just like Kirk. He doesn’t want to take his breaks. He has work to do. He wants to be in charge of something, just like Kirk.

I have heard him call himself ‘an invisible man’. He doesn’t generally get along with our coworkers. People don’t talk with him like they talk with me.

Jeremy certainly hasn’t had as many register shifts as I have, but, to tell you the truth, I’ve begun warming up to them. You have to stand there all day and deal with customer after customer. That’s not my favorite thing in the world. Wave after wave. It’s hard to not see the customer as the enemy. But the enemy is not the customer. It is in the customer and it is in me and it is all around us, both and all. Satan, the god of this world. God right there in the customer’s face. A simple, “How are you today?” and something breaks through. Jesus, or shall I say, the light of life.

It all depends upon the register you are at. The front ones are on the frontline. Turrets on the ship. Firing upon an enemy. But the enemy is not the customer. The register tape is a belt of bullets. The scanner is a laser aiming accuracy system. Once all targets are in line, you lock on and take the artillery from the customer. Spilling ink.

Candace, the manager who first introduced me into the store, calls a meeting regarding counterfeit bills. She puts a stack in front of us and has us determine which ones are fake. It’s a stack of ten bills. Two of them are real. I pick out all of the fake ones. It is not very hard. The hologram is the main distinguishing feature. But there are other signs. The paper feels different. There are some counterfeit bills which are reprinted on other bills. Those ones are harder to detect. There is a pen at every register which we use to help determine legitimacy. It leaves a black mark on bills printed on illegitimate paper. It is the last resort, but it’s what I’ve been using mostly. Nobody told me it was shit. I’ve been drawing little bags under the president’s eyes. It’s kind of my thing.

The amount of joy one derives from a day’s working at the registers depends on three things: one’s placement, whom one is placed next to, and who is managing you. The registers farthest back from the line are by far the most comfortable. The customer flow is significantly less than it is at the front registers. If the line does not build up, you can go a long time without getting a customer. You practically have to yell your lungs out to get the attention of next in line. Being placed back here also allows one the opportunity to read. You pull things up right on your till computer. I personally have been indulging in The Paris Review, having already read an article from Celine, one from Susan Sontag, and one from Joan Didion. Others like to read ebooks. There’s this one girl, Silvia – I’ve seen her reading Edgar Allen Poe. Silvia is a writer. She once told me that her true love is prose, but she currently writes screenplays for a company that her parents own. Apparently she got her start writing fanfics.

She’s been trying to get me to go to these little work outings. The first one involved Mad Max. I had already seen it, so I declined. She gave me her number on a piece of paper and told me to text her so that she would have my number to send me invites to future outings. It felt a little dubious, being that I’m married, with some people probably finding Silvia attractive.

I forgot to text her and she called me out on it while working the registers one day.

“I lost the piece of paper with your number on it.” I told her.

“It’s okay.” she said, handing me a business card.

She told me she was planning on having these made, but it seemed like a far away goal. A pipe dream. But here she is, now, placing one in my hand.

There is a picture of her head and chest on it. She is wearing a red top. The tiniest tip of cleavage is piercing through like a little church steeple. Her bangs are cut straight along her eyebrows. Her smile looks like it was photoshopped onto her. She is not wearing her glasses. She always wears her glasses. She probably couldn’t tell the photographer from the camera, looking through the dumb, dull eyed stare of nearsightedness which I know so well.

The card says ‘actor/writer’ on it. Everybody is an actor at this place… It’s ridiculous. How can you be a writer and an actor? I mean, let’s face it, she’s a different kind of writer than I am; and before you get all huffy-duffy, I’ll admit right here and now that I was in a movie. The lead, in fact. It was called My Buddy From Mars. Toby, General Toby, from the frame shop I worked at, Dorito munching, basement dwelling, cartoon drawing Toby, the antagonist of Onyx Mooncat – my mystery school master – he directed it.

I’ve confessed of this before, but I understand if you’re not a bibliophile. Anyways, the project was abandoned 85% of the way through production. And I don’t go around calling myself an actor. Toby practically forced me into the role. And I’m not looking for any more of them. In my opinion, you’re either on the fence or you’re off the fence. You can’t split yourself down the middle. There was a time, when I was younger, that acting was what I wanted. But I didn’t realize that it wasn’t what I really wanted. Looking back, I now know that what I wanted was to be the characters. Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible. Nicholas Cage in the Weatherman. Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Chevy Chase in Vacation. And while that truly is in many regards an impossible mission, it’s not entirely. I could have been a spy. I could still maybe be a parent. But, I mean, even if I don’t pursue those courses, I’ve still got my imagination. And the bookstore can be a boat if I want it to.

Anyways, nobody went to Mad Max with Sylvia. She went to the movie by herself, and she loved it.

She has another outing planned. It’s for a movie called The Room. It is supposedly the worst movie ever made. Sylvia disagrees with that statement, stating that some movie called Birdpoccolypse is worse.

I’ve never seen either of these movies, and I don’t care to, because I don’t have time to waste on bad movies with coworkers.


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