During my last week of work Ulrik has me compile the store’s sales into a digital spreadsheet. He doesn’t trust just anybody to do it. He’s been wanting it done for a long time though. He thinks that if people know how much money the store makes they will use the information against him to get raises.
It’s a very appropriate final task, rifling through every day of the store’s history, stumbling upon marginal notes and doodles, seeing the word ‘training’ written next to the names of veteran employees who helped train me.
There are so many sheets to sift through, and it’s no clean job. Chicken scratch and bleeding sharpies making messes of the days.
I’m not going to make it, I say.
Do what you can, says Ulrik. And then bring the sheets to me.
At your home?
He’s going to smoke me out.
Consider it a going away present.
It’s an offer I can’t refuse.
Linda is replacing you, he says.
There is a hug shared between us.
So this is goodbye.
Her breasts against my chest, I forget to feel them.
A nonexistent memory to masturbate to.
He will be glad to see you, she says. You were, like, the best employee we’ve ever had.
I appreciate you saying so, I say. But you don’t know who I am. The undercover agent filing his reports. You don’t know what I’ve made you into. Chicken scratch really. Bleeding bladed days upon the alt lit bus forever. A nonexistent memory to masturbate to. A stop on the tour.
The door closes behind me. I’ve got the whole history of the store in my hands. The pages fluttering in the wind. It’s time to let go.
Thank you, I say, for entrusting me with this.
He’s on the phone.
Just set them there.
I’ve never been inside his home before. There is art on the walls. All his. One of his drag queens. A cluster of wax bubbles. Another important person’s face.
It’s ebay, he says, trying to get a refund on a service he’d bought.
He’s been on the line for over four hours.
I can’t hang up now.
A superior hands him off to another superior.
He’s a handful.
Have you ever read Kafka, I ask.
It was one of the most difficult classes to get into, he says, at Cooper Union.
Here is the address of the president, says the superior. Send him a letter. Really do it. He reads them all. He’s the only one who can offer a refund.
I will do it, he says, hanging up.
His roommate hands me a beer.
First one’s free.
I take my keys out. There is a bottle opener on them. The keys to the store are still connected to the ring.
I disconnect them and hand them to Ulrik.
I guess this is goodbye.
He hands me the pipe.
I light the bowl on fire with his white lighter which leads to a horror story about Mexican gangs and black people.
He asks me if it’s too intense.
I tell him that it’s okay to be scared sometimes.
Let me show you my latest, he says.
It is a little circuit board with some pastel shapes glued to it.
Oh wow, I say, trying to act like I think it’s good.
Take a closer look.
I take it.
Holding it in my hands, the painting becomes a city with all of the painted shapes transforming into architectural landmarks and the little nodes and lines in the board becoming neighborhoods and parking lots.
It really is good, I say.
You’re the first I’ve shown it to.
The clock turns seven. I told myself I’d be out now, putting on my coat.
He gives me two nugs for the road.
I guess I’m not taking the subway.