from JOB SLUT

Chapter 18

Me Work You Long Time

For several years up to that point, I’d only once gone more than two days without any alcohol.  I could scarcely even remember producing a solid turd.  Now that I was broke, with the added stress of impending eviction, I found myself relying on neighbors and bar buddies to get at least a little buzz going on.  Just like when I was determined to stop smoking pot every day by not buying it, I found myself more and more associating with people I didn’t quite care for.  As if I was in a position to pass judgment, pathetically hanging out with people just for alcohol.

            During one such bumming night that included some of the hellians I described above, I ended up trying to hook up with a 16 year-old girl.  I don’t know if this detail lessens the “eww” factor of my behavior, but she was one of those 16-going-on-22 girls; she had been around.  

            I should also mention that the farthest I got sexually until I was 19 was dry-humping.  I don’t even know what base the famous analogy would assign that to.  Was it a ground rule double?  I had chances from 16 onward, but at that point I was somewhat committed to Christian virtue.  It’s not so much that I desired to wait until marriage, but it had to be accompanied by love, in my view.  Much more than the one-night stands that would come to typify my later “love” life.  So even if I make it to age 70, I’ll still ogle the cute young girls and lament my abstinence when I was a teen.  Definitely not a creepy perv, as I have no doubt now convinced the reader.

* * *

When I got into the waiting field, I had to learn a number of fundamental food facts.  A typical meat-and-potatoes guy, I am far from a gourmand.  In fact, I looked forward to a day when we would consume meals similar to those served on The Jetsons, where one merely had to take a pill for nourishment.  Learning basic food distinctions like the difference between Marinara and Alfredo sauces, or which clam chowder is red and which is white, added to the general difficulty I encountered in the line of work.  

            I next took a waiting job at a Thai restaurant, where I now had another area of food to learn about.  If I was lucky, in several months I would learn to easily explain how the Tom Yum Kai was different from the Kai Tom Kha, and what the Galanga in the Tom Kha Puck was.  I was pucked.  These were terms concerning something I didn’t care about.  And since the place was BYOB, I could not even apply the modest knowledge I had acquired about wine.

            Until I developed mastery of these terms, I would have to rely on some Pythagorean numerological bluff.  “Madam, I would say the #9 is about three times spicier than the #3, if that’s what floats your Ruea Hang Yao.  If you’re not concerned with the price, however, I would say the #17 is a prime example of delectable Thai cuisine.”  

            The fortune cookie mumbo jumbo would surely be more reliable than me.  At least I knew there would be a percentage of ignorami who would ask where “Theyland” is?  Or who would inquire if “Thaiwan” is part of China.   They would alleviate some of the pressure, and I would certainly not need to open any wine bottles for them.  At most I’d open their beer cans.

            There were also some logistical problems concerning transportation.  I had applied at three other restaurants in my town and seemed to have gotten close to being hired without earning a cigar.  I hadn’t given any thought to my car when I was working right across the street.  I certainly had no money to fix it.  I wasn’t sure if I planned on keeping my apartment, although it seemed silly to do so, given that I was already falling into the hole.

            For the time being, I could stay at my dad’s nearby, and my sister could stop in to feed the cat.  Will could also give me occasional rides, but I guess I was in denial about the jam I was in.  My arrangement could not be sustained for the long haul.  I was content making what money I could on the spot.  Also, the people at the restaurant, from the owner and his family to the cute girls, made me feel welcome.

            My first day, I spent two hours receiving cooking training.  I didn’t cotton to this kind of work for three bucks an hour, but I could see the rationale of me learning the foods hands-on.  I also viewed it as a positive sign that they envisioned a potential future there for me.

            On only my third night there, their level of trust in me was shown by leaving me to close up with the owner’s very attractive granddaughter, Sangwan.  For the last two hours or so of our shift, I was sure she was giving me signals of her interest.  I also realized that this was a delicate situation that called for the utmost prudence.

            When the restaurant closed, we each worked on our separate sidework duties.  When she joined me to roll up silverware, we worked in silence for several minutes.  Finally, I broke the ice with a super-clever entrée.  “So, uh, are you from Thailand?”

            “Fuck no.  I was there once for two weeks and I hated it after the second day.  I’m just an American with chink blood.”

            Geez, such coarse talk didn’t seem to jibe with everything else about her.  And the little Buddha statue was only three feet away.  Should I put a napkin over his—”ITS!”—I meant “its”—ears.

            “Let me guess.  You’re just here because it’s the family business, right?”

            “I suppose.  I just want to make a little spending money until I finish school.  And I knew this was guaranteed.”

            “Where do you go to school?”

            Come on, Sangwan, please don’t say “CV High,” as I have no idea how old you are.

            “I need 21 credits to finish at the state college, the local branch.  I’m studying psychology, minoring in anthropology.”

            “You’ll be in the same [Ruea Hang Yao] I was in.  You’ll have to go to grad school to do anything in either field.”  I briefly gave her my curriculum vitae, including my teaching stint at a different branch of her school.

            “Oh I know I’ll go on, but I’ll probably go for an MBA.  I don’t want to be some housewife who’s waiting at home for her hubby and has nothing else going on.  Even though Preston and I haven’t even talked about a date yet.”

            Upon hearing that she was attached, the visceral sinking pit I felt open in my stomach told me I liked this girl more than I’d thought.  Or that the Kaiyang I’d had for lunch was giving me indigestion.

            “Preston, eh?”  Sounds like a dick.  “What does he do?”

            “You mean besides being an asshole?”

            Not in nirvana, I take it?

            “Unless he makes his money being an asshole.”

            She laughed, a sweet sounding emission that belied her harsh words.

            “Sorry.  It’s just that he just started law school—”

            “So he will be an asshole for a living?”

            More radiating gossamer laughter.  “I don’t know if he’s smart enough to make it.”  She started to look embarrassed, as if she felt guilty about our rapport.  Looking at her watch, “Shit, we should’ve been done 20 minutes ago.  We’ve done enough silverware.  Could you please do a quick spot vacuum job while I take care of some stuff in the back?”

            “Sure.  Earlier, I saw Mike grab a Budweiser from the cooler. I wonder—”

            “Oh Brian, I already checked, but there are none.  You deserve one, too.  You’re pretty good at this.”

            I’m pretty good at other things too, my lovely lotus.  Or at least above average.  Definitely not unacceptable.

            “Just try to learn the menu as quickly as you can.”

            “I will try.”

            Just as I would try to walk her to her car and steal a kiss on her hand, maybe be really bold and go for the cheek.  And if her asshole was picking her up?  A handshake and a “Look forward to working with you again.”

            As I finished vacuuming, she turned off the lights.  Walking to the door with the keys in her hand, she said, “Okay sir, I’ll see you Thursday if you’re working.  I’m parked out back, so I’ll just lock it up after you.”

            “See you then.”

            Major choke right there.  Just like my chicken would be receiving later.

            My dad had been waiting for about half an hour in the car.  I thought he’d get on my case about that, as it cut into our bar time.  He did get on my shit about what he saw.

            “My son!  I can see why [your cousin] Craig says you’re hard-core.  You worked your ass off in there.  But why didn’t you make a move on that girl?  I could see she was into you.  It was like watching a silent film and being able to follow along.”

            “I was feeling it too.  Problem is, she’s engaged.”

            “Fuck her then.”  He was not being literal, of course, but rather saying, “Leave her alone.”

            “Except she basically said she wasn’t into it, like she didn’t want to be.”

            “Then fuck her.” And here I thought my wordsmithiness came exclusively from my mom. “I would’ve waited the extra three minutes.  Your sister married back into rednecks, so the family tree could use some diversity, a little Buddhism in the blood.”

            He gave me the kind of proud simper that I would give him whenever I would correctly answer a sports question.

            “She’s the owner’s granddaughter, by the way.”

            “Oh, shit.  I don’t know what to tell you, son.  Just play those cards smart.”                    

* * *

Thursday was several days away, but the next day I got into another little attractive distraction.  Several weeks after my attempt with the teenage girl, I made a passing joke about the incident to Amanda, a 17 year-old cutie co-worker who was a bona fide American.  “Yeah, I gave some beer to a 16 year-old girl a while back, but I had my ulterior motives.”  

She didn’t seem offended by this candid comment; in fact, she smiled.  Perhaps she could tell I was a little drunk to even admit such in the first place.  The next day, I realized she had stored the idea in a certain mental file.  She tracked me down at the bar I went to after work while I awaited my ride.  I was shocked to see her there in the first place.

            “Hey, they told me at the restaurant you came here sometimes after work.  I wanted to take you up on your proposition from yesterday.”

            Holy Christ!  I choked on my sip of beer.  She’s referring to the dual illegality of getting a minor drunk for sexual purposes.  Oh God, I know what my body wants, but my ethical and practical sense is that, that this, THIS might be my last shot in life with someone from this demographic.  Unless I go to the real Thailand.

            “My parents are away and me and a friend wanted to try a 6-pack of Mike’s Hard Lemonade.”

            Mike’s not the only hard one right now, JB.

            “So you just want one 6-pack for two of you?  That’s all?”

            “Yeah, if it’s not too much trouble.”

            Shit, sounded like I’m not invited.  She just wanted to use me.  Well, there had to be some incentive for me to break that law.  Some tit-for-no-tit.

            “If you give me one, and if you promise not to drive after you drink it.  And if you don’t implicate me if you get busted.”  Yeah right.  “And if you kiss me and let me feel you up.”  Okay, I obviously didn’t say that last thing, but I held out hope that something unseemly might come out of this.  I told her I’d meet her at her car.

            Driving around with her and her equally nubile friend, I chugged my share.  Comparatively speaking, I was amazed at how much of an outlaw I had become by the time I was her age.  They had no sense of how to keep it low-key as they drove around with some old head drinking in the back seat.  Of course, pot was part and parcel of my anarchy, so paranoia came naturally to me.  They dropped me off at the bar and I never saw her again.

            No, it’s not like anything bad happened to her.  Then again, I wouldn’t know anyway, because only one more day of work was in the cards for me.

* * *

The hellians I hung with in Millersburg ran in a couple different, if occasionally overlapping, circles.  One was my neighbor we met above, Kim, who went out of his was to project a tough guy image to compensate for his sissy name.  Tattoos; the bandanna; the pit bull puppy; the muscle shirt that showed little muscle—I reckon life ain’t easy for a boy named Kim.

            I was to work only the evening shift that fateful day, and it just so happened that my old friend Don was at his folks’ for several days.  He was to pick me up around 3:00 for my 4:00 shift.  Predictably, this led to a little too much sauce for breakfast, necessitating a nap around noon.  I set my alarms but asked Kim to give me a wake-up call just in case.

            He woke me up by spraying shaving cream in my face.  Until he showed me the video—Kim was another true member of the Jackass generation—I was convinced he had gone right for the eye.  The result was the same, as my attempt to wipe it off just rubbed it in there.  I could not open it without pain, so in effect I was half-blind.

            Kim apologized profusely, although I deemed his sincerity suspect because of his laughter at my situation.  He gave me some of his girlfriend’s contacts saline, but it hardly did any good.  In the meantime, my eye had begun to swell.  What’s done was done, but goddammit Kim!  There was no way I could work in that condition.  I cannot absolve his co-conspirator, however much I would like to shift all the blame from myself for even being dependent on him for an awakening.

            That’s quite how Don looked at it when he arrived to pick me up.  Although I could only give him half a look, I could see that he was disappointed and that he felt he was right about my drinking having gone overboard some time ago.  The bastard wouldn’t even pick me up a 12-pack, even though I was only four dollars short.  After finding some more change, I had to settle for a six-pack that night for drink, and the leftover pizza from what Don had picked up during his visit for food.

            In retrospect, I probably had just the right of alcohol later that night.  Just enough to not panic about my job and situation in general, but not so much that I would freak out and start smashing stuff.   As it turned out, I was unable to get a ride the next day and I never went back.  I hope Sangwan is happily married to either someone else or that Preston isn’t being an asshole, and I hope that Amanda didn’t become an alchie because of me.  And I wished I could have made that job work just a little longer.

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