Paycheck

by Joni Abilene

People, people who need people . . . are they really the luckiest people in the world? That song says being needy is good. I’ve always been the opposite: I love people, but dayum, I love being alone too. Like, when I go out places, sometimes I think about how everyone is like some jacked up Sims character and it really messes with my mind. Especially fairs and places like that. That’s when you truly see the dredge of life surfacing out of the cracks and nooks of society.

I used to work retail, and can tell you that during full moons and severe weather, every freak on this earth would go shopping. People who’d never visited before stumbled though the sensor glass doors with wild eyes and money to burn. “I need curtains!” The worst department is home decorating. People don’t get the concept of pictures on products. They have to rip open boxes and bags so they can see and feel the polymix, smell the dyes, snag their little hangnails on the cheap threads. Then, unsatisfied, they’d ask, “Do you have this one in the back?” This one being the unobtainable object discontinued but still shown on the packaging as a tease. Sometimes I’d look; sometimes I’d stand in the stock room reading a paperback for five minutes. “Sorry ‘Mam, we do not carry that. Try the catalogue department.”

The best part about retail, and the people who came in, was the feeling of relief after work. Of shedding the role of paid servitude for a burrito at Taco Bell, or a cigarette borrowed from a best friend. There’s a lot of philosophy in the post-retail drive home, cigarette in hand, The Doors on the radio. It’s like, being born again. Humility. Regret for not having a degree. A squeaky belt and knocking axle reminds you to work at least one more week so you can get ‘er fixed at Midas. But you know you won’t. You’re going to spend the next pay check on Doritos and new book and album. And some wine. The rest is to live.

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