This happened in 1995, but I still
remember it clearly. I was 24 years old, hard at work on a novel about love and
loss and redemption, and working third shift at a convenience store just off
the college campus to make ends meet. My manager, Todd, was a dick; my
girlfriend, Sage, was probably cheating on me; and the stray cat I’d taken in,
Kurtd, liked to crawl into my closet and piss on my Doc Martens.
night I’m talking about here was in October, and it was chilly and clear and I
remember the moon was big. If we’d had text messaging back then I’d have texted
Sage something poetic about a big orange moon (something about ‘kurious oranj’
because you couldn’t go wrong making a Mark E Smith reference)
but back then we just kept that shit to ourselves and everybody was just as
happy. I’d covered up my uniform shirt with my old reliable blue and orange
flannel shirt, the way I did every night, and Todd the Dickhead would have
thrown a shit fit if he’d seen it.
this all went down I was actually feeling pretty good about myself, because I’d
just made a little coin on a shady deal. It was a Friday night and a party at
the Sig Chi house had run out of booze. So around 2 in the morning, a couple of
Sig Chi bros came in and tried to buy a 30 pack.
were absolutely not supposed to sell beer after 1 AM, I said. It would be a
real risk for me to take, I emphasized. I cleared my throat. Looked around and
pointedly saw nobody in the store. “A real risk, dudes, a real risk,”
Two of the three guys turned around to leave. The third guy, a
handsome fellow wearing beer stained Abercrombie khakis and a violent green
polo with a little alligator emblem on it, said in a low, raspy whisper,
“And what would a risk like that be worth to you?”
minutes later I was at the back entrance, out of camera range, handing them a
30 pack of Natty Lite and counting my money. I walked back into the store and
saw a dude standing there playing our Pac-Man game.
what you may or may not know is that 80′s nostalgia among college kids goes back
to, well, the 80′s. By the mid 90′s, 80′s nostalgia was in full fabulous swing
and every bar on or near campus had an 80′s night or two every month, and every
frat house and off-campus frat apartment had several 80′s parties every semester. The owner of the convenience store where I worked, a big Falstaffian
goofball named Peter, partly as a nod to the college kids and partly because he
was a lovable dork himself, bought and refurbished an old Pac-Man arcade game
and set it up in the corner near the entrance.
the kid who’d come in to play it while I was hornswoggling the frat boys out
back looked like he’d just come from the ultimate nostalgia splooge-fest. Dude
could have just stumbled in from the big Shermer High School Winter Wonderland
Carnival. He was wearing a clean, crisp jean jacket with the word Disappearer
airbrushed in neon pink and green letters on the back. He had big spiky blond
Club Kid hair. This guy was skinny–we’re talking “Lives on vodka tonics
and Bolivian Marching Powder” skinny–and had the sleeves of his jean
jacket pushed up to reveal jelly bracelets up and down his right arm. White
Guess jeans were stretched tight across a round, muscular ass that I’m sure Sage
would have gone wild for, and the jeans were rolled up to show he wore his
white Gucci loafers sockless.
boy, The Disappearer, was really into his Pac Man too. He was bobbing his head
and swaying his hips and gobbling up ghosts. It was pretty fun to watch at
first. Almost on cue, the local radio station started playing Duran Duran’s “Girls on Film” and I jokingly said, “Hey dude, did you call in a
response. Not a talker. Fine with me! I sat my ass down on some egg crates I
kept behind the counter (Todd kvetched about it but fuck him) and started
scribbling in my notebook. This time of night I didn’t do much cleaning and
there weren’t many customers, so if he wanted to stand there and feed quarters
into an old arcade game that was fine by me.
I was actually kind of cranky he hadn’t answered me. Who did this shit think he
was? Just because I work in a convenience store he thinks he can just blow me
off? A Depeche Mode song came on the radio, Strangelove, and in addition to
giving the game some body English I noticed he was kind of shaking his ass to
the song. I decided to try being friendly again.