Dr. Pepper doesn’t taste like it used to, not like it did when I was 19. I was in a transition period at the time. I wasn’t interested in school, and felt I hadn’t lived enough to say what I needed to say in the way I wanted to say it, so I put my writing to the side. I thought I better try and live as much as I possibly could while I was still young. I couldn’t do that couch-surfing at various friends’ family’s houses.
My plan only consisted of getting a full-time job, but it turned out to be all I needed. The job I got working as a courier for a bank came with keys to a company van and the company gas card. The company van was for apartment hunting after work, and the company gas card was for chips and soda and shit.
I was on the road delivering and picking up mail most of the time, but I spent some of my time in the office on the 8th floor of a high rise downtown. Samantha started working in the accounting department a month after I was hired. She was 26, brunette, and had a baby face. When I saw her, I told myself I was gonna get it in one day. I’d say hi to her when she’d come into the mail room to make copies, but, never made a pass at her. Then one day she asked me what cologne I was wearing.
"It’s a secret?" I said, sheepishly.
She smirked and walked up close to smell my neck.
"I’ll figure it out," she said.
I never liked boldness in a lady, and she had a lot of it. It didn’t bother me much because she was older and had more status than I did at the company. We flirted this way for a couple months, had short, colorful conversations by the copy machine. If I were a boxer, you’d say I stayed out of the corners and away from the ropes. I threw my combinations and danced away. I only gave her enough time to get acquainted with my charm, and not much else.
One weekend, late at night walking home from a party on Hollywood Blvd, my friends and I stopped in front of a psychic, surprised it was still open so late. We decided five bucks was worth our time and a palm read.
If nothing else, the lady was a great study of basic human personality traits. She didn’t ask me if I was compassionate, or if I got along well with others. But she didn’t quite make proclamations either. I basically nodded the whole time waiting for her to say something I could shake my head at.
"You’re going to have an affair," she said cryptically.
"Affair?" I asked. "I’m not married."
"It’s an older woman, at work," she said, with her eyes closed.
The next week I sat in my office waiting for Samantha to come in and guess what cologne I was wearing. I invited her to a club just outside of boys town called Club Sushi on Fairfax, a two-story building that was a restaurant by day and a club at night. The club opened at around 10. It was a 21-and over club, but my roommate Adam figured out that we could avoid security by first going to dinner, then staying behind after the servers and cooks left for the night. By that time, the club doors were open and we would get lost in the crowd. We weren’t kicked out, but, Samantha never showed up.
The next morning, Samantha asked if I had fun, but it didn’t sound like she was really interested in my night. She was more interested in how I was feeling about her at that moment.
"It was cool," I said, without looking at her.
She apologized for not showing up, and told me a quick story of how drunk she had gotten the last time she went to that club.
"Don’t sweat it," I said, leaning closer to my computer screen to give her a clue that I didn’t want to be bothered. She got it. I knew it was a matter of time before my nonchalance would eat at her. She caught up with me later on in the day, by surprise. I was in a corner looking for a way out.
"What time’s your break," she asked, almost whispering in my ear.
"Anytime, you know that," I said flippantly.
"Meet me upstairs in the quiet room in fifteen minutes. I have a surprise for you, " she said.
My ears perked up and I looked at her for the first time that day. I agreed to show up. When I got there, she was already waiting for me. To this day, I stand by my word when I told her I had no idea what surprise she had for me. When she finally unveiled it, and I enjoyed it, she laid down the rules.
"You can’t like me," she said. "You can’t tell anybody about this. And you won’t get attached. This is all it’s gonna be."
We fucked in the quiet room every day for three months until I was fired. I should’ve gotten fired my second month into the job, but, somehow got everyone to trust that I’d get it together someday. I once decided not to drop off interoffice mail and took a detour to the beach for three hours. When I got back to work, everyone was relieved to see that I was okay. My boss called me in to her office the next day and asked what happened.
"I got lost," I said, with my palms up to the heavens.
They gave me a cell phone. My boss didn’t want poor me to ever get lost again, so I was to call her directly if I did, and she’d guide me home. A month later, my boss made an inquiry about some of the phone numbers that showed up on the phone bill and ordered me to pay for the calls I made outside of business hours. I never did.
Toward the end, when my boss inadvertently walked passed the company van and saw that there were no hubcaps on the tires, she asked me where they could have gone.
"Whoa, someone stole them?" I said.
Again, she ordered me to pay for new ones, and again, I did no such thing.
On my last day, Samantha gave me a blowjob in the company van. She also let me fuck her from behind. She left her fingerprints on the window in the back. She said she felt too old to be sneaking around fucking in the back of vans at her age, but, by this time she had broken all the rules she set for us. She opened up about her dreams and aspirations for the future. She laughed at my jokes and kissed me softly. When she’d pass by me in the office, she’d smell my neck and pinch my side. She didn’t care to guess what cologne I was wearing. She knew what my dick smelled like.
She held my hand and told me she was in love with me. She was sad I was leaving, but, she was looking forward to being able to see me outside of work finally. She asked me if I would call her and take her to lunch the next day. I didn’t know what to think. I had no idea she felt this way about me. She set the rules, not me. I didn’t feel the same. I told her I would call her.
I called her the next day, and was relieved when she couldn’t get away for lunch. I said I’d call her. I called her once. But I called her.
I parked my car to answer her text. Expecting a quick response, I idled there, parked crookedly in between two spots. I waited a while. I saw a lady come out of a restaurant on my side of the street. Her spouse, I assume, was a step behind. I observed the twosome as they walked to their car. There wasn’t anything particularly interesting about them, except that they made sense together. I noticed he wasn’t much taller than she was, and they had a similar build and disposition. They might have had an individual sense of style in their youth, but now, they dressed in a sweatshirt and jeans, nothing fancy. It was like beer in hand—comfortable, familiar—they were supposed to be together, and it wasn’t annoying to see.
There are couples that just give you cavities because they’re so, what’s the word, coo-worthy. The cute, artsy couple, with bohemian style of dress. He’s an actor, she just graduated from FIDM, they go watch Arcade Fire whenever they’re in town. It makes sense that they’d be together, no? Why is it annoying to see this, I wonder. Anyway. That couple I saw coming out of that restaurant? Fascinating. I felt good seeing them together. I think that’s worth mentioning.
I had been couped up in my apartment for the passed two days and nights without any food or social activity, so I thought a quick pick-me-up would soothe my loneliness. I raided my fridge, checked the cupboards, lurked online, and nothing helped.
My apartment building has a strange layout. There are 37 units, seven on each floor, and it’s five stories up. I’m on the top floor in unit 36, and I share it with Latavious, who’s in apartment 37. I’m upset with the designers of this building because they had all this space to spread out our units, but, we’re right next to each other. I can hear his farts at night.
Bored out of my mind, starving, for both food and companionship, I knocked on Latavious’s door. It took him a while to answer, but when he did, he appeared in a gorilla suit. A fucking gorilla suit. He let the door swing open and walked back in to continue what he was doing. He was sewing a swastika on a flag.
“I just came by to see what you were doing,” I said.
He looked up at me, sitting at his sewing machine, and I could see his eyes through the gorilla mask.
“It’s not what it looks like,” He said, and slowly went back to sewing. “Grab a beer, man. They’re in the uh …”
There was one bottle in the fridge, a bottle of Porter beer, Anchor Steam.
“There’s only one, dude,” I said.
I looked in the cupboards and found nothing but sri racha, BBQ sauce packets from McDonald’s, and a remote control. I brought it to him.
“Do you need this?” I asked.
“Dude, no, put that back in there. I’m preserving the batteries,” He said.
I put the remote back in the fridge and sat on the couch. I watched as he progressed with his Nazi flag. The closer he got to finishing it the more uncomfortable I became. We sat there in silence for a while. I didn’t even open my beer.
“Thanks for the beer, but, uh, I’m just gonna put it back in the fridge, man,” I said.
Latavious is black. But a Nazi flag is a Nazi flag. I got outta there. By the time I got back in my apartment I heard lightning crash. I didn’t see any reports of a rainstorm today and it hadn’t rained in months.
Meanwhile, Latavious, dressed in his gorilla suit, lit his Nazi flag on fire in the middle of a white power rally. The rainstorm didn’t put his fire out.
I think about saying something nice sometimes, to see how you’d react. But most of the time, I let the moment pass. I don’t want to see what that looks like, when you don’t care. Sometimes I think you could understand. Most of the time, I don’t care, I don’t even notice you’re there. I wonder if those are the times when you’re paying attention.
When we talk, you give yourself away. The subtle things I say were meant to go unnoticed, to those that are too wrapped up in themselves to be interested in anyone else. I can see the future. Eventually, you’d stop smiling, stop asking about my day. I’d rather we don’t get to that place. Let’s just stay indifferent, disinterested. It’s better this way. If you don’t know how I feel, you won’t have to watch what you say. And if I don’t know who you really are, I can keep liking you.
It’s not better to love than to never have loved at all. I lost, again. If I didn’t know what I could have had, if I didn’t know what it felt like to give, to go out on a limb, to fall, I think I’d be okay.
I wish I didn’t see her face in my head every other minute. I wish I didn’t hear her voice. I wish I didn’t hear her laugh. I wish I didn’t feel myself inside of her. I wish I didn’t care. I wish I didn’t know what this is.
I’ve cried more than once over this girl. I’ve cried on my way home next to strangers in their cars beside me waiting for the light to change. I’ve cried. I felt like crying last night. I almost cried at work. I’m sad, I really am. I’m sad and I’m in love. I’m in love with someone that won’t love me back. She’s running away as we speak.
I want to run, too. I hate running. What is this?