Callie was a year older than you, but really she was timeless, like a dryad or something. You never asked her out due to your own insecurities and attachment styles. That, and the string of archetypal boyfriends she was always parading around: tall, muscular, tattooed, read the douchiest, most overdone poetry available, worked HVAC or some union job that you didn’t think had a union. They were always notably older than her, and they all had their own place into which she would move in after a couple weeks due to the fact that her dad was always on his own dates with younger women. These grooves were well dug, but the aesthetic was undeniable.
Everything about her was beauty. It all seemed to fit together. She was a collector, seeking out beauty to add it to the menagerie that was her. She just wanted to be near it. A vain thought you often had was in actuality, she saw the beauty in your mind and heart and she was drawn to it like a moth to flame: she craved it. But she couldn’t conjoin with you in a relationship because marginally handsome and unconfident didn’t cut it. The grim reality however was that these guys were doers. They didn’t ask questions and ponder the whys. They saw what they wanted and acted towards it. You carried weights around and resented the lightness of others.
Even now, as she approached the register, you still felt the cold, clear glass between you. And guilt gnawed at you, knowing you were the one that erected it.
“Hey Nicky,” Callie said.
You palms began to sweat. Colors became brighter. You were out here, outside of the typical binary of cashier script, where the edibles held dominion. “Hey, Cal,” you said. She wore cut off shorts and a lacey cover up over a bright pink bikini. Her strawberry blonde hair over freshly tanned and oiled skin was more than you were capable of handling. “Beach,” you said, not as a question, but with an autistic deadpan.
Pull it together, dude. “The beach,” I said. “How was it?”
“Oh yeah, I was there all day,” she said checking herself. “It was nice. You should have come out.”
Something felt sad about that. “Yeah I should have.” Don’t tell her you were playing WoW all day. The temptation was to blame it on work, or Lyss, or depression, but you just let that one go.
“How’s Lyss?” Callie asked while digging through her bag.
“She’s good,” you didn’t technically lie considering you didn’t actually know. You haven’t spoken to her since you called her drunk a couple weeks ago. She was pretty unhappy about it, looking back. Was she happier without you? Probably.
Just then, something clicked. For the first time in a millenia, change erupted from inside you. It came burgeoning out quicker than you could control it. “Actually,” you blurted. “Not good, we broke up.” Honesty?
“Oh,” Callie said, looking up from her bag and pulling up her sunglasses to reveal her endless green eyes. Power swirled within them and she seemed genuinely concerned. “That’s terrible. I get it. Derrick and I just broke up.”
Lightning ran through you. “Oh.” Easy, boy. Easy. “That sucks,” you said. “That was the carpenter?”
“No,” she said looking away. “He was with public works. It’s a shame you don’t remember him. You two seemed to get along that one time.” (You remembered the time. It was a backyard barbeque and you exchanged a handful of words.)
The power became uncontrollable. It surged through your body and once the genie was out of the bottle, there was no stopping it now. “We should go out,” you blurted. “Get a drink or something.”
The moment in between was surely an instant, but what is a moment to eternity? Her face lit up. “Absolutely,” she said and the choir of angels began to sing. “We could both really use a friend right now.”
Kill me. Wait a second, this is good. Good relationships should start as friends. A little therapist inside you said that you shouldn’t pursue someone with a specific goal in mind. It sounded like your mother. “Let’s go now,” you said.
She giggled. Her laugh was like a silver bell. “In the middle of your shift?”
“Yeah,” you said. “Let’s get out of here.” You were mostly serious. It might be the brownie, but you could feel the aether in the fabric of the world shifting around you.
You could have scarcely predicted that the homeless man from the parking lot would pop up next to Callie at the register in that moment. “Lad!” No. Not now. “You’ve done it! You’ve broken through.
“Nicky,” Callie said. “You know this guy?”
“No,” I said bristling with fear.
“Yes,” said the homeless man. “You’ve known me since the beginning.”