Animal Crackers

The thunderstorm ended, so I went to the grocery store – a five minute walk if I got lucky with the traffic light. Otherwise the time would jump up to six minutes because I was on the wrong side of the intersection. An additional minute isn’t a huge deal, I got that, but it was enough time for someone to strike up a conversation with me when I wasn’t up for one.

“Why are you wearing a beanie in June?” the guy waiting next to me asked. He was on a blue framed bike and his helmet was covered in Avery stickers.

“The AC at my place is cranked down to sixty.”

“Why so cold?”

“That’s how my landlord wants it. He lives with me.”

“That sucks, dude,” he said. He then adjusted the helmet’s neck strap. The light turned green and the guy peddled away.

I had fifteen dollars for groceries to get me through the next four days. Buying in bulk got you the best deal, at least where I lived, and at least for some things like brown rice and peanut butter. No need for bottled water, that’s what faucets were for. I also ran out of chips and cookies the day before. I had rediscovered my love for animal crackers and the grocery store sold them by the jug. Only that night the jugs were no longer on sale.

Ten people waited before me in the self check out line. I looked to the cashier stations and saw they all were free. The guy working the closest cashier station waved me over.

“What’s with the beanie?” he asked.

“The AC at my place is cranked down to sixty. I forgot I had this on when I left,” I said.

“Why so cold?”

“My landlord wants it –.” I stopped because the cashier was laughing. He reached underneath the register and placed the helmet covered in Avery stickers on his head.

“I didn’t even recognize you,” I said.

“No worries man, if it wasn’t for your beanie I wouldn’t have recognized you either.”

I nodded and watched him scan the rice and peanut butter and corn chips I bought instead of the animal crackers in a jug.

“You find everything you need?” he asked.

“When are those jugs of animal crackers going back on sale?” I asked.

“Not sure, if they were on sale last week I don’t think they’ll be back on for a while.”

I paid and he handed me the plastic bag with my food. Outside the sky was gray again from the storm clouds that were coming from over the mountains.

Back at the house the AC was still cranked down to sixty. I put the food away and sat on the couch for several hours, through the storm. I thought about going back to the store without my beanie and back to the cashier with a jug of animal crackers, just to see if he would recognize me, just to see if the animal crackers happened to be on sale.

Basement Scene

I was in the hospital, the emergency room, waiting. Waiting for an update on the something that happened. I wasn’t alone – Justin was there too, just as he was when the something happened. We called a Lyft driver to follow the ambulance that came to take Toby away.

I really can’t explain, that something that happened. It’s easy to describe what happened before it – the party, the beer pong and band playing AC/DC covers in the basement. Toby played bass guitar for the band. He stepped out onto our porch during intermission. The clock struck midnight minutes before and the bitter cold air greeted us into the New Year.

“2013,” Toby said. He smoked just like the rest of us. Between breaths and the smoke it seemed as if we could see the time rise and disappear.

“Thanks again for playing tonight,” I said. Toby and his band had a chance to play New Year’s Eve at a bar downtown. He convinced the rest of his band to play in my basement. We charged five dollars a head and over fifty people came.

Justin was out on the porch too. He was the lead singer. He sang “Highway to Hell,” right before midnight. Out on the porch he took a quick drag from his girlfriend’s cigarette and told Toby to come back into the basement for a couple more songs.

“We could’ve made more,” he said to Toby. This was probably true. I stayed outside and finished my cigarette with some people I didn’t know. The lights flickered and screams came from inside.

I ran downstairs to the basement and saw Toby unconscious with his bass across his chest. Everyone had a different story. He blacked out. He shocked himself. He mixed the wrong substances.

And that’s why Justin and I were in the emergency room, waiting. We didn’t know what happened, and we wanted to know. I was very worried about Toby, I was. I also wanted to know if it, the something, was somehow my fault. If the wiring in the basement was faulty. If I pressured him into taking one shot too many. I really, really hoped it wasn’t my fault. I was worried for Toby, but I really hoped it wasn’t my fault.

Guys In Their Hoodies

I’m a man of the times. The most popular TV shows? I watch them. I watch them on Hulu and Netflix and HBO Go. I watch them on my own time because I’m a guy who bends his time for no one. Hozier and Kendrick Lamar are my go-to artists on Spotify. I created radio stations for both of them. I deleted my Green Day and Blink-182 playlists because they’re no longer part of the times.

I wear slim blue jeans and I cuff the legs. I typically go for v-neck t-shirts, though the patterned button-down shirts also catch my attention. They’re becoming part of the times and I need to keep up.

I also wear a slim, solid blue hoodie. I bought it when I decided to become a man of the times. The hoodie I own is the kind you see in ordinary photographs posted on Instagram and Facebook. The kind that in twenty years the kids – my kids, possibly – will look back and ask “that was the style then?” and I’d say “Yes, and I owned one just like it.”

I’d also say something like, “I wore that hoodie on the commute to work, because at my office we wore what we wanted. This was when companies grew more and more lax about their dress codes to make up for the expanding work days.” And I wouldn’t be exaggerating. I’d say “I worked with two other guys who wore slim solid-color hoodies just like me. Once I joked we were like Huey, Dewey and Louie.”

Shoot, that was dumb, I wouldn’t say that. I know that reference is no longer of the times.

Instead I’d say something like, “I wore that hoodie when I went with my friends to the bars. I always pushed for college bars since they had the best specials and I’d fit right in because I was a man of the times.” Again I wouldn’t be exaggerating. I’d say “All the guys in their hoodies would play pool and hit on the girls and buy them expensive beers. Myself included.”

I really hope those don’t go out of style. I enjoy wearing mine, I really do. But if the time comes where guys no longer wear slim, solid-blue hoodies I guess I’ll have to throw in the towel. Or should I say, throw in the hoodie. Get it?

How I Almost Picked Up a Girl With My Pokemon T-Shirt

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“Love the shirt,” this girl to my side said. She played with her black ponytail while sipping a margarita.

“Birthday gift from my roommate,” I said. I was lying of course. I wasn’t about to tell this girl my mom sent me a Pokemon t-shirt.

She smiled and turned on the stool to face me. “I had Pokemon blue,” she said.

“Me too!” I said.

“Who did you start with?” she asked.

“Let’s say ours together,” I said.

“One…two… three!” we said.

“Bulbasaur,” I said.

“Charmander,” she said.

“Really? I always thought Charmander kinda sucked,” I said. I finished the White Russian in my hand and waved the bartender for another.

“No he didn’t,” she said.

“Of course he did,” I said. “He sucked against Brock. Scratch did shit against Geodude and Onix.”

The bartender set another White Russian on the counter. I started sipping.

This girl looked down to her margarita. “You don’t have to be so rude.”

“I’m just being honest,” I said.

“They’re not mutually exclusive,” she said. I watched her stand up and walk away.

I stayed at the bar and finished my drink. I’m serious when I say this barcade was cheap. The people huddled around the different games – Q-bert, the Simpsons, Caterpillar. – playing for fifty cents a pop. Only the most popular games were a quarter more.

And the girl was playing the Simpsons by herself. I could play second, I thought. We’d be a team, and I could show her that I’m not an asshole. I reached into my pocket and saw that I had fifty cents left. Perfect.

“Close me out,” I told the bartender. He nodded and passed my bill of eighteen dollars.

I walked to the Simpsons game where this girl was still playing. “I can join you, I got the fifty cents,” I said.

“It’s seventy-five,” she said without looking away from the screen.

“Ok,” I said and left.

The kicker of it all – I first chose Charmander. I don’t know why I lied. After loosing to Brock several times I started a new game and chose Bulbasaur. Much, much easier.

Waiting at Photocopier

You stand at the photocopier, waiting for the fifty pages of reports to print. Only you think it’s fifty pages, it could be more. It’s not like you checked on the preview menu how many pages were to print.

Your co-worker walks over, the girl who sits across from you. You two never say anything, thought you’ve been cube neighbors for almost a month.

“You’re not going to take long are you?” she asks.

“Nope, almost done,” you say. You’re lying. You have not a damn clue how many pages your printing and when you’ll be finished.

“Ok, otherwise I’d just go to another printer. It’s just one page,” she says.

The pressure is on. You start to sweat, hoping that each printed page will be the last. She folds her arms and shifts her weight to onto her left leg. You see her growing impatience, yet you are helpless. You stare straight at the printer, avoiding her eyes. You feel ashamed.

You estimate how many pages have been spitted out and start counting from there. What feels like an hour has only been a minute if that. You turn your head and glance down the hall, hoping something will distract you, but there’s nothing save a closed office door.

Without saying a word she walks back to her cubicle. You’ve failed. She now thinks you’re a liar. The first time you say something to her and it’s a lie.

A loud, piercing beep comes from the printer, you lean over to the small screen to see what’s the matter. There’s a paper jam. You are an analyst, and therefore not authorized to fix the printer. You’re not sure what page the report stopped at, and decide to trash the printed pages and send the report to a different printer. You’re ashamed at yourself for unintentionally lying to your female cube neighbor, and for killing trees.