I once had a job restocking shelves from 10 p.m. to sunrise. At the end of each shift, my manager would ring a bell and shout, “Everything’s in stock, the only thing we’re out of is our mother fucking minds!” He’d be screaming this shaking his head with his jaw loose, always drooling a little. The bell was an old gold dinner bell and loud enough to be heard through all of the fluorescent aisles — not just heard, you’d have to plug your ears. It always made the sunrise over the empty parking lot that much more enjoyable.
At Christmas time, we’d still have to listen to the same Sinatra jingles CD on loop, despite the lack of customers. To this day, when I hear it, my knees get a little week and my finger-nails dig into my palms.
I’d run through conversations in my head about what would happen if one of the non-existent customers ever asked me a question about what isle the frozen dinners were in and I’d send her to the fruit and vegetable aisle. I loved doing that. I’d always send them to the fruit and vegetable aisle. Take that suckers, PEARS.
It’s times like this that lunch and dinner become something you used to do, when you reach for burnt coffee before you think to open your eyes, when you forget to have any relationships at all. At the time I thought the only person I could trust was my manager and his bell, and he’d come through every time, smiling wiping the drool off his sleeve. I was too tired to be sad and too exhausted to think about changing anything.
There was one day I left and Carina was outside with a cup of coffee. She said she couldn’t believe she had gotten up that early. I told her that I couldn’t believe it either. She took me to breakfast and it was weird to sit and eat, and order off a menu. I have to chose what I want? It required more thought than I had put into anything for a while.
She told me an omelette would do me good, that I could use the protein. She ordered for me and got me an orange juice, too.
I think I slept that night, and I don’t think I went back to work anymore.