Before Eleven

He stands there watching you, and you wonder why he’s looking at you like that. You’re going red in the face, but you won’t look him in the eye. This is all wrong, you say to yourself.  It’s absolute stupidity; that’s what it is. Stop thinking about him.  He’s not worth your time.  Forget about it. What would they think if they knew?  Oh wait.  You don’t care what anyone thinks, remember? 

He doesn’t care. He can’t care. How could he possibly care?  No way.  This doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell, and you know it.  Stop dreaming.  And stop texting him.  You tell yourself you don’t need any more late nights. Why’d you give him your number in the first place? Go home when they say you can leave and stop hanging around like a little puppy dog waiting for her treat.  It’s pathetic. He can see right through you.   

∞∞∞∞∞

You go in at four one afternoon happy you only have four hours until you go home. But they ask you if you can work until close.  You figure it’s an extra hour and a half.  An extra ten dollars. Woo-hoo.  Stupid minimum wage job.  When do you get that raise again?  Five minutes down.  Five hours and twenty-five minutes to go.  Then you’ll be on your way home to shower and sleep.  With any luck, you’ll be in bed by eleven o’clock.  With luck, that is.

You go sweep the floor and wash the dishes and scrub the cutting boards and dress some sandwiches and wash more dishes and portion chicken and portion pasta and sweep again and wipe down tables and make a pizza and sweep and work the register and sweep some more.  You don’t want to be here tonight.  It just hasn’t been your week.  You love your job…most of the time.  Tonight’s just not that night.  Smile at the customers.  Say hello.  You’ll be fine. Why is it so hot in here?  You wipe your forehead.  Why do you smell like pickles? You hate pickles.  Or you do now.  Ever since you started working here.  

It’s eight o’clock.  One hour and thirty minutes and you can lock the door.  Better start sweeping the lobby.   Might be a good idea.  The door swings open, and a whole family walks in.  You wonder why anyone would want to come get sandwiches at eight in the evening.  To annoy you, that’s why. They’re all conspiring against you, so you don’t get out on time. That’s what it is.  You dress, wrap, and ring up ten sandwiches.  That’s a lot of food.  Do-you have-a-punch-card-with-us-would-you-like-any-chips-drinks-cookies-or-brownies-with-that-all-righty-your-total-will-be-fifty-four-seventy-eight-thank-you-have-a-good-night.  They leave. And you sweep.

He’s a goofball.  He really is, singing along with the radio like that.  You’re surprised he doesn’t scare away all the customers.  You tell yourself to stop thinking about guys and just work.  The lobby and the bathrooms still need mopped.  Hop to it, kid.  Thirty minutes to go. 

Twenty minutes later, you’re cleaning the pizza oven and pasta steamer. At exactly nine-twenty, three people come in—a dad and two kids.  Isn’t it past their bedtime?  So much for your getting home early. You ring them up. Thank-you-very-much-have-a-good-night. Now leave.   

Thirty minutes later you have finished up dishes, wrapped the soups, and turned off all the burners.  Last minute check on everything.  Bring in the dumpster from outside so no crazy person tries to steal it.  He sets the alarm and locks the door.  You have your keys out as you walk outside.  Mom always said to have your keys out and ready when you walk out into a parking lot at night.  And you listen just like the good daughter you are.  Head for your car. You think he’s going to get in his car too, but he doesn’t.  It’s lightening in the distance, and the wind is blowing a bit, but it’s not raining yet.  He stands with you leaning up against Fred—you’re crazy like that, naming your car.  And you talk.  He inches a bit closer to you, and you do the same. Your arms are touching. Why are you doing that?  You should stop right now.  Your logic tells you to stop being so promiscuous.  But you tell yourself that this doesn’t really count as being promiscuous.  And you’ve already established that your brain doesn’t listen to logic.  You should go home.  Tell him you have to go.  But you don’t want to.  So you stay.  He starts talking about how after college he wants to go to Dallas.  “I’m gonna get outta here.” But isn’t that what they all say?  It makes you sad to think of him being that far away.  What are you doing? Stop thinking about that.  You watch the lightening for a bit.  You feel a few raindrops.  He turns and looks at you with a grin on his face.  “Are you ticklish?” No, of course not, you say. He doesn’t believe you. And so begins the tickle war.  But that’s okay. Because he’s ticklish too.  Your side hurts from laughter.  He puts his arm around you.

Wait. Hold everything. How did that happen? You knew it was going to happen.  But how did that happen? What are you doing?  “I don’t know about this,” he says. You don’t know either. Your logic is screaming at you to go home.  Avoid complications. But his arm is still around you.  “We have to think about this. I’ll at least get fired first or something…” You laugh. He does too.  You lay your head on his shoulder. You shouldn’t, but you don’t care.  And it’s kind of chilly. That’s your excuse if anyone asks—Mom, I would have gotten hypothermia if I hadn’t…  “I don’t want this to be weird…” Stop freaking out, you say, it’s okay. His arm is still there.  Somehow you end up facing each other.  “I can tell you want me to make the first move, but I’m not going to,” he says. Yeah. That’s why his hands are on your waist and there’s only an inch between your faces. Stubborn idiot. “I’ve never kissed anybody in the rain before.” Well, that’s sad, you say. “Why? Because we’re not kissing?” He’s serious now. You nod your head and smile up at him, your arms around his neck.   And he puts his forehead against yours.  “I’m not sure about this.” You tell him to stop saying that.  He leans in and hesitates, pulling away. Damn it, you say. “You know what? I should really be standing over here.” And he moves about two feet away, hands in his pockets. But you touch his arm.  And you’re back to where you were before, his hands on your waist.  “Stop looking at me with those big ole’ innocent blue eyes of yours,” he says.  You blush.  And he slowly leans in to kiss you.  And you don’t know what to think, because it’s raining steadily now.  But you don’t care.  You let him. And for that moment, you’re not ashamed of that.  You want nothing more than to stay there forever, lightening and all, because he’s sweet and kind and gentle, and no one has ever treated you like this before. 

He pulls away. You give him a quick kiss on the cheek. He’s feverish. “We have to think about this.” You get in your separate cars and drive off.  He’s right. You do have to think. 

It’s eleven o’clock.

The End

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