I work in the Women’s section at Nordstrom at the mall.
That’s a lie. I work at Nordstrom Rack at the outlet. Not even real Nordstrom. Not even the real mall. I hate working this section for two reasons. First is the manager. I smell her before I hear her. It’s like she thinks she has to try every perfume they sell downstairs. Gives me a headache.
She yells to me from Misses. “Laurie!”
Actually, name is Laurel. I concentrate on getting all the hangers evenly spaced. Cleaning up the clothes racks are the best way to fake being busy. Plastic squeaks against metal poles. Somebody put a size eighteen dress in with the tens. I can’t blame the women who do that. It’s only wishful thinking.
There’s a karaoke contest right outside the downstairs entrance. Drowns out the fountains and the screaming kids and the annoying manager.
“Laurie!” she yells. Now she’s only four feet away. The perfume cloud she drags around like Pig Pen and his dirt sets the hair in my nostrils on fire. Her name is Madalyn.
“What’s up, Marilyn?”
“Madalyn.” She smiles. “Guess who’s next in line for that karaoke thing?”
I shrug my shoulders. Responding would require a deeper breath than I’m willing to take in her presence.
She doesn’t wait for an answer. “Troy. How cool is that?” She smiles big, all teeth, like she forgets I dumped him a few weeks ago.
“Lunch, Laurie.” She sings it. Manager Madalyn spins me around by the shoulders and pushes me toward the big entrance. “I already clocked you out.”
* * *
Troy. The second thing I hate about working here. He works in Men’s Shoes, opposite end as me, but I can see it from here. Don’t get me wrong, he’s pretty hot. Dark eyes, dark hair, not much taller than me, muscles, but not too bulky, and a great ass. I’ve caught him staring a few times.
We run into each other at employee meetings. A couple months ago he walked in and sat backwards in the chair in front of me. Straddled the seat with his arms folded over the plastic orange top. He stared at me and smiled, didn’t say anything, waited for me to talk. So I said, “Hi.” From then on he told people I was the one who approached him.
He cleared his throat. “So, uh, a bunch of us, uh, a bunch of us from shoes and housewares is going to see the new Katniss movie tonight. Wanna go with us?”
I should have said no, I should have said no, oh holy hell, I should have said no. But those eyes.
“Cool,” he said.
He showed up alone. “So, uh, the guys, uh, the guys punked out on me, man. Just you and me, kinda like a first date. That okay?”
I should have said no, I should have said no, oh holy hell, I should have said no. But those tight, tight jeans.
At the concession stand he bought popcorn and soda. A napkin floated to the floor when I pulled a bunch from the holder. That was the first time I noticed the shoes. He was wearing those awful chukkas. Hush Puppy boots. Whatever they’re called, I hate them. When I was fourteen my mom had a boyfriend who wore those things all the time. He made me call him Uncle Mason. Made me sit on his lap.
Troy stepped in front of me before I stood up and I got an eyeful of ass. He turned to hand me a drink and I got an eyeful of crotch bulge and I didn’t give two shits about those hideous shoes. After the movie we went to his place to drink whiskey and get stoned. We started making out, I stuck my hand down his pants, and then I straddled him right there on the couch. The next seven weeks were just booze, bowl, bang.
* * *
I’m almost to the escalators and the karaoke emcee announces Troy’s name. I stumble into a rack of scarves. They’re soft against my arm.
To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before. “This was our song.” He says over the intro, all dramatic like he’s gonna cry.
If by “our song” he means the song that was playing when we were sort of propped up against each other on a dance floor, drunk off our asses from tequila, him grinding the hard bulge in his jeans against the bone in my crotch and leaving it bruised and me lonely, and kissing me just as hard with boozy pot breath until my teeth vibrated, then okay. It was our song.
Outside, Anna from lingerie is smoking unfiltered Camels. I bum one and light up.
“Hey,” says Anna. “Didn’t wanna watch, either?”
I take a long, deep drag. She went out with him for a few weeks back in March.
“Like, how come you guys broke up and stuff?” she asks.
I exhale hard. “Aw, you know. Same shit.”
“I hear ya,” she says. “I gotta get back in. Here. Take one for the road.” She hands me another Camel, goes inside.
Truth is, there were so many reasons to ditch him. Little, shallow things, like how milk pooled at the corners of his mouth when he ate cereal and how he put toenail clippings in coke cans. Medium-sized, warning sign things, like how he started every other sentence with my mom says and how he thought college was for losers and how his idea of dinner on a date involved a drive-thru.
And then big things. Like how at the five week mark I walked into his apartment and found him naked on the living room floor with Missie Lambert from Cinnabon. “So, uh, me and Missie, uh, me and Missie was thinking maybe you’d get nekkid with us, but I wasn’t sure. How ‘bout it, babe?” That would have been a deal breaker for anybody else. I was pissed he’d underestimated my drive for summer sex. I stripped down and dove in. He was pissed because me and Missie made him leave. We locked him out of his own apartment.
* * *
I smash the cigarette against the concrete wall and go back up to the second floor entrance to watch the rest of the American Idol wannabes. The balcony rail is cold and rough where the paint is starting to crack.
Not the real Nordstrom, not the real mall.
They’re down to one guy singing his heart out. Open Arms. Troy is sitting in a special section for contestants. It’s roped off by pink and blue streamers, like the organizers stole it from a baby shower. There’s a streamer stuck to Troy’s right shoe.
That’s really it, you know. Why I dumped him. Those stupid, stupid shoes. Like how he’d walk around a puddle. “So, uh, the swede, uh, the swede will get discolored. Don’t wanna ruin ‘em, ya know?” Or how he had them all lined up by color against the wall next to his bed. Any idea how hard it is to have decent sex when those ugly things aren’t more than a foot away staring at you? It’s just wrong.
You’d think working in the shoe department and getting an employee discount he’d have better in his closet, but no. Three pairs, three different colors. No, make that four. He’s clearly wearing a new pair. He’d been saving up for the black leather. Same as Uncle Mason’s.
So yeah. I dumped his ass.
I’ve got fifteen minutes left on my break. I’m heading over to Cinnabon.
© 2015 Edee Lemonier