Travis • pt. 1
There was one other employee on my closing shift. He seemed like someone I could easily confide in. He was ten years older, and didn’t know anything about me. To me, he was perfect. Aloof, yet attentive, and just the right amount of mysterious. He had a close cropped haircut, and army boots. Sometimes he’d wear dark cashmere sweaters and his chest hair would be visible in the v of the neck. I took very careful notice of every single part of his body that was different than the boys at my school. He was wiry, but it fit him perfectly. He was bruised, and soft, both inside and out.
He’d make the hairs on my neck stand up whenever i felt him near me. He smelled like liquor and I was instantly attracted. We’d share his clove cigarettes on the sidewalk in front of the store. I’d tell him about the new boy I was kissing and he seemed interested to listen to such an innocent story.
He showed me his car, which was pieced together of parts he found at various junkyards. In the backseat lay 14 or 15 copies of various vampire novels he’d collected over the years and what seemed like endless boxes of rare horror films on VHS.
In his early 20s, he spent several years in Texas making late night deliveries and regularly smoking meth to stay awake. Eventually, he moved back to Pennsylvania to straighten his life out. I later learned that his parents were supporting him financially until he could get back on his feet.
He’d been sleeping with an unhappily married German woman who was a regular customer in the store. They’d have sex in the dressing rooms and in the parking lot after the store was closed. He told me this late one night on the phone while we were both drunk- me on sweet wine and him on the cheapest bottom shelf whiskey he could find. He said that he’d been having rough sex with 10 or 12 married women in town, many of them with children older than I was, and it made me jealous. He was the first person I ever knew who had a love addiction. Fuck it- he had an EVERYTHING addiction. But I didn’t mind- I was sweet, 16, and innocent. He exhaled the kind of mystery I thought I’d been craving, and I wanted to inhale it.
He lived in a made up world- probably to escape the fucked up one that he’d created for himself. He’d fuck any woman and drink anything he could get his hands on. He wanted to truly be wanted. He wanted to be in love, but he’d never be in control.
At the end of every shift, he was instructed to watch me count the money from the register and lock the extra in the safe in the back office. We would lock the doors and close the blinds. We’d rock back and forth on the rolling desk chairs, talking and laughing until our shift was over. Sometimes, I’d lift my skirt up and touch my legs, hoping he’d notice.
I always thought that if he wanted me, I’d feel accomplished. He’d bite his lip while he looked at me and called me darling. We’d talk on the phone almost every night after I finish my homework, and he a bottle of Scotch. His voice would begin to fade every night around 9 pm- when the blackout silence would kick in from the liquor. Sometimes he would yell in a drunken rage. He’d call me a slut, cunt, anything he could mumble. Other times, we’d have phone sex and I’d fall asleep to the thought of his pale body on mine, kissing me the way that a man should kiss a woman he loves.
He didn’t remember most nights, but I clung to the conversations like scribbled notes on loose leaf paper- trying to organize the memories into the right scenarios that would eventually become love. Meanwhile, I had been creating a relationship with a boy at school. One that would last almost 1/3 of my life.
Because of this, I felt guilty and ashamed. I knew that I couldn’t do this dance for much l longer with him. Soon after I quit, I heard rumors that he’d hung himself in his studio apartment near Lancaster. I later found out this wasn’t true.
He’d send me flowers and letters and packages every now and then. I still have a softcover book he’d given me of 1920s movie star portraits. To this day, it sits on my coffee table for guests to flip through.
Eventually, he’d move to Florida and I’d visit him the week after my college graduation.
For almost 8 years, we’d play phone tag with our hearts and feelings, off and on until it was over.