“Excuse me, just what do you think you’re doing?”
I contemplated how to answer this question. Did she mean right this very second? Because that much was obvious. I was seated at the bus stop, waiting, just like the rest of the sad saps around me. Maybe she was trying to be existential with me, and that was going to take a lot more thought. I mean, what am I —
“Well? You big creep!” She interrupted my thoughts, leaning over to yell in my face.
“Uh, hi? What’s the problem here?”
“You’ve been staring at my breasts every since you came out of that old closed down bar!” I stopped looking at my accusers breasts long enough to throw a look of confusion her way.
“What do you mean ‘old and closed down’? I always go and –” I cut myself off, having turned back towards my favorite bar, and seeing what I saw now. The bar I had just come out of, besides being empty, now looked as if it had advanced 10 full neglectful years in the span of just 10 minutes. The windows were dusted over, random panes missing, with bits of wood lazily placed across the entire display. Boarded up. Convinced that my drunken eyes were playing a trick on me, I climbed to my feet, stepped around the jabbering brunette, and made my way back to the bar.
Peering inside, I was instantly reminded of some of the deserted small towns I had driven through while driving the country. I even half expected some tumble weeds to roll across the street. What was this? I mean, not even 15 minutes ago, I had come out of what I knew to be Liquids, the bar I frequented at least once a day. Sometimes more. Okay, usually more. The tattered, run down, piece of shit in front of me, while looking every bit the part of my favorite bar, certainly had the vibe that it had be uninhabited for quite some time. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. There were even boards across the door frame, barring my entrance, even though my growing curiosity told me to go back inside. Had I crawled through them on my way out?
My hand had just grazed the faded polish of the door handle when I heard the unmistakable growl of Jordan’s shitty old Ford Tempo, bouncing to a stop along the curb, exhaust wheezing away. The mystery of Liquids was going to have to wait for another time. I walked past the still upset brunette to the edge of Jordan’s grey Tempo, and jutted my thumb out into the air. Jordan stared at me, obviously unimpressed. I wiggled the thumb.
“Get in, you idiot.” I threw my leg over the window and crawled through, feet first, as Jordan expressed some sort of displeasure at the maneuver. “Hey! Watch it man. The hell?” Plopping down, I looked over at my good buddy. He waved his matted blonde hair out of his face, revealing his sunken eyes, which were currently expressing a wounded look. Jordan looked like what one would expect of a Wilson brother / Jonah Hill lovechild. I could never decide if he was more Owen or Luke. What I did know, is that he did not possess the same wit as either one, as his personality reminded me more of a dead puppy. You think it’s kinda cute until you get up close and realize that it kinda stinks and happens to be devoid of life. Okay, that might be the beer talking. Jordan could be a stick in the mud, sure, but he always came through for me in a pinch.
“Thanks for picking me up man. And don’t worry, your leather is fine,” I said, propping my foot on the dash in front of me. “Just fine.” As we started to pull away, I threw my head out the window.
“Bye! See you later!” I yelled out, waving to the brunette’s bosom. Nice pair. Forgot to tell her that. Next time, I thought, as her middle finger stood and stretched. Ducking back into the car, I rested my head on the head rest.
“So, where we goin’? I got the beer munchies. Les’go get some sort of meat.” Jordan looked over at me, frowning.
“Chuck, what are you doing man? You can’t keep doing this to yourself. It’s not fun anymore dude. It’s starting to get a little pathetic.” Jordan’s voice faded into the background as I sighed and pinched the bridge of my nose. I mean, he’s a good guy, but he had this innate ability to give way too many shits about what everyone else is doing. Wish he would concern himself over, well, himself more. I wasn’t in the mood to deal with another one of his naggings. His voice still hung in the air, but I attempted to drown it with my own.
“Trying to change the subject here. You know Liquids?”
Jordan, now irritated, snapped back at me. “You mean where I just picked you up? No, never heard of it.” His eyes flashed at me before returning to the road. “You only waste seemingly every free second you have there. I’m serious, when are you going to quit drinking yourself stupid and learn to deal with what happened like a normal person?”
I let the air grow still. Jordan figured he had cut me deep with that statement, so I played along, facing out the window and watching the row of houses scoot by. From the direction we were headed, I guessed that snacks weren’t in my immediate future. Looked like we were heading back to Jordan’s work. As we pulled into the lonely strip mall parking lot, I broke my silence.
“Don’t think you have to worry about me going back to that bar anyways,” I said, stepping out and slamming the car door as hard as I could, as this was the only way to close it. “When I was in there just today, everyone disappeared, and then they closed for good while I was waiting for you to pick me up. Guess I’m going to have to go 16 Scandals from now on.”
“What are you talking about? First, 16 Scandals doesn’t even serve alcohol. That’s an 18 and under club.”
“Oh, so you’ve never heard of pre-gaming?”
“Second, what do you mean it’s closed? We were just there.”
“Yeah, but in the time I was waiting for you and flirting with that brunette (she was totally into me, by the way), Liquids, just like, closed man. It was weird. Like it instantly changed.” I pondered this, chewing at my bottom lip for a second. “Wonder if it had to do anything with that old man who said everything and everyone was about to die. Real cheerful soul, that one.”
“I really don’t have time for this.” We had made it in the entrance, and I tried to follow the quickening pace of Jordan as he strode towards his store. “My break was over five minutes ago. You can just hang out or whatever. Shift is done in a couple hours.” He ducked into Radioshack and took up his place behind the counter, pausing to release a heavy sigh before pulling his face back into a smile and greeting the 80 year old customer whose daily visits concerning over the air antennas never did result in a purchase.
I walked around the edge of the store, running my fingers along the shelves. I loved being in this store. Radioshack is the store that the late 90’s forgot. I had no idea how they were still in business, as I swear I had only seen Jordan sell watch batteries, but I was always thoroughly entertained by what they had in stock. Picking up a VHS rewinder, I couldn’t help but laugh at the $20 price tag beneath it. Setting the incredibly useful relic down, I stepped towards the remote control cars. I scooped up the display model and remote. Glancing back to the kiosk, I saw Jordan explaining to the old man for the 15th time that if one was to get an HD antenna, an HD television would be needed. Jordan would be explaining all things high definition for the next twenty minutes, so I knew he wouldn’t notice my next move.
I stepped out into the main area and looked down the hall. There were about 10 stores from here to the other end of the mall, but felt like less. There was no sugarcoating it, this mall was tiny. Dropping the RC Car onto the ground, I had it keep up with me as I started wandering towards the other stores.