June 21, 2010 § 3 Comments
I didn’t feel like cooking so I stopped off to get a pizza on my way home from work. As I surveyed my options, I said hello to the red-haired girl behind the counter, who smiled brightly as she waited to take my order.
“Are you having a good day today?” she asked. I wasn’t sure how to respond to the question, so I answered “I am now that it’s almost over,” which I figured was honest at least. The red-haired girl took this as an invitation to talk, which hadn’t been my intention but which I understand is part of the social contract one enters into when one orders pizza.
“Oh, I wish my day was almost over,” she said, still smiling, although now perhaps a little too brightly. Before I could ask she volunteered, “My shift just started.” I looked at the clock on the wall and then back at her, noticing that her uniform included the indignity of a bow and that she was wringing her small, freckled hands.
“Do you work here full-time?” I asked, thinking that she was too young to be working anywhere full-time, and she nodded vigorously. Upon closer inspection, her smile was more of a grimace, her straight, white teeth clenched tightly into position. Fishing in my bag for my cigarettes, I wondered if her jaw hurt.
“Yes, I work here full-time. With men.” She jerked her head in the direction of the pizza ovens behind her. “All men.” As she said this, she laughed nervously through her gate of teeth and I realized that she was on the verge of a service industry breakdown. I smiled sympathetically, remembering the shitty jobs I had when I was her age and how incomprehensible the future seemed. “It’ll get better,” I said, hoping that it would. “Besides, your shift will be over before you know it.”
She called in my order and then leaned in toward me. “Do you know what I do to get through the day?” I shook my head “no”, curious but also wishing that I could put our conversation on pause to duck outside for a smoke. The yellows and oranges of the pizza place were getting to me, but the red-haired girl was determined to confess. As a gesture of solidarity, I let her.
“Sometimes, I think about killing them.” She jerked her head backward again and laughed a brittle laugh, her blue eyes locked on mine. “All of them. One by one. With a knife.” I smiled at her weakly, watching the men she fantasized about stabbing obliviously stretching out pizza dough over her shoulder. All I could think of to say was “Well, whatever works.”