I looked at my surroundings and wondering why I had bothered to move back to this place. The suburb I had spent most of my life in wasn’t shy of retail shops, movie theaters, restaurants, schools, and a number of other amenities; I personally preferred the city that it hovered just outside of. The restaurant that had just hired me, we can just call it the Tourist Trap Café, had it’s own style of décor, its own little retail shop, its own brand of patrons, and sat in a mall in my little suburbia that some could say was a thing of bland consumerism all its own. The little college town I had spent the past two years in was something of a refresher from the staleness of my current environment. I wondered why I had moved back to here.
Then I remembered. I was going to college at the expense, and the insistence, of my parents. Though they, old and lame as they seemed, meant well, I preferred the slightly larger amount of freedom I had when I lived at an address more than just within a short amount of driving distance away from them. I had been hired along with about a little more than a dozen other people.
Management had chosen a few hours before the opening of the Café on a Sunday morning for all of us to go through a brief orientation. Most of the new hires that surrounded me planned to take their place waiting tables in the Café itself, some of the rest had plans to cook and bus tables back in the kitchen, and what was left over, myself included, would be put back in the retail area. The manager that led the orientation, having had a previous position at Disneyland, likened working at the Café to working at his old job, “…don’t spoil the magic…” he emphasized. The Café had a jungle theme in its furnishings, and it was the kind of place where Midwesterners that didn’t get out much, and a host of other folks, came to grab an overpriced burger and have a good time.
Personally, I thought the frills were all a little garish and overwrought. I looked around at the other new hires that surrounded me. A few girls who looked like they could care less about the manager’s little spiel looked like a better option as far as one to grab a burger and a good time with.
However, as far as girls go, I have always been the quiet type, and have never been one to make the first move. I took my place behind the cash register in the small adjacent gift shop quietly, and when I noticed a barely legal blond with a certain quality that seemed to evoke images of Marilyn Monroe out of The Seven Year Itch, I didn’t say anything. Now, when I say image of Marilyn Monroe, I don’t mean stunning beauty. This girl was pretty, but with just a little bit of cellulite and hair a shade less blond, she was a little bit less than an image of iconic loveliness.
With that out of the way, what one did notice about the girl was a naïveté that most people would either find endearing or irritating. You could tell her to count the money out of the register and leave two hundred dollars in it to drop into in the safe, and she would do the exact opposite. One evening, I was counting out the servers’ tip outs to enter into a spreadsheet, and when she left, my manager looked at me and said, “Why did you let her do that? Look at all this change!” For just one barely-legal blond, Mandy could make herself into a whole army of distraction. It was on one such afternoon when I was just standing in my place being quiet when a whole lot of distraction came up right next to me and asked me if I felt like just hanging out sometime. I’m not sure what my answer was, but she handed me her number before I could even think to ask for it. I was never one that was good at lying to people to please them, so being quiet was always my way to make sure no one noticed.
I think I lost her number on purpose. That didn’t deter her. Before I could think that she was too innocent to know what she was doing, or to realize why I was so quiet, I had her number in my hand again, “…call me,” she insisted. She was so cute, so distracting, and so seemingly harmless in her pure expression of feminine energy, and I was so unable to resist. After a few brief phone conversations, we made plans to meet on the weekend. I had dated guys, had mostly male friends, had been pretty closeted, but had always really liked women. I have always been pretty successful at keeping to myself, so when I told my mostly male circle of friends that I other plans, no one asked a lot of questions.
Mandy was sitting in the passenger seat of my car, and I was just staring at the road, suggesting going out for coffee, and trying to think of something else to say when she broke the ice with, “So what do you really want to go do?” A couple of scenes involving Jenna Jameson and Kobe Tai ran through my mind and I started to stutter as I stumbled for something that could at least be some kind of a semblance of an appropriate response. A tiny smile crossed her face as she reiterated with the same innocent, feminine insistence, “…so what do you really want to go do?”
“I want to **** the **** out of you,” was my honest response. Her face was an arrangement of awe. Apparently, things that involved the selection of adult toys in some of the specialty shops just outside our little suburbia weren’t on the list of things she had thought that she really wanted to do. She laughed a surprised little laugh and replied with, “I just wanted to go get drunk.” She had thought I was old enough to make that happen, and her insistence that she was straight made me think that my suggestion wasn’t about to occur. I had a few friends, and I had a little bit of gullibility of my own, so I appeased her inclination.
Back at my place, a few beers later, we were talking about how she was too innocent to go home with someone and not realize that they might not be straight, and about a few Freudian slips I had around other straight women in the past. I have since gotten better at hiding who I really am, but I had a talent for being honest in all the wrong places for the longest time. Most of what Mandy and I talked about revolved around how I was outed by accident at nine. I was always the quiet one that the others ridiculed, and no one really makes the effor to teache you that gay people are evil if you don't happen to follow the religion of the majority; so, whenever someone cute and female happened by at an inopportune moment, I didn’t know any better. The rest of the conversation revolved around her and her short list of sexually inexperienced boyfriends. There were about three.
Though most of the relationships never went anywhere, and though she still lived with her parents, she wasn’t a virgin, nor was she (thankfully) jailbait. She told me about a time when her mom walked in on her **** one of her boyfriends and kicked her out of the house, and that they were moving at the end of the summer. I was only a bit older than her, but I had always thought that a person’s sexual adventures were okay if they fit into the heterosexuality box.
Always being the lgbt person that ended up being the punchline never gave me the opportunity to realize that not everyone is as they seem. A few more beers passed between us. We were sitting on my futon playing footsie, having nothing much more left to say, and then my naïve straight co-worker realized that she had to be at church in the morning. I wasn’t sure how we ended up playing footsie on my futon with less than what we were wearing when we weren’t drunk, and I wasn’t sure what kind of fury her mother would unleash if she though that anything that was not heterosexual had happened, but I was sure of an opportunity when I saw one.
I was grazing my fingers along her back, having heard a male friend of mine say, “…if you do this all over a girl for at least an hour, she will want to have sex…” She seemed to like what I was doing, and not nearly as much as an hour had passed when I asked her if any woman had ever made her feel that way before. After a little conversation, she asked, “…this won’t go out of this room, will it?” I promised that it wouldn’t, and I drove her home in the morning. If it weren’t for the little bit of awkwardness we had around each other, no one ever would have known.
I wasn’t the only person at my workplace that wasn’t straight, and a little awkward silence never stops anyone from gossiping about other people. I was folding t-shirts when the other not so straight girl that worked with me asked about my experience. The most obvious question was whether or not I got very far; I let her interpret my expression, and she didn’t really respond. I heard later that the two of them just hung out a few times, and that my not so straight co-worker didn’t bother to tell Mandy that she wasn’t straight before she got her drunk. My not so straight co-worker and I looked enough alike that most of management had trouble telling us apart, but I’m not sure how much we really had in common.
I used to hear stories about what a few of my other co-workers did on their weekends, and even a few admissions about things of an illegal psychotropic nature being snorted in certain storage rooms, and I know that management heard the same stories I did; but, the gossip about me was the story that management seemed to be the most concerned with.
It wasn’t long after Mandy and I had just hung out on the weekend that my working environment became something other that what it seemed to have been when I started. Never mind that the kind of coke the bussers were having in the back of the kitchen wasn’t the kind that comes with a red label, the plentiful acronyms most of management must have learned in supervisory school taught them to pay attention to the not so straight person in the tiny little gift shop that most everyone passed by on their way to the food they really wanted; as if my not being so straight was so important.
It wasn’t until one of my managers accessed my cash register just before I came up short that I stopped being quiet and quit. The money in my register normally didn’t have a habit of getting up and leaving; and, since I was sure that it couldn’t have, I got up and left instead. I’ve lost track of Mandy since then, but I did notice a CD with her name on it under my register on the evening that some of the money in my register decided to go for a little walk.
By then, Mandy had moved to a town small enough to make certain explorations into alternative sexuality difficult. The CD looked like something she had burned herself. I did try to reach her in order to return it; I don’t think I ever had the chance. There were a few times when we planned to meet, but something always got in the way. I last few times I heard from her, she said that her boyfriend had gotten her pregnant. I’m not sure what happened to her, or if she’s still living in that little town, but I don’t think that the Café management’s response to our little weekend was really her fault. I had just never been the type to hide things about myself to please others, and I don’t think that I realized that there was anything “wrong” with me until the first time some girl decided to tell everyone about it. I guess people can think what they want, and I guess it’s up to those of us who aren’t what others want us to be to try not to be so naïve.
The last time I heard from Mandy, she said she was going to keep her baby. I’m not if I would have made the same choice myself, but I guess the best decisions are the ones people make for themselves; and, I guess it's funny how things turn out.