“What are you in the mood for?” Ralph asked. We skipped the outer wall, which housed all the new releases. They didn’t make them like they used to.
“What’s next on the list?” We’d been going through the AFI Top 100 Movies List, trying to pick out ones neither of us had seen yet. I couldn’t understand why 2001: A Space Odyssey had made the cut, while great films like Big Trouble in Little China had been snubbed. I guess that’s why I’m not a critic. I have good tastes.
We’d watched A Streetcar Named Desire last week, after which I’d considered suicide. And I probably would have done the deed, till I realized I hadn’t seen every movie on the list yet. You gotta have goals.
Ralph had been racking his brain. “I don’t remember what else’s on there. I can’t take anything heavy after last week.” He stuffed his hands in his pockets and rolled his shoulders forward like he always did. He was the only guy I knew who had to force himself to have bad posture.
“I thought he graduated.” I was referring to Timothy, the guy Jenn was talking to. I called him Tiny Tim for several reasons, not the least of which was his five-foot one-inch frame. Jenn and he had started dating a week after we’d had our fling. Even though Jenn and me breaking up had been the best thing for all parties concerned, I still saw Tim as her trade-up and hated him for it. He was also part of the fraternity scene, which I despised: little boys’ clubs that fostered the worst kind of mob mentality. Tim and Jenn had officially dated for a month or so before calling it quits, but I’m pretty sure they had kept the fringe benefits going.
“I thought you graduated,” Ralph came back at me.
“Yeah, but I was an English major that didn’t want to teach. My only option was grad school. He was a business major, so he should be working.”
“I thought you didn’t believe in double standards,” Ralph said.
“Only when it comes to other people.”
“I thought you were over Jenn.” It almost sounded like a question.
We walked down the Drama aisle. Two kids ran past us, one trailing the other and making his hand into a pretend gun. He sputtered, “Pow, pow, pow,” as he went by. I guess kids nowadays aren’t allowed to have toy guns—they might turn out to be ordinary citizens when they grow up.
“I don’t know if I was ever actually into Jenn,” I said.
“How long ago’d you date?” It was strange him asking me that. I mean, he’d been around for it.
“Couple of weeks at the end of March.”
Ralph nodded. “She doesn’t like Tim anymore.” There was something weird about him saying that. If anybody knew what Jenn was thinking, it was me, not him. The only time he hung out with her was when he hung out with me. They were like Elaine and George—no good unless Jerry was around too.
“And how long after her did you date Jenn?” Ralph asked.
Her. She had the distinction of being the only woman to ever break my heart. I don’t say her name, because for some reason I feel like that would cheapen things. It’s like I’m not supposed to talk about her: she’s the secret buried in my dark past. The Ilsa to my Rick.
“Jenn and me dated not long after. That was the problem. I was still out of my mind,” I said. “Weren’t you around for all this?”
He shook his head. “I was with Shell then, oblivious to everything.” Michelle and Ralph had dated for a few months. I’d never liked her, mainly because she was a bitch, didn’t like me, treated him like shit, didn’t like me, wore jeans that tended to show off a thong that didn’t need showing off, was really a bitch, and didn’t like me.
Other than that, did I mention she was a bitch?
She’d broken up with him two months ago, and he was going through what I had faced back in March. We referred to it as running into a buzzsaw.
Stevey, one of the store’s friendly employees stood before us, carrying two scores of DVDs in his arms. He had a baby face and a man’s body, like that big motherfucker in the third Mad Max movie who gets capped in the Thunderdome, so he appeared anywhere between fifteen and thirty years old, depending on where you looked at him.
“Hey, Stevey. Didn’t think you were working tonight,” I said, before I realized how pathetic it was I knew his schedule. A sure sign I needed to stop coming to the video store so much. And why the hell did they still call them video stores, anyways?
“They got rid of a couple of people this week, so they needed me.” He scrunched his face up, which pulled his thick-rimmed glasses back up his nose. It was a neat trick. “What are you guys renting?”
“Don’t know,” Ralph said.
“Did you see the sign I put up in the front of the store?” he asked.
I hadn’t, because I’d been too unnerved by the Girl Scouts. “No…”
Stevey put all the DVDs he was holding onto the shelf next to him. He leaned in conspiratorially and said, “I’m not supposed to tell anyone this, but I feel like you guys are part of the family you’re here so much.” I can’t say I was happy to be part of the family. “You guys remember Fred, right? Fred the weird looking dude…Anyway, they fired him for showing up late too many times. So he came in and switched a lot of the New Releases with the pornos. So if you get a new movie, open up the box to make sure the right movie’s in there. We didn’t find out until this afternoon that he’d done it. We’re getting a lot of angry calls.”
“Is that what you’re doing with all those DVDs?” I asked. “Checking them?”
“Yeah. And I better get back to work. It’s a mess.” He gave us a professional nod and moved past us.
“Shit,” Ralph said.
“Just made eye contact with Tiny Tim. Now I gotta go say hi.”
“Yeah, you’ve been having that problem all night.”
“Why don’t you cry about it?” Ralph chuckled and moved away.
“Hey, give Tim my worst.”