“Have a Nice Day”
“Have a nice day,” Dorothy says while handing me change and a plastic bag full of items that should’ve indicated just how nice the rest of my day would be. I don’t know Dorothy, but I know her name because of the small tag pinned on her red vest. And I think she recognizes me. We see each other now and again in Walgreens. I am the customer; she’s the employee. Dorothy looks to be about fifty, with deep wrinkles from years of Arizona sun and cigarette smoke. She has that voice, someone who has spent years sitting at bars, smoking an entire pack of cigarettes.
I can imagine where she lives, off one of the major drags in Tucson—in a trailer or a small shitty apartment. What else can a Walgreens employee afford? Believe me, I feel bad for her. She’s my mother’s age but has nothing my mother has. In my mind she has off-brand margarita mix, faded lawn-chairs, and shitty desert artwork hanging on her trailer wall, while my mom has a nice house in Scottsdale with her own pool and an air conditioner that gets so cold it pricks my nipples in the middle of an August heat wave.
I turn from her and head towards the door as fast as I can. There is a current of air that circulates; outside the sunlight vibrates like a junkie on methadone. All day poor Dorothy stands in front of her wall of cigarettes while fluorescent lighting poisons her eyes. I know she’s one of those who came to Arizona with nothing but the desire to escape winter, her only success being that she actually left behind Pittsburg, Milwaukee, or Hartford. But she still has nothing. And as I take my plastic bag, all I can think of is that I can’t seem to get out of Walgreens fast enough.
Dorothy should’ve been slightly more assertive about me having a nice day. Isn’t it evident that I am going to have a nice day, Dorothy? My plastic bag contains a twelve pack of lubricated condoms, a Snapple iced tea, Camel lights, and a bag of T.G.I. Friday’s Bacon and Cheddar Potato Skins. Is there any question I am going to have a good day? I think not, Dorothy! Can’t you find something less stock to respond with? Maybe if you tried a little harder, Dorothy, you wouldn’t have ended up working at Walgreens.
The sun will set in a little bit and this goddamn heat will break. It’s been a hundred degrees for months now. I am going home to watch the Diamondbacks. I am going to sit on my loveseat and drink my Snapple—glorious and refreshing— smoke a couple cigarettes and eat my potato skins in peace. How I love my skins! At a $1.99 a bag, they can’t be beat. They come in little football shapes that curl to form a twisted elliptical plane of salt, potassium hydrate, and artificial garlic flavor. T.G.I.F. has chemically created the flavor of bacon and cheddar. Wonderful! But first I need to get out of this Walgreens.
To sit at home and watch baseball. To veg out in my apartment and watch the game without distractions. No interruptions. And I will turn my AC all the way down to seventy degrees. No need to entertain friends. I will sit alone in the calm of dry, cool air. I will not participate in conversations about sex, drugs, or rock ’n’ roll with my friends tonight.
But I will have to meet up with Amy when she’s done with work. It will be at Plush. She will sip on her double of gin and tonic. She will heavily exhale cigarette smoke in my face. I will drink a cold beer and think about fucking her. When we have sex my fan will blow cold air across our bodies, it scanning back and forth, as if shaking its head in disapproval. The fan will dry our bodies as we fall asleep. She will comment on my feet being cold and ask how is it possible for them to be cold in the summer? I will tell her to stop complaining. But first I need to get out of this Walgreens.
Dorothy, I will leave you behind with your sad wall of cigarettes and florescent lighting. You look like death. You’re old and I am young. I never want to see you again. I hope you die alone in your trailer. You scare me, Dorothy. I am thinking in ways I find unsettling. I blame you. But what scares me the most is that I will see you the next time I come to Walgreens because nothing ever changes in Tucson.
And as the door automatically opens to the afternoon heat, my Gap pants set off the security detector. Again. It happens every time. Dorothy looks at me and I explain to her, “It’s my pants.” She lets me go. Out front, there are two meth-soaked teens wearing black. They are deeply tanned and drinking Eegee’s Big-ee Fizzes. They sit in the shade of the drugstore’s awning with their backs against the wall. One of the guys smiles as cool air escapes onto him. I won’t give them money when they ask.
“Hey, man, got any change?” He looks up to me and squints from the sun melting what’s left of his brain. They’re monsters. Don’t ask me for money. I will never give it to you. I hate you and I don’t even know you.