As the glass doors parted, the warm air hit me. It was a welcoming change compared to the frigid weather outside, and the unwavering bright white light from the high ceiling ensured that my eyes didn’t have to adjust much from the harsh sunlight outside. My best friend, Emily, had instructed me to meet her at the subway in Walmart so we could catch up. Both of us juggled two jobs along with school. While Emily chose college, I was just ready to be done with my junior year of high school. Nonetheless, the situation left us both too busy for time to talk. I didn’t think Emily’s little brother would be accompanying her, so I awkwardly waved for a greeting. A nod in my direction was all he managed. I knew he wanted to leave, so I kept my offense to myself. I knew he wanted to leave because he was intent to loop around the Subway tables, hopelessly trying to pass time, but he could wait. He had to wait because she was his ride home, and I needed to tell her something.
“Hey,” she managed before I quickly took my attention off of her brother and refocused. Hastily neglecting my turn in our ceremonious greetings, I proudly proclaimed, “I went to some guy’s house after just meeting him.” Her ocean eyes must have been shallow towards the middle because seaweed green peaked out from behind a shrinking abyss as confusion swam through her eyes. My smile grew. I cast my hook, and I caught myself an avid listener.
A week prior, the luminous lights and warmth of another Walmart welcomed me inside. I had recently moved to another town. Knowing that Walmart would be the best jobs I could apply for without my high school diploma, I made sure to apply, call, and everything else in my power to become a Walmart associate. Finally, they hired me. I worked with pep in my step and a smile on my face even though finding the UPCs to scan wasn’t my forte yet. Learning something new was exciting. Meeting hundreds of people was exciting. Being paid for that was even more exciting. Working with my long-time childhood friend was reassuring. This chapter in my life was going to be a good one.
On this day in particular, my childhood friend was in need of gum during our shared shift. Leaving her position in aisle 2, she moved down the aisles. Changing from the cashier Walmart hired to a free-lance detective, she questioned each cashier in a somewhat one-way conversation fashion asking:
“Have you bought gum recently?”
“Do you still have any?”
“Would you give me some if you did have it?”
Without success, she worked her way to the aisle next to me. Knowing what was to come, the suspect before me quickly denied ever being in contact of the item in question. After checking to see if there were any potential customers, I felt safe inserting myself into their conversation. As if sensing my boredom, my friend introduced me to her current suspect. His name was Carlos.
Carlos sported a winning smile. His teeth boldly accented past his light coffee skin. It was easy to tell that extra creamer and sugar had been added, since his attitude was overwhelmingly sweet. His hair seemed short because whatever curly charcoal hair he did have refused to let gravity have its way, leaving it looking naturally neat. Customers must’ve known we weren’t working because an endless line began to take form. Needless to say, we went back to work shortly after our introduction. Making new friends with coworkers was yet another aspect I was looking forward to. I eagerly accepted the boy into my repertoire of friends. He must have too. When the clock hit 10pm and we clocked out, he asked, “Could you buy teeth whitener with me? Please? It’ll be fun, I promise.”
Now, I’m not a wild child that lurks around town at ungodly hours and hangs out with hooligans I just met, but seeing as we were already at Walmart, I thought, “It’ll just be a fun search, grab, and go type of deal. Let’s role with it.” So I replied with “Sure. It’s pretty late though, so let’s try to hurry.”
My assumptions were wrong. Soon after I agreed, he quickly added with a large smile, “I need to go to my house first, but it’s not far.” Following behind him towards the doors, gears in my head lunched forward, taking their speed to an ungodly pace, creating thoughts of everything that could go wrong. I forced the gears in my head to slow down. He probably didn’t want me to go anymore anyway. He was a goofy boy after all. He wouldn’t expect me to go to his house. I would just wait at Walmart. The comforting thought was proved wrong by the time we made it out of Walmart’s doors walking too his car. From Walmart’s doors to his car, I explained, “My aunt taught me self defense recently,” pausing, I quickly made sure to add, “She also has a black belt.” Even though he felt threatened, he casually laughed out, “Dude, you’re dangerous. It’s a good thing I don’t plan on doing anything.” After pausing for a thoughtful moment and looking in my eyes, he added, “I swear.” Unsure if I had rocks in my stomach or butterflies; I entered his car with a mix of nervousness and excitement. This arbitrary action solidified our odd, but great, friendship.
Stopping my story, I gave the floor back to Emily during my intermission. After a brief moment of silence, she commented, “Can you guys date?” I just met the guy; I wasn’t going to date him. The hypocrisy of my thought process started to burn my cheeks, preventing me from answering the question. I had yet to reach the point where Carlos offered me open candy in his quant, but still creepy, basement room. Or how he played his high school’s band music on his trumpet, but that didn’t matter. She was ready to be his friend too.