When the aliens landed I was in an Applebee’s parking lot, sitting in a Ford Fiesta, crying into a virgin mudslide (which I guess is, like, just a milkshake?), and contemplating failure. The Applebee’s on 185th. You know the one? Between the Taco Bell and the daycare center with that sign out front that needs a comma: Slow children playing. And it wasn’t even my Ford Fiesta.
I should probably rewind a little.
My manager (I guess former manager now?), Ron, had just let me go. His words: “I’m letting you go.” Like I was a wild thing longing to be free. Like I was Spirit, stallion of the fucking Cimarron, running through the plains instead of a 20-year-old college dropout with minimal employability skills who really needed this job to pay the rent. Who had been fired from her last four jobs, for various reasons, and was, like, seriously, hanging on by a thread.
Ron had sat me down in a booth on the floor, one of my booths, in my section, instead of bringing me into his office, because he’s technically not allowed to be alone with female employees in his office anymore. You know, after the complaint. Obviously, he wasn’t fired for harassment or anything, was hardly even penalized if you want to know the truth. Just got a warning and was told to keep all conversations out in the open. Keep your hands where I can see ‘em and all that. But there I was being fired just for spitting in the drink of a guy who put his hand on my ass and then called me a name I won’t bother repeating (just kidding, it was “cunt”) when I semi-politely asked him to stop. Like, I was a little dehydrated, and it wasn’t even that much spit.
Anyway, there we were in this booth, in my section, and Ron was talking to me about health code violations and company policy and appropriate responses and how it’s, like, actually a crime to spit in someone’s food and I should be thankful the customer (the asshole) wasn’t going to press charges. And I was hardly listening to him because the table hadn’t even been wiped down yet, and there was this sticky spot right in the middle of the table, and then a pile of crumbs a little to the left of the spot, and then before I knew it I was pushing my finger into the sticky stuff, getting my finger all sticky, and then pushing my sticky finger into the crumbs. I heard Ron say the words “I’m letting you go,” firing me in that euphemistic way (but I guess it’s good he didn’t say, like, “terminate”), and then I couldn’t help myself. I gave in to my baser urges and stuck my sticky, crumb-covered finger in my mouth.
Ron had stopped talking then. He’d stopped talking and looked at me in this way I couldn’t interpret, and then he signaled to Mario who had just finished running an order to a table and was headed back to the kitchen. And Ron said, “Mario, please get us a couple virgin mudslides. One of ‘em in a to-go cup.” And Mario walked off, presumably to get the mudslides, and Ron just looked at me again for a while with this sad fucking expression. Like he was my dad (I mean, like, how I think a dad would look). Like he was worried about me. Or maybe he was looking at me like he wanted to sexually harass me. I couldn’t tell. I couldn’t tell because my eyes were filled with tears that hadn’t spilled down my cheeks yet, so they were still making my vision all cloudy. So I couldn’t really see the nuance in his expression, you know?
But then they were sliding down. The tears, I mean. And then Ron was saying “Don’t cry, don’t cry,” in that way people do, like it’s something you can control. And then he said to someone I couldn’t see, “Go get Marla.” I couldn’t see the someone because at that point I had my head in my hands and I was crying these huge, messy, wracking sobs like I do when Thomas J. dies in My Girl (“Where are his glasses? He can’t see without his glasses!”).
Or like I did when my mom died last year.
And then someone had their arm around me and was pressing a virgin mudslide (milkshake) into my hands and leading me to the parking lot. I don’t have a car since the accident, so the someone, who turned out to be Marla, who is my friend, who actually got me this job, poured me into the passenger seat of her Ford Fiesta and told me to just stay there and cry it out and try to take a nap or something and she’d come give me a ride when her shift was over, which was in, like, three hours. So I just did what she said. I just sat there and kept crying and saying “Okay, okay, okay” and “Shit, shit, shit” in between sips of mudslide milkshake until I finally slowed down to a trickle.
So. Yeah. When the aliens landed—a big ‘ol silver spaceship right there in that Applebee’s parking lot—I wasn’t even afraid. When they landed, I just blew my snotty, dripping nose (so gross) into my sleeve and thought of cunts and crumbs and Thomas J. and car accidents and my mom and milkshakes.
I thought, God, yes. I thought, Please. I thought, Finally.
I thought, Beam. Me. The. Fuck. Up.