Isabella is supposed to call around nine o’clock.
It is 8:49PM.
That’s eleven minutes.
I’m freaking out.
I cleaned the house.
I vacuumed the floor, did the dishes, took the garbage out, even dusted.
The place looks good.
I’m sitting in front of the computer improving my MySpace page trying to waste time, trying to make time go easier.
Time won’t go easy.
Time is crushing me.
It is 8:50PM.
A minute has passed.
I’m still sitting here.
I wish she would call early.
She won’t call.
Isabella hates me.
No, she doesn’t hate.
She doesn’t care about me.
She views me as someone who sits at the Waffle House all night reading with a strange Asian man, looking terrified, never saying the right thing, unable to hold a decent conversation.
She always goes, “What’s up, Vasily?”
And like a fuckhead I say, “Nothing.”
Then she says with that inflection that signifies she is speaking to a loser, “You live an interesting life.”
But what am I suppose to say, am I supposed to describe how I watched global warming disaster videos for four hours last night? Am I supposed to describe how Gina makes my heart swoon, my cheeks red, and I get all stupid when I’m around her. I can’t do that, because I’m trying to fuck her. Talking about how my mother hates me is not how to get chicks. I can’t describe how I laid in bed for two hours dwelling on how big of a fucking ass I am, how I’m a failure, how I’m crushed by history, fucked, lonely, and want to die.
No, I can’t say those things out loud.
To get a chick you have to say something witty, you have to get them to laugh, you have to put on a performance, be a comedian.
I can’t make jokes.
My sense of humor is deadpan.
Deadpan doesn’t get the bitches.
It is 8:52PM.
She isn’t going to call.
Maybe she will.
Maybe she will.
I don’t know.
My life is horrible.
My mind keeps racing to horrible conclusions: I’m a complete waste and need to be vanquished before a live studio audience.
I go and lay on my bed.
I don’t turn on music.
It is quiet.
I lay in the fetal position.
My eyes are closed.
I don’t cry.
I feel like it would be therapeutic.
But I’m a man and men don’t cry.
I remember when I was younger; it was easier for me to get girls.
When I was young I was cool, I was an artsy kid. All the kids were artsy kids, we were artsy kids and we hung out at certain bars and we met, got drunk, had sex.
Now those artsy kids have babies, and instead of being artsy kids, they are moms and dads and have jobs that require education like hair dressing and middle-school education. Some became crack heads, but they still have kids, they’ve been taken away by the government, but still they are moms and dads.
I have no kids.
They all tell me, “Vasily, get some kids, get married, why didn’t you get married to Jessica?”
I answer, “Because she sucks.”
No one believes me though. Everyone thinks I’m immature and an asshole for not getting married to Jessica and having loads of offspring even though Jessica and I fought all the time.
It is 8:55PM.
She isn’t going to call.
I need to die.
Maybe if I lay here in this dark room in silence I’ll fall asleep, and if I’m really lucky have an aneurysm.
That won’t happen though.
I’ll wake up knowing I was stood up.
I remember when I was younger, you know, younger. I was with this girl and we fucked all night, and the sun came up, it shone through the windows, and she looked so pretty.
Those days are gone.
It isn’t cool to be weird when you get older.
Being weird is cool when you’re twenty, but as time passes you get creepy.
I’m creepy now.
And that’s why Isabella isn’t calling.
And that’s why she won’t come.
I’m such a failure.
If I had some drugs she’d be here.
I have no drugs.
Drugs make me depressed, scared and lonely.
I already feel depressed, scared and lonely.
I don’t need anything that will exacerbate those emotions.
I lay here for a moment and try not to exist.
I remain perfectly still.
Like a rock or cactus.
It doesn’t work, I still exist!
This is bad.
It is 8:59PM.
She won’t call.
Life is a horrible monstrosity!
I’ve been stood up before, I can take this.
Now I’m telling myself things, to make myself feel that I’m strong or that I know things, and since I know things I won’t let them affect me.
I know Isabella is a junkie and won’t go anywhere without drugs being there.
I know this.
This information is firmly placed in my head.
But it still affects me.
It still makes me want to scream, break my arms and legs and cut myself in a masochistic rampage.
You can't make the truth of your failure go away.
Even if you know every little thing about something, even if you know and understand every calculation, have every bit of news on the subject, even if you can name all the conspirators, have a list of times and dates, have studied every psychological discipline ever invented, and know exactly who to blame and who not to blame.
It doesn’t matter!
It still crushes you.
And here I am crushed.
What did I do to deserve this?
It isn’t a question of deserve.
Isabella likes to feel special.
I know this.
I have this information.
She said to me one day months ago, “I like to feel special.”
Everybody likes to feel special.
Everyone is running around trying to get other people to make them feel special.
I like to feel special too, that bitch should call me and make me feel special.
She won’t though.
I made her feel special because I asked her out.
She got what she wanted.
She wanted to feel special and I gave her the medicine.
But since there are no drugs here, she won’t come.
I wonder when I first came out of my mother’s cunt, back in Russia, if anyone standing there, I’m including even the doctor and nurses, if anyone standing there thought, ‘One day this man will be stood up and life will crush him.’
Someone had to think it.
Someone should have told me when I was little, “Vasily, everyone is playing a game in life; everyone is trying to feel special. And to accomplish this, they will hurt you, and you will even hurt people to gain this feeling of power over the world. This is the game that humanity plays, if it be a drug addict tricking you into asking her out or a president blowing up a small village.”
But that wouldn’t have mattered.
Because I would have done it anyway, I would have asked her out anyway. I would have put myself in a position to be humiliated and mutilated before a live studio audience.
Time passes and she does not call, so I call Chang.
“She didn’t come?”
“Thanks, to the bar.”
“To the bar.”
Chang and I are sitting in Sweet Jenny’s.
Sasha is behind the bar serving drinks.
There aren’t many people in the bar.
Chang and I sit there like two useless assholes drinking draft beer.
Chang says, “Fucking bitch.”
“Yes, a horrible fucking bitch.”
Chang is a good friend; good friends always hate the people that won’t have sex with their friends.
Sasha comes over, “You got stood up?”
“Yes, stupid bitch.”
“We should find her and cut her legs off.”
“That would accomplish nothing; my penis would still be lonely.”
“A lonely penis cries in the rain,” Chang says.
“When we kissed goodbye and parted, I’d knew we’d never meet again,” says Sasha laughing.
“Please don’t turn my penis into a Willie Nelson song,” I say.
“Vasily’s penis is a dying ember, and only memories remain, and through the ages I’ll remember, Vasily’s lonely penis crying in the rain,” sang Chang laughing.
“I should kill both of you,” I say.
Sasha and Chang laugh hysterically about my lonely penis.
I lower my head in shame.
Sasha says, “What about Gina? You talk about Gina all the time, what do you care? You actually want some girl named Gina.”
“I know, but Gina has such expensive shoes. Her Nikes daunt me.”
“She has Nikes?” Chang said.
“Yeah, Nikes,” I say.
“Nikes are really expensive,” Chang said.
“They are those Nikes with the air shock system thingy,” I say.
“You wear ADIDAS,” Chang says.
“Yeah, ADIDAS are almost like Nikes,” Sasha says.
“Yeah, but my ADIDAS were bought from a discount outlet store for twenty dollars. Her shoes were bought at the mall.”
“The mall, that’s serious shit,” Sasha says.
“The mall, where old people power walk?” Chang says.
“Yeah, the fucking mall. She’s a mall person, she buys things from the mall, she walks around the mall, browses and even purchases,” I say with terror.
“The mall is like for people with money, sometimes when things are on sale I can get things,” Sasha says.
“The Nikes Gina wears are like brand new; she bought them with no sale. She like, went in there, and was like, ‘Give me those 120 dollar pair of Nikes.”
“Is she like rich or something?” Chang says.
“I don’t know, she lives in Cortland, her parents might be school teachers or engineers at the Chevy plant.”
“Cortland,” Chang says.
“Cortland,” Sasha says.
“We live in Youngstown, and own ADIDAS.”
“We are a sorry bunch,” Chang says.
“Is that why you asked Isabella out, because she’s poor?” Sasha says.
“Yeah, I guess. I’m a dishwasher, it makes sense for dishwashers to date Waffle House servers, not girls who wear brand new Nikes,” I say.
“Yeah, I guess it does. But Isabella never graduated high school and you have junior year credits for Political Science,” Sasha says.
“I know, I fucking know. But I didn’t graduate; I dropped out and became a dishwasher.”
“I guess you’re fucked then,” Sasha says.
“Get me a Captain and Coke, I need to get drunk.”
Sasha pours a Captain and Coke and hands it to me, I take the small straw, stir it around, and throw the straw on the bar and drink.
While gulping the drink, a song comes on, Strawberry Wine by Deana Carter.
Everyone becomes quiet.
When the chorus comes Chang, Sasha, I, and everybody in the bar sings:
Like strawberry wine and seventeen
The hot July moon saw everything
My first taste of love oh bittersweet
Green on the vine
Like strawberry wine
When the song ends, a menacing silence encompasses the bar.
Sasha picks up an empty glass, then flings it at the wall!
No one even mentions it.
The busiest day at the steak house.
I hate Saturday.
It’ll be like Wednesday and I’ll lie in bed and think, “Saturday is coming, it’ll kill me."
I dread Saturday.
I have fifteen minutes till I have to start so I’m standing at the bar being useless.
Beth, an attractive twenty-two-year-old with a two-year-old daughter walks up to me and says, “You have that belt on.”
I’m wearing a robin egg blue colored belt. It holds my pants up.
“People are talking.”
The phrase, ‘Hell is other people’ zips into my brain, I say, “What are The People saying?”
I feel like I’m playing some deranged game, because this conversation is so predictable I could kill myself.
“They are saying you might be gay.”
“Is there anything wrong with being gay?”
She looks confused and says, “Hmm, no.”
“Then I’m okay.”
“Are you gay?”
“Do you mean I take it up the ass from men?”
“Yes, do you do that?”
“I didn’t think so.”
“I have hemorrhoids, I would bleed horribly.”
“You’re weird Vasily.”
“So are you Beth.”
Beth walks away.
I’m sitting on a milk crate outside before I have to start.
Larry is there.
Larry is a crack head.
Larry is five-foot-five, 130 pounds, has bad skin tone, and spits a lot.
He has worked at the steak house for five years and makes $7.50 an hour.
The boss hates him.
Once the boss screamed, “Larry, if you want to leave, you can go.”
Larry knows the boss hates him and it pisses her off more that he stays.
The boss won’t fire Larry because she knows he wouldn’t get a job and would collect unemployment and smoke crack with it.
Larry says to me, “You got any metal?”
“Yeah, metal, for scrap.”
“You scrap shit?”
“Yeah, that’s what I do to make extra money. I scrap shit. I go into abandoned houses in Youngstown and take the copper pipes. I get $2.60 a pound for copper.”
I don’t believe he gets $2.60 a pound for copper, but I don’t care anyway.
“I got some stoves in the garage.”
“How much do you think they weigh?”
“I have no idea how much the stoves weigh.”
“Probably like 200 pounds.”
I start work.
There are a million dishes to wash.
They are stacked up three feet high.
I’m not daunted.
I’m the Uber-dish-washer.
Diego Jones, a cook, an older black man who used to be a crack-head runs over to me and says, “I need ramekins.”
Everybody always needs ramekins.
I throw the ramekins in.
I start to contemplate suicide.
There are large knives everywhere.
I could grab one and plunge it in my stomach.
Say something really profound like, “I hate Saturdays.”
I go out to smoke again.
Crazy Dennis is there.
Dennis looks like a man.
But tells people he is a woman.
Dennis does have small tits though and a bulging ass.
Dennis tells people that he was once a woman, that he got into a car wreck and had to go on steroids, and the steroids made him into quote, “A morphidite.” (Which always makes me think of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.) I keep imagining Dennis morphing into a robotic tiger when he speaks.
Dennis also says he was in the army and was a Green Beret, once a mechanic, once a trucker, and even at one point a belly dancer.
Dennis says to me as we smoke on milk crates, “They won’t give me a black hat.”
The managers gave all the cooks that have been here for six months black hats, they didn’t give one to him because he has only been working here for five months, and they don’t like him because he’s lazy and insane.
Dennis keeps talking, “They won’t give me a black hat. I’ve worked for this company for three years; I mean it was down south where I worked. But I was transferred here. I have seniority over most of these cooks. The managers don’t understand how important I am to this business. If I left half their customers would leave.”
“They didn’t give me a black hate either,” I say.
“You’ve only been here four months.”
“I’ve been working for this company for four years. I should get a black hat. Instead I’m walking around with this dirty blue one. I have the mind to just walk out of here. Then they would know how important I am to this business.”
“Those bastards,” I say earnestly.
“Yeah, those bastards, why won’t they give me a black hat; I show up to work on time. I put in my hours. I work hard here and they won’t give me a black hat. Even fucking Larry got a black hat, and he’s a crack head.”
“Larry’s been here for five years.”
“That don’t mean shit, he’s still a crack head.”
“My cigarette is done. Gotta go.”
I’m back at the dish-tank.
The dishes keep coming.
The host Jeremy comes up to me.
Jeremy is seventeen and still in high school.
He just spent two days in a Juvenile Detention Center for breaking his step-dad’s jaw.
“Jeremy, how was the pen?” I said.
“It was boring, I feel really bad.”
“For what? I thought you said he was an asshole?”
“He is, but I’m totally not like violent.”
“Who cares, violence is awesome.”
“No man, I feel bad. I don’t feel good about it.”
“No, it’s cool. Beating up your parents is awesome!”
“Dude, but like.”
“No, don’t worry. Life is awesome. ‘Beat your parents’ that’s what I always say.”
Jeremy realizes he’s getting fucked up advice that totally contradicts everything everybody has been telling him for the past week, so he leaves.
I’m walking around.
Gina comes up from behind me and says, “I like your belt.”
“And I can see your underwear,” Gina says giggling.
I go over to the dish-tank and pull my pants up.
I wonder if that means she likes me.
She likes looking at my underwear.
Why didn’t I think of something witty to say like, ‘Oh yeah, wanna see the rest of them?’
Or, ‘You wanna see what’s underneath?”
Or, ‘You like looking at my ass?”
I say nothing.
I get nervous and go over to the dish-tank and pull my pants up.
I’m such an ass.
Why can’t I do anything right when it comes to girls?
I should blow my brains out.
I’m standing at the dish-tank.
Beth comes over and says, “You going out tonight?”
“No, I don’t drink on Saturdays.”
“What the hell does that mean, ‘I don’t drink on Saturdays.’ Everybody drinks on Saturdays.”
“That’s exactly why. The bar will be full of assholes yelling stupid shit at each other; I start to hyperventilate around a lot of people.”
“You are so fucking weird. What about tomorrow night? Sunday is quiz night.”
“Yeah, tomorrow sounds fine. The bar is what, half full, I can handle half full. I can’t handle full.”
“Yes Vasily, the bar will only be half full.”
Beth runs away then.
Everybody always invites me to go out. I don’t know why. I think they feel sorry for me.
They probably feel sorry for me because I stand here looking morbid all day while washing dishes. But I really don’t know how I’m supposed to get into the spirit of washing dishes, like it wouldn’t make sense if the dish-washer was giggling and smiling and loving life all day.
I’m not a happy dish-washer.
I’m not even a happy person.
On my days off I’m usually completely miserable.
I wonder if Gina is going tomorrow.
I wash dishes waiting for Gina to drop off some plates.
After several minutes she finally does.
Gina always asks me to go to the bar, not with her specifically, but she does say, ‘Hey Vasily, you should come out tonight.’
But Gina has a boyfriend and I think he might be there so I don’t go.
Gina drops off some plates.
I yell, “Hey Gina!”
Gina says, “Hey Vasily!”
“Gina, are you going to the bar tomorrow?”
“Yeah, why? Are you finally going to go out with us?”
“Yeah, I think I might.”
A smile comes over her face.
Gina has such a pretty smile.
She smiled because of me.
I’m such an ass.
Gina says, “Yeah, and my boyfriend isn’t coming. He wants me to act reserved, but I want to have fun tomorrow night.”
“That sounds great.”
Gina goes back to work.
It is the end of the night.
I walk out into the dinning room to bring glasses to the bar.
The female servers are all standing around in a circle.
One server is talking about how her mom doesn’t like her boyfriend.
One server is talking about how her boyfriend is going to school to become an electrician.
One server is having a text message war with her boyfriend.
One server is complaining about her boyfriend in bed.
One server is talking about how great the movie Wild Hogs is.
I’m sitting outside smoking a cigarette.
It is dark now.
The moon shines a nice light over the mall parking lot.
A seventeen-year-old hostess named Christa is standing near me.
She is obviously anorexic.
She is five-four and weighs 87 pounds.
I say without looking at her, “You need to gain weight.”
“You need to gain weigh, Peak Oil is coming.”
“What the fuck is Peak Oil?”
“It would take too long to explain. But you need body fat to survive it.”
“Isn’t oil like something that comes from the ground?”
“Yes, that is correct,” I say.
“How does it peak?”
“Listen, it would take too long to explain. All you need to know is that your anorexia is bullshit. You need to gain weight and get fatter. Your head is huge.”
She looks at me like I’m an ass and leaves.
The night is finally over.
It was a horrible night.
I should have killed myself during it.
But I’m a coward.
I get into my 1990 Jetta.
I sit down and start the car and reach over to turn on the radio.
My hand finds empty space.
I look to where the radio should be.
Nothing is there but a bunch of dangling wires.
I consider punching the steering wheel.
But I don’t.
The car has no heat, two of the doors won’t open, it burns oil, the horn doesn’t work, and now it has no radio.
I consider getting angry but I just finished work and I don’t have the energy to dwell on a stupid stereo.
I drive home in silence.
I open the window and let the sounds of crickets and frogs come in the car.
The crickets and frogs sound better than most songs anyway.