I’d worked at a few fast food shitholes before coming to work at The Blob. They were no-brainers, really. I liked them fair enough, but they were just NOT fun jobs. After a while, family-style restaurants just fucking grind you down when you’re not a family person. Half-dead parents with exhausted posture, eyes glazed over, bulldozing over everything with their loud-as-fuck, snotty, asshole children running amok, spilling everything in sight, leaving greasy fingerprints all over the Plexiglas sneeze guard on the “salad” bar and anything else around them. Plus, they all smell. All of them. I despised working the weekends in those places because every single parent is scream deaf and nose blind.
I was working at one of those awful chain restaurants, “Holy Cluck! (That’s alotta chicken)” when Danny walked in, half-cocked and soused, haloed by the midday sun like a fucking god. A sexy, fat rocker god. I was frazzled. It was a Sunday. The awful religious twits had just left (and left every single table a mess). These are the people who say shit like, “No, no, don’t clear your table. That’s what they’re paid for. They don’t mind. Really.” To which I say to them or you or anyone who does that rude shit, Fuck you. No, really. You’re an asshole.
If you’ve ever made minimum wage in a non-tipping work environment in a semi large city, then you know how discouraging it can be in and of itself, let alone coming to a job in a place run by people who also just need money and don’t give a flying fuck about the company (like anyone ever does in those shit dens). They’ll do things right, work hard and take care of their particular store, but none of us want to hear that shit. “That’s what they get paid for.” Lucky for you, I don’t get paid to kick your ass, because I’d get a raise every fucking week and be employee of the month. Every. Fucking. Month.
Danny was an old school rocker dude in his mid-to late thirties, I guessed (I was right). He was wearing a denim jacket, threadbare, and covered in pins, patches and indiscriminate Sharpie scribbles. They might have been signatures of famous people for all I knew. Under that he wore an old and slightly yellowed Black Flag T-shirt (My War), which from far away I thought was a ringer tee, but upon close inspection, I saw that the neck of his shirt was just really stained. You could tell that he used to be really skinny, like junkie thin, but he must’ve kicked because all of his clothes were realllllly tight. Not that I gave a fuck because in my experience chubby dudes fuck hella good.
His pants didn’t fit either. He muffin-topped over them a bit and his plums were packed so tight I wondered if they got circulation, but the sight was pleasant enough for me. I hate trying to guess what a guy’s working with. There are supposed to be rules in telling a guy’s dick size, like hand or foot size or nose proportions or some bullshit, but I’m no Cock Psychic. Just wear some skinny jeans for fuck’s sake, and thrust your hips forward a few times. That thing’s bound to show up on someone’s radar. He walked very confidently up to the counter, tipped his cabby hat to me with a well-practiced half-smile; his oily, dyed black hair sprouted out from the sides and back. His hat tumbled from his hands and immediately fell to the floor where some dumbfuck kid or church twat had, what looked like, stomped on a ketchup packet, leaving a gooey red smear, tacky with high fructose corn syrup. He very calmly and politely said, “I seem to have dropped my fucking hat in some fucking ketchup. A-whut A-the Fuck?” Never losing his smile or eye contact, he picked up his hat and put it back on his head. A few customers walked in the door as he’d bent down and it registered in their eyes that they could see his bum cleavage. Their immature giggles were not subtle. He looked over his shoulder at them and said in an equally calm and pleasant tone “Awww. Aren’t you guys cute. Wanna peek at the front door, do ya’?” They grimaced and shut the fuck up. I laughed, but immediately stifled that shit for fear of losing my job, or worse, having to deal with a customer’s feelings.
“I’d like whatever burger isn’t totally disgusting. Put onions on it. And mustard. And cheese. You got cheddar? Or do you use that Processed American Cheese Food garbage?”
His daftness was making me blush, so I kept coyly silent, gazing at him. He snapped me out of it softly.
“Darling? Cheese?” I felt embarrassed. “Oh, um. I think it’s just that other bullshit, to be honest.”
“Good. I’ll take it. And give me a thing of fries. EXTRA salt. Please. And do you fill the sodas or do I do it myself?”
“You do it yourself.”
“Fine. That’s fine, because I like 1/2 Dr. Pepper and 1/2 Orange Crush. That shit’s insane. What do I owe you…”
He raised his eyebrows, making a hand gesture towards me. I was blank.
“Ok,” he said, “My name is Danny, and your name would be….Let me guess. Tiffany?”
“Ew. Fuck that. Rude, no, I’m Jenny”
“Alright then, Jenny, Jennifer? How much do I owe you?”
“I am not a Jennifer. Uh-uh. No. Just. Jenny.”
I held up my right hand and splayed my fingers and winked in a very overt and ridiculous way. He leaned in and spoke under his breath. I leaned in to follow suit.
“Five bucks? Well that’s unusual.”
“Yes it is. Take it or leave it though, because those dumbfucks behind you are getting impatient and Randy, my asshole boss, will be up here in like, two seconds.”
He took a wad of ones from his jean jacket and counted out ten of them and handed it over.
“Five for them. Five for you. Oh, and I’ll eat that shit right over there”
He pointed to the filthiest table we had. Baptists. They’re the worst. Catholics are dicks, but they always clean their tables. Always. Your average run-of-the-mill Christians will clean sometimes, but look at you like it’s your fault they have to do it. The Unitarians are wishy-washy about the whole scenario. The say stupid shit like, “Namasté” and give a slight bow when they leave- undoubtedly to go to their healing crystals workshop over at the Gullible Tree Crystal Cloud Kitty and Faerie Unicorn Calendar and Womyn’s Witch Yearly Planner Warehouse…store. Ugh. Fuck them.
“Ok. I’ll bring it out to you”
That’s pretty much how my life changed. He cleaned all the tables on the floor until I brought him his food. I thought that was weird but nice. I set his tray down. Double “Cheese” Burger with Onions and Mustard only, and large fries with extra salt.
“Here. You ordered this. Now eat it.”
I was kind flushed as the authoritative flirting issued from me, but I was having fun and he was obviously into it, so a few minutes later, he beckoned me over to sit with him, which I did.
“So you’re Jenny. THE Jenny. The Jenny that makes grown men cry and angels fall to their deaths from the heavens and the Jenny that inspires poetic fucking nonsense in all the boys at school, huh? That Jenny.”
“Do you fuck your mother with that mouth? That was grotesque”
He mopped up some fallen mustard with a fry, stuck it in his mouth, chewed for a second and then opened up. He stuck out his tongue and proudly showed me the mound of crushed potato and mustard, his eyes wide and laughing.
“Isn’t it just?”
I grimaced, obviously. Taking the bait, I asked him “Isn’t what just what?”
“Grotesque. The whole thing. Eating. You know, I came here to nurse a mighty hangover. Eat some shitty burger,” He did that whole air quotes thing to qualify how he felt about his sandwich. “And what I got was an audience with a very inspiring young woman, who, might I add, is five filthy dollars richer.”
“That’s true. I am awesome. Those dollars were sweaty though, so I put them in the cash drop and traded it for a crispy one. If you’re gonna be a tipper, do it with money that doesn’t smell like boob sweat and cheese.”
He leaned back in his chair, extending his arm over the back of the adjacent chair- that thing that dudes do. Confident dudes. Dudes that then shift their hips forward so your eyes will dart to their dicks. I secretly love that shit. Call me trash if you will, but I love a greasy, rude, over-the-hill rocker who’s too confident for his own good.
“So let me try my hand at this. You’re a brunette, but natural, not like me. Slim-waisted jeans and T-shirt kinda woman, right? I imagine you watch shitty horror flicks and aspire to something grand and creative but behind the scenes at the same time. You’re confident but not an asshole. You’re strong but not aggressive. You don’t take shit from anybody…I bet you wear fuzzy pajamas with bunnies on them…So. How’d I do?”
“Not too bad, but reserve your asshole judgment for later. You might change your mind.”
“Alright. Your turn”
“No fucking way. I don’t want to humiliate you”
“Go on, Jenny, just Jenny. I’m unflappable”
“That sounds surgical”
“Well aren’t you smart..”
“That was rhetorical”
He straightened his back and put his hands in his lap, lighting his face up like a child. I took a deep breath in and let it out.
“Alright, fine. You want people to think you’re one of those free spirit people that doesn’t give a shit. You might not care what people think, but you care. You care about feelings and responsibility. You’re self-conscious. You’re sad. You’re fiercely loyal and sore around the knees. Can’t go to punk shows anymore because you’re too old for that shit. You’ve experienced a lot of things because you’re “ride or die” but you’ve never left the country because you’re secretly patriotic”
He rolled his eyes at me and pulled a toothpick from his pocket. Biting down on it he said, “I’m not that sad…But I do ride or die. I don’t go to punk shows because I hate children and let’s face it; after you hit forty, anyone under 29 is a children. But…good. That was good”
I leaned in and quietly affirmed my acumen.
“So why bring those lovely brunette brains here? I mean, I know this place is shit; that’s why I come when I’m this hung over. My body is in such a state of shock trying to filter out all of those whiskeys that a few pounds of garbage food won’t be noticed. But you, you come here every day to what, die inside every time some conservative butthole treats you less than? Nah. That’s fucking reckless behavior. Why are you here, Jenny? And don’t lie. I’ll know.”
“I dunno, just…there aren’t any jobs that I can get paid decently for and not take too seriously, y’know? Somebody’s got to keep me in the tequila and shitty apartment business…and I like foodservice jobs just fine. It’s just that the customers are mostly jackholes waiting for me to fuck up so they can jump down my pretty neck. It’s the worst”
Wiping his mouth, he crumpled the tray paper and said, “Then come work for me. I own The Blob over on San Juan. Ever heard of us? We need wait staff. But you have to come now. Like now now. We’re short a server. He took off to some country full of drugs and pretty girls, plus, it’s a fucking sausage fest there right now and we need some feminine wiles. Wait, no, we have those with one of our petite and glamorous sausages. But we have no ladies born ladies. Come to think of it, no ladies born dudes either….Note to self- Seek out transsexual server A.S.A.P. …So..You in or what?”
“Yes! Oh my god. I love Blob’s…I love your place! I’ve never seen you there before, though I am usually kinda drunk by the time I get there..”
“That’s because everyone’s a little drunk by the time they get there. Plus, I’m a kitchen gremlin. I hop around the back of the house barking orders and saying gross shit. So are you in? We pay Three over minimum, no shared tips, benefits after sixty- days not years, no dress code but loud music and free food- for YOU ONLY. If you’re a student or some shit, we can talk about that on the way over. Are you in school? You should be in school” he wagged a tattooed finger at me and finished with “Don’t do to me what you just did for me. My food is expensive because it’s awesome”
“Shit. This is fucking awesome. Holy shit! Should I do this? I’m doing this! Hey. Heeeey! Darshawn! Come run the register! I fucking quit! Fuck you, Randy! Sorry Darshawn! I really like you! Byeeee!”
And with that, my Burger career was over. Thank the fucking arbitrarily named sky god for that. We climbed into Danny’s ’68 Chevy Nova, black, of course, with an acid green Goblin face on the hood, drooling thick strands of blue spit. He revved that shit up and clicked on the stereo. We hightailed it down to The Blob, blaring oldie but goodie punk rock, screaming and spitting out the window, talking about classic horror movies, the appalling behavior of Stanley Kubrick, the sublime beauty of Elsa Lanchester, and my halted studies of Film at the local College. Danny, of course, liked Dario Argento films (have you ever seen a picture of that fucking ghoul?). I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to read my horror through ineffectively nuanced subtitles. I want to be in the fright, not fucking be half-way through a sentence when suddenly the punch line is delivered. I always miss the fatal blow that way, so fuck foreign horror (Sorry, Korea).
Stopped at a red light, he asked me if I’m into cars and I tell him I don’t know shit about them but I like having fun in them. No innuendo intended. He just laughed and then peeled out across Stone Avenue. Pulling up to the The Blob, the outside seating was packed, most tables cluttered with bottles of champagne and empty pitchers of orange juice. Mimosas were on the menu as “Endless Little Lady Sunday Juice (You could have a shot, though, it’s faster)” People just ordered Mimosas by name anyway.
He rushed me through the restaurant and into the back. I was fluttery and hot. Nobody really blinked at us as we whooshed through the cook line and into a tiny office. “Apron, order pad, pens. Anything else?” Danny looked at me kind of blankly. “All business, huh?” I flipped through the order pad blankly and scratched my head. “Right now, yes. All business. If you’re still here after we close tonight, I get to keep you. That’s a pleasure guaranteed.” He made a gross gesture and that’s totally when I knew. I wanted to fuck him. As we both had a little giggle over that, I heard the familiar clack of stilettos coming towards us.
I swung around and this gorgeous young man a billion feet tall with perfect everything slid between me and Danny, flustered and putting off serious heat. Good smelling, perfect heat. “We need to talk about this understaffed mess you’re currently calling a restaurant. I’m so swamped I’ve been throwing down shots like a fucking air traffic controller on 9/11. I’ve been comping pies and drinks because there are 27 fucking tables and only me. ONLY ME. These shoes are not made for jogging, Danny. They’re made for modeling and gliding across the room they’re dominating. I’m losing tips and Fall/Winter catalogue is about to hit. I need new shoes! Get me another server N-O-W! Like yesterday now. Ok?” He shot me a dismissive eye roll. “Mind fucking later? We’re in a crisis!” I held my tongue and looked away while Danny slapped the young man’s ass and exclaimed “She’s right in front of you, queen! You’re welcome!” to which the young man replied, “Oh, goodie. No, really. I’m Twinkles. Also, no really, and I’m soverythankful for your vagina as I’m sure Danny is also too and because blahblahblah. Let’s go, lady whats-your-face. We got queens to get drunk and straight girls to shut up! You can tell me your name later..”
He rushed me out to the floor and mapped out a section for me while laying it all on me: I was not to go anywhere near the outdoor seating. That was his. Always his. Always be loud with the back of the house guys, Martin, Samir, Kang and Josh- Only call them nerds, never their names. Flirt with them and die, they are also his territory. Don’t put up with shit- The Blob is like a prison yard. The people who come here know the brand and they will fuck you up if you get pussy on them. Be good, be fast, be ferocious. Then he strode out the door to his tables and I stood there for about 2 seconds, got my shit together and dove in by pouring myself a shot, yelling over my shoulder through the pick up window “I’m ready, motherfuckers!” The Nerds gave a woop woop and some whistles. I couldn’t have hoped for a better end to my day. Drunk as ever, too much cash to fit in my pockets, a new best friend, a job and possible boyfriend- or at least fuck buddy. Fuck you, I did not cry when I got home. I jerked off.
The Blob’s menu was fucking unbelievable- Everything was ridiculously named and sometimes sounded sickening but tasted good. Take the White Trash Skeetza: Hot dog and mini smoked sausage slices with mushrooms, three cheeses (Cream, Jack and Gruyére) and a white cream sauce. Or the Meatza Porn, or the Kills You Dead (Hamburger with slices of mortadella, jalapeños and whiskey-infused BBQ sauce), or the Vegan Will Cry Pie (you get the picture. 6 meats and 4 cheeses). He had drink specials, too: the I Am Not Responsible In The Least Combo (essentially a suicide cocktail rooted in the tradition of a Long Island with a side of garlic Jabañero fries), the Bucket of F**k It (A pitcher of Traditional Margarita served with a double tequila, neat, 2 Pacificas and a side of chili cheese fries smothered in Serrano peppers and Holy Fuck hot sauce). Blob’s was fucking crazy fun. Since in our state kids aren’t allowed in places that serve hard liquor after certain hours, families generally didn’t eat there, because we didn’t open until 5PM, except Sundays, when we opened at noon for the Hot Mess Hangover Service, led by The Sisters Of Perpetual Indulgence (Danny gave them 10% of sales plus whatever tips they garnered ), which was fucking awesome. Sunday had it’s own menu and everything.
Our customer base was predominantly young, but there were also the older generations of punks and biker types. We had a pool table and a few old school video games, like Ms. Pac Man and Tempest. Danny was socking money away to open a second place, a fully loaded 80’s style arcade with a full bar and strippers. He wanted to call it “Nerds And Birds”. I think it would have gone over well, but since Blob’s shut down, everything kind of fell apart.
Danny had this friend called Mark, who worked there. Mark was a tall, loud, obnoxious white boy. He was socially awkward and mostly a dick. He wore board shorts to work, owned cargo pants and had a pot leaf tattooed on his fucking hand. His hand! Mark was from somewhere on the East Coast- I don’t remember where or give a fuck at all. He and Danny met when they were both street kids in San Francisco, living in a junkie squat called “Shortbread”. Danny told me a few stories that I feel prepared me for working with him.
After we closed for the night we’d all have a little food and a few drinks. When all the cleaning and shit was done, we’d sit around and shoot the shit. Mark always lit a joint. Always. Why Danny allowed that is beyond me. Nobody really joined in. Twinkles would rarely. Anyway, Mark would get intense sometimes; drink too much or get too high or forget to take his psych meds, and Danny’d have to send him home in a cab. Mark didn’t listen to anybody but Danny and we all had to suffer through that shit. Sometimes daily.
He told me about a girl called Clover. She was Mark’s girlfriend at Shortbread. They had a Sid and Nancy sort of thing, except that Mark played both of those parts. He’d fly off the handle at Clover for all sorts of shit. She talked to some dude or looked too pretty or whatever the fuck else Mark baked up in his tiny-little dick brain. Danny kept taking Clover aside to see if she was OK, since he knew Mark was unstable and could act out, but she always insisted that she was fine.
Then he started noticing a sullenness in Mark and bruises on Clover. When Danny finally confronted Mark, things escalated quickly and Danny beat Mark to a stain while Clover looked on helpless and hysterical. Someone called the cops because they heard Clover screaming “Stop! Stop!” over and over. Someone must have thought she was being raped or worse because nobody called the cops in that neighborhood. When the cops showed up, Danny had already run away with Clover and hid. She didn’t want to, but I guess she’d had warrants out or something. When the cops found Mark, he was cornered in the squat; bloody as fuck and feral to match. He took another solid beating from them. They pretty much broke his face into little pieces with their batons- He had a severe concussion and needed emergency medical care. He spent 2 years in prison because he got a few solid whacks on one of the cops beating him. I guess he nearly put one of them down.
They said he was lucky to get away with such little time. After Danny found out what happened, he and a few people tried to get him out. They put on a few benefit gigs, but everyone they knew was poor as fuck and only so many people were even willing to put money in a junkie’s pocket. There was no convincing anyone that Mark was even worth it. They’d all seen Clover’s arms. They’d all seen Mark corner her at shows and push her around. Most people felt pretty good about him going down. Danny tried his best because he felt bad. Those two had been through some shit and they were brothers like that.
Clover became weak and despondent. A few weeks later she threw herself from the top of a building in the financial district after drinking a bottle of rotgut vodka and cutting her face to shit. Danny had to tell Mark, who flipped the fuck out and got a few months added to his sentence. He and Danny remained in semi-regular contact throughout that time and according to Danny, Mark turned some shit around. He studied, got some shitty associates degree in something or other, but nobody would hire him because he was felon. That, and the fact that he was a menace. A big, dumb menace. He’d show up to job interviews and antagonize the person interviewing him. He’d wear really weird shit and tell them ridiculous things, like that he had a “therapy degree” and try to council them, or try to psychoanalyze them, thinking they’d be impressed with his observations, but he just came off awkward and threatening.
By then, Danny had been only relatively sober, but he’d at least been stable. He worked his ass off and also partied his ass off, never missing a rent check, bill or day of work. Mark never recovered from prison. He’d mumble on and on about how rough it was; how lonely. Danny got fed up with it one day and they just drifted apart until they ran into each other at a restaurant Danny was managing, Mark was eager to start fresh with his old friend. Possibly his only friend? They made boundaries and promises and moved forward. I think since then, maybe Danny looked at Mark as his only friend also, which was sad because Danny was very well loved. He just didn’t care to know it.
Mark, on the other hand, was a fucking oaf. His cash drawer was constantly off. Not by much, but enough. He always showed up late and grumpy as fuck. He was rude to customers. So rude, in fact, that Danny had a disclaimer permanently emblazoned on the glass front door: “YOU ARE NOT GUARANTEED COURTEOUS SERVICE. DO NOT CRY. JUST EAT AND SHUT UP ABOUT IT”. Oddly enough, this brought more people in. Some would get bitchy or “sassy” with me , thinking that being a cunt was somehow a theme. Sometimes I’d go with it, you know, get someone’s order wrong a few times, ask them if they had big plans for the night that included waiting an hour for a pizza? I might have pulled a few stolen one-liners out of my “I once heard a drag queen say it” bag. This type of thing usually went over swimmingly, so no biggie. Plus, Twinkles was really good at comebacks and one-liners Quelle Surprise. Seemed like if I chewed gum like a twatty old cow, I could say whatever I wanted. I could have total stink face full-force and still walk with $200 in tips.
Twinkles credited high school torment for his quick wit. He got pushed into a drama class that put a heavy focus on improvisational acting. It worked wonders for him because as fast as people tried to rip him to shreds, he’d have them beat with shit that was so funny, even the friends of whoever was fucking with him would feel sorry for their dumb friend. This trend has not stopped. He is funny as fuck and has all those dumb straight bitches who say shit like “The Gays” and “My Gays” all over him- especially because he couldn’t be seen without his trademark Sephora Glitter Liner. That and serving up hot pies in stilettos higher than Texas hair. Anyway, I love him. I’m nowhere near as witty or clever as him, but I try- Hence the Texas remark. I’ve never really worn heels. I don’t see the point in them. I’ve also never felt particularly funny. I just want to get everything over with, I guess.
Mark and twinkles got along well. According to Twinkles, this is because a drunk Mark is a feeling Mark and a feeling Mark is a horny Mark, who gets all kinds of handsy. Ugh. We’d all hoped it wasn’t true, but one night when we were sitting around the restaurant after work, Mark, plastered as wall paper, stumbles across the room to Twinkles, who’s sitting next to me, bends down to say something and as he’s getting closer, I see the look of horror and joy come across Twinkles’ face. Horror, because a sober Mark can be frightening and annoying enough, but a drunk Mark? Who knows what he might say or do?
The bitch was not subtle. Everyone heard him. A Mark whisper is like that thing where you’re talking to your dumb friend who has a small child and thinks that when they turn their sad face away from the phone to yell at their spawn, that you are somehow magically disconnected from the experience of their inexhaustible nagging.
“Dude. I wanna fuck, but you’re a dude too, so I guess a fucking blow job works. You down to clown?”
You couldn’t hear shit over the hoots and hollers from the scullery nerds. Those fuckers could never pass up an opportunity to talk shit to one another, call someone out, good or bad, or especially never let go of some shit that was considered embarrassing, scandalous or potentially “Ghey”. I don’t know what it is about straight dudes who ride that edge of homophobe and ally, but The Nerds were all really good to Twinkles- His orders were prompt, his tables were bussed and The Nerds always- ALWAYS sat around him at the dinner table, guffawing and pissing their pants in genuine laughter. Clearly, they so loved him for dismantling their ignorance and stupidity one lash stroke at a time. I know it’s corny, but for me, this gave credence to that whole thing of everyone just wants to be good or whatever.
There was a guy who had been working with us for maybe a couple months or so. His name was Derrin or Derrick, or something. Might as well have been Douchepants as far as any of us were concerned. He seemed nice at first, one of those assholes that says something to the effect of “I’m cool with everybody” and then rips out some one-liner about POC or queer folks or whoever. It’s like, “No dude, you aren’t edgy. You’re just Fox News dumb”…Well, you get the point… We were sitting around the table after work and we’d all noticed, all of us, how he’d been eyeballing Twinkles since he started. None of us knew what was behind that. He’d get nervous if he and Twinkles were at the food window at the same time. The space was tight, and often, you’d brush hands or touch shoulders. Douchepants would get all sweaty and nervous, but it was tough to tell if the nerves were about fucking, fighting or flight-ing. The real tell was his clumsiness around Twinkles.
So anyway, we’re all sitting around the table and everyone’s trying to keep the energy high and laugh and joke around, but there was this, like, I dunno, blanket of thick, stale air around the place. The new guy was shifty-eyed and uncomfortable. He shot off with really strange non sequiturs followed by meek chuckles that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. We all tried to engage him but to no avail. He finally got up and left, taking that stale-ass air with him. Someone made a Norman Bates joke. That was the first/last time he stayed after a shift.
You see, Twinkles was graceful and forceful all at once- That bitch never had his head down. Never. He made eye contact with everyone in the room at least once and if he was talking to you, it could get unnerving. I would just call him out on it and he’d soften. Obviously, this came from having been in so many confrontations where he had to really stand his ground. I dunno, maybe that’s my dumb take on it. Since I’ve never been a “female-identified, male-bodied, glamazonian, genderfucking nightmare”, as he charged himself, I wouldn’t know. I only know that he was fierce as hell and I loved him that much harder than most people because of it. He commanded respect and most people gave it to him. He was royal, threatening, beautiful and rarified and how you treated him would determine how you left the building or the conversation. He was adept at reading people and pulling shit out of their heads.
The first day Derrick-Derrin-Douchepants (or triple-D as we called him) started working with us, Twinkles went directly to Danny, pulled him outside- literally- and had words with him. We all watched as Twinkles lit his cigarette and began gesticulating wildly with perfectly arched brows and a severe aura about him. Danny did that thing where he crossed his arms and looked at his fucking shoes while nodding at every third or fourth word, and let Twinkles have his thing. Danny was generous that way. Nobody really knows what Twinkles said, but Danny walked back in looking exasperated and Twinkles walked to the back with a furrowed brow. He grabbed his cigarettes and left. He didn’t come back that night, so I assumed that something shitty happened, but Danny wouldn’t say a word about it. Just, “Don’t worry about our little Twinkles. She’ll be back tomorrow and the next day and the next day after that. We pay his mascara bill, after all.” So I just left it alone after tutting at Danny with that “you’re being a dick” look on my face. Plus, he pronounced mascara wrongly and pretentiously…Mah-skarrr-ah. Gross.
Twinkles came back the next day and pulled Danny aside yet again, and when they both came back in, all eyes were on them. The Nerds didn’t know what was going on, which was concerning, because they were the eyes, ears and gossip queens of the restaurant. Danny later pulled me aside and clued me in.
“Listen, I’m telling you, and only you, ok, what’s been going on with our beloved saint of stilettos, understand? She has clocked our new server as a psychopath. Twinkles wants me to let him go, but as you know, we need a bit of help to get us through to end of summer and he seems nice to me. What’s your take, heavens to Jenny? give it to me straight.” He winked and I stuck out my tongue. Blech..
I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know Triple D. I worked with him for a few hours the night before. He was a bit bumbling and strange...reminded me of a character Crispin Glover might play. He was just all over the place, but that’s always how it is with people who’ve just started their new job and doubly so if it’s their first serving job. The shit is real. So I didn’t notice anything particularly psychotic. But Twinkles was always right with this kind of shit. I think it had a lot to do with his ability to read people without knowing them. His skills were honed- especially with homophobes. After so many years of looking at dog shit, you get well acquainted with the smell and Twinkles’ sense of smell was no fucking joke.
None of us grew up with all of that. How could we manage to spot a subtle hint? His eye was trained and ours weren’t. I wish we would have listened to him. Danny wanted to take me to some shitty punk rock show one Saturday (They’re my favorite) and I had to ask Twinkles if he could cover for me. It was a bit cunty though, because I knew he had that weekend free, since he’d just broken up with his boyfriend. Twinkles could be hard to convince sometimes and then other times, he was all about helping. For this weekend, he was the latter.
“Ugh. I’m so fucking glad you’re going to that dumb show you like. I’ve been so depressed since me and Darshawn broke up..”
“Wait a minute…Darshawn? As in, ‘Holy Cluck, (that’s alotta chicken)’ and shit? Are you fucking kidding?”
“Yeah, he thinks you’re a total bitch. Says you left him hanging right before a lunch rush or something, so wait- are you fucking Danny, or just his belly? Because we’re all curious about that..”
Twinkles pointed behind him, towards one of the scullery nerds who was failing miserably at not listening to our conversation.
“Yes, Twinkles” I said while screwing up my face, “and YOU, NERD, yes. We’re fucking. I fuck his belly, his face, his salad...everything. I fuck everything in on and around Danny… There. Now you know,” I said with a huge smile that was only partially sarcasm, but mostly relief. I suck at secrets.
“As if we didn’t already know, but now that the cunt’s out of the sack, nobody has to conjecture anymore. Thanks for that. Secrets are so fucking gay”
Twinkles rolled his eyes as he held that vowel an extra beat and added an “-uh” at the end. “Gaaaaaay-uh”
“I’m not just blowing sperm up your ass, Twinkles, but you’re A-fucking-mazing and I’ll cover for you any time. I just… I really need this. My cunt is hot-wired and that fat bitch has his foot on the peddle, y’know? I need to fuck something fierce and god fucking dammit, it’s happening. Maybe only after a healthy 6 pints of beer, a few mixed drinks and 9 shots between us later, but for fuck’s sake- literally- it’s happening. I’ll be a new woman, Twink. Thank you”
I wrapped my arms around him and kissed him on the cheek. As I pulled away, I smoothed down a stray hair in his eyebrow, to which he flinched.
“Ugh. Stop being such a faggot already. Byyyye”
“OK, hooker. I will..” I squealed and blew him a kiss as I walked away, which he swatted away and then caught last minute and ate up with that precious smile of his
When I think about his face then, in that moment, I see that wicked/innocent smile of his, those beautiful teeth, those perfectly carved eyebrows, the thin yet pronounced line of silvery glitter framing his lush, brown eyes, all frozen as if never to appear neutral or angry or saddened again. I see his face as a starring role in an opening montage of a comedy series. You know the ones, where the actor is supposed to have a candid smile, but you know they’ve done like a dozen or so takes and the actor really just wants a fucking cigarette and a chance to think.
I see his face like that. Though his smiles were absolutely genuine and his warmth real, you could always see something else in his eyes, and not to say that Twinkles wasn’t ever genuinely happy. Oh, no, on the contrary. When he was sitting with us after service and we were all drunk as fuck and talking shit to each other, he was happy. Whenever he came in early to do side work and he’d slept well or bought a new pair of Laboutins, he was elevated. He and I had a thing in common. We’re both sad girls. Sad girls don’t ever lose that sadness because what’s the fucking point, right? Sadness remains a constant in life. Life sucks for everyone- Life is painful and difficult to navigate with all of humanity’s arbitrary rules and concepts, so what the fuck is the point in living an unexamined life where something like “time” or “morality” is an actual solid thing? Life sucks, man. I can’t wait to celebrate and I also can’t wait until this crazy shit is over.
When I frame his face in that smile, his face recedes into darkness. I let him fall into this beautiful, black nothing. I think for some people, this imagery might be frightening or whatever, but for me and for him too, I’m certain, this image is comforting. I know he knows that he’s a tiny little drop of water in the immeasurable sea of humanity’s timeline. “We’re nothing” he’d say, “But these fucking shoes are everything”. Then he’d sissy that walk to a table and kick a heel up to it to show those gorgeous stilettos off to a round of applause, or oooohhhs and aaahhhs, I’d say to myself, “So are you, Twinkles, so are you”
The night of the show, Mark was working the register as usual. Customers paid their bill up front, not at the table. Triple D was working the back, near the pool tables and video games. Lo and behold, I’d forgotten it was Pride Week. Mark liked pride week because the restaurant would fill with hot drag queens, trans-ladies and dudes in assless pants, all there to make noise and laughter. Twinkles reveled in the attention and the tips. Mostly the tips because he already knew most of the people he’d be serving, but he’d never met those dollars before, so he’d curtsey and twirl for those dollars. New shoes didn’t buy themselves, you know.
Everyone assumed that Triple D was cool about it all, but from what I’d heard, he wasn’t at all. The night started out as it always did- Mark would be chewing on a pencil nib or his fingernails, a scullery nerd would call him out on it and they’d have a three-minute circle jerk about it. Twink would excuse himself between trips to his section to make sure his face was on point, the scullery nerds would be stretching and yawning, filling up the walk-in with meats and vegetables; throwing the dough from yesterday’s shift, saying stupid shit and making sure Twinkles knew the latest gossip and a new, filthy joke.
Generally, the people who came in as the place opened weren’t exactly the party crowd. Some people even brought books. BOOKS. So… everyone working just kind of pissed their time away doing side work and giving mediocre service. Nobody who came in at 5 were hurried or interesting. This was Pride week though and that meant busy from open to close.
While everyone was doing their typical pre-rush routine, Triple D was apparently spending a lot of time in our back wash room. One of the scullery nerds kept checking in on him
“Yo, man, if you’re sick, you gotta go- nobody wants to get sick”
“I’m fine. I’m just…dealing with some…shit… right now”
“Shit? Really? You’re using cuss words now? Whatever man, don’t get too fucked up about it. Tonight’s gonna be crazy fun and yo, you’ll make a lot of money so relax. Think about all the bibles and shit you could buy...or whatever”
Eventually, he got his shit together and got out on the floor to an irritated Twinkles who let him have it over leaving him on the floor with 9 tables of irritated pre-queer party hetero freaks. The kind that tipped poorly.
“Those are your people, D, they love you and hate me. I don’t know why we don’t add “Rabid queers inside” to that fucking sign. Just…Get to work. You owe me, D, and by the way, if you can’t get your head in the game tonight, these faggots will eat you alive. Plus, I’ve got a Valium in my bag if you need it. Usually I wouldn’t offer because you look like you’d call that doing drugs, but shit, queen, if you fuck up tonight dragging your ass and sweating over a bunch of T-Girls and queens, you’re fucked and I’ll never hear the end of it. If you want to take home $500 tonight, just pretend you like them. You don’t really have to.”
Triple D just stared blankly, according to Twinkles. The nerds were not sympathetic. They didn’t even laugh. I don’t think Triple D ever felt disliked before. I think he’d never work with POC before, or queer folks. The continuous barrage of “colorful” language largely of a pornographic nature and most definitely made up of superlatives, expletives, scatological references and a bazillion words for genitalia shook him in some petty way that he wasn’t able to let go of.
Don’t get me wrong- I DO NOT feel bad for him or sympathize. I think I just see the situation for what is was. Danny couldn’t be bothered. He had that ‘Oh, he’ll get used to it and everything will be fine’ mentality. Twink said his piece and expected that he’d be listened to since he’d been a keen judge of character, one of those people who’d be standing aside watching someone about to trip and fall, counting down from 5. Uncanny… Mark just fucked with Triple D kind of mercilessly, asking him all sorts of personal questions, ‘Dude. You ever been poked, like in the butt-ass?’ ‘Dude. I bet one of these fags tonight is gonna massively fall in love with you and try to rape you in the bathroom’ ‘Dude. I NEED MY DICK SUCKED’ ‘Dude. If you don’t bring in at least a few grand in sales tonight, Danny’s gonna fire you. He told me not to say anything but I’m just helpin’ a brother out. You should kick down for that intel, bro’
Triple D believed him, so shook like a poodle all night, dropped a few pies, spilled a drink on a drag queen’s Organza pinafore, broke two beer mugs and misgendered two guys at one of his tables constantly, starting an argument that ended the night for everyone. From an outsider’s perspective, maybe even a scullery nerd’s perspective, it may have looked like Twinkles set him up, but if you really knew him, you’d know that he wasn’t petty. He was complex and pretended to be superficial. He loved heels and eyeliner. He was moody and hilarious and all of the good things that made us fast friends. He let people take care of their own shit. He didn’t take pleasure in watching the downfall of another person necessarily but he had no interest in helping them out, either.
The table in question consisted of two burly trans dudes getting blasted on Testosterone and drink specials, beers and a Yes Ma’am Ham Slam (a red sauced pie with bacon, ham, pork sausage topped with fresh mozarella, basil and cold, shaved prosciutto). Their friends were a couple of forever-12-year-old-skater-boy cum lipstick lesbians with that awful, wind-swept hair and wearing thick-framed glasses- no lenses- exactly the reason why Twinkles gave him the table to begin with. If you didn’t pass his “What’s Over In Fashion” test, he couldn’t be bothered because he knew that if your look was that tired, you’d probably be a shitty tipper, what with your trying to catch up to a latest trend that is no longer relevant. Latest turns to dead overnight. Twinkles stayed with the classics. Stilettos and lashes. Never late. Never tired.
The cackling lipstick dipshits started railing on Triple D. They started accusing him of all sorts of -isms and -obias…I’m sure that some of those were true in some form or another, but humiliating someone on the job is just wrong. He was pulling out apologies and back pedals and fumbling and spilling more shit and Mark was having a laugh riot, shooing away customers who were anxiously waving their own tickets in his face. The scullery nerds were so excited that they were hanging all over each other, suppressing their desire to run over to the table, all pointing fingers and Booyas.
Triple D took out all of his tips and in exasperation, threw them on the table and walked away in a huff. The Beiber lesbians haughtily cackled and began counting the short stack of bills even though their dude friends fumed, pounding their empty mugs on the table trying to get Twinkles to take notice. He refused. He played busy and ran to the back to watch with The Nerds. Mark was finally taking tickets and people were flowing out of the restaurant in a smooth and boring fashion. The excitement died down and within a few minutes, everyone was basically picking their toes. A few queens were at a nearby table throwing handfuls of super fine rainbow glitter in the air- those queens had been drinking Whisky Sour Patches and eating scantily.
That was Twinkles’ cue to scuttle out from the back and reprimand the queens for spreading their raver scabies everywhere. “Girls! Stop! Do you know how long it takes to get that shit out of the carpet?” As he took the vial of glitter from one queen’s hand, all of their faces dropped. Twinkle’s stomach shrank and he turned around to see Triple D advance on him with a pistol in hand, pointed directly at him. The queens screamed and tried to shelter one another. Twinkles simply raised his eyebrow. The disapproving one.
Triple D put the gun to his own temple, turned slightly away from Twinkles and said “Do you know how long it takes to get this out of the carpet?” and pulled the trigger. Twinkles was nearly in point blank range of the exit wound. He later said that he had to spit bone fragments out of his mouth. The bullet tore through the side of his face, scarring him. The amount of blood and brain that splattered over him and the queens behind him was obscene.
Mark pissed himself, apparently, and ran to the bathroom to vomit. The Nerds all ran to help Twinkles and the reasonably hysterical queens. The glitter from their hands still fell and mixed with the blood pooling around D’s body. I imagine it must have looked ghastly and beautiful when the light hit the sparkles. Twinkles pulled out a five dollar bill and threw it at Daniel’s body, spat on him and walked away.
“Scab-ass Hag! Motherfucking shit! Blood does not come out of Laboutins! Fifi Booties! Why didn’t any of you fucking assholes listen to me?” He made an exasperated noise, stripped off his heels and calmly walked to a table in the back near the pool tables. One of the Nerds attempted to comfort him. Twinkles wasn’t having it. He lit a cigarette and held a bundle of napkins to his swollen, bleeding face. The queens were screaming and finally someone came from the back with a few bin bags to cover the body. The police arrived with the paramedics and everyone was quickly in process. Mark shuddered and clung to the toilet and refused to leave the bathroom.
Everything was a blur to Twinkles, I guess. He had nothing else to say on the matter. They loaded him into the ambulance with Samir while the other Nerds just recounted the same story over and over. The shop was closed until every measure could be taken to clean it up. Danny was devastated, obviously. He knew what happened to murder stores. Nobody went to them anymore. He tried a remodel, he tried moving locations. The name was dead. His business was dead. All the money for Nerds and Birds was disappearing and his credit was bulging at the seams.
That night when everyone was texting us, we were fucking or sleeping or rocking out or all of the above. I think Danny woke up first. Either way, we both had about 30 texts on our phones. As soon as we both saw the sheer volume of calls, we got up and got dressed, both listening to the scattered and hysterical voicemails and finally the messages from police and doctors. Twinkles had to have stitches from nostril to ear. We of course rushed to the hospital first, both of us silent, crying, Danny’s voice peeking out through tears in small whimpers. I was going through the guilt of knowing I should have been there- that I might have been able to calm D down since I might have been the only person there that never fucked with him. I went to a place of relief, thanking god that Twinkles only had to get stitches. I went to a place of hatred for D…Nothing felt good. Nothing felt right. Nobody hated D, he just didn’t fit in…He made the place awkward with hesitation, shifty eyes and mumbles.
We took seats in the emergency waiting room hoping to hear from Twinkles or his doctor or any of The Nerds, but nothing. Mark was who-knows-where… Neither of us gave a shit, honestly. We were cleared to go into Twinkles’ room. He looked at us with a sorrow I’d never seen before, tears falling from his eyes, full tap. Danny, arms open, approached Twinkles, as if he were going to scoop him up and cradle him. It was a beautiful and sad display. Twinkles put his hand up and Danny froze, stifling a sob that had the word “Whyyy” stuck in it. “Don’t touch, just go” Twinkles said, and rolled over, visibly heaving and audibly sobbing. I couldn’t breathe. I don’t know if I was sobbing, whether or not I acknowledged Twinkles or if he even saw me in the room. They had had a beautiful friendship. Twinkles opened Blob’s with Danny. They were like brothers. Like real, honest-to-god brothers.
Danny had a really cute story of a time when Twinkles was performing weekly and he wanted Danny to do this bit with him where the number centered around the ploy of a “before” and “after” where Danny was obviously the “before”. Danny loved having his hair brushed and put into tacky, high ponytails on top of his head. He loved the disgusting amount of cherry red lipstick on his teeth and the huge, bird wing sized lashes that sat wonky on his lids. He bumbled on stage and rolled around and barked like a dog until ushered off stage by the MC who did a speech about the importance of good diet and daily glamour injections, ala pine. They cut to a short film projected on a white sheet. The film was cut in 50’s red asphalt flavor and showed a ratty, butchie street girl turn miraculously into a clean and well-manicured glamazon and out walks Twinkles to uproarious applause.
I could see that memory die as we made the long drive back to Danny’s flat. Nobody thought to ask after D. Nobody wondered if he had a family or if he lived alone. Nobody knew anything about him or even cared at this point. Maybe some people were motivated by this, to find out more; something about him. Not me. Like Danny, I wanted to cradle Twinkles and reassure her. But how could I? His face was ruined. His Twinkle died, hid behind a face stuffed with gauze and crusty with blood, held together by polyester sutures. Twinkles hated polyester.