The story so far: Allison is a bright, empathetic teenager recovering from an incident her doctor calls a “brain hiccup.” Coming off the worst year of her life, Allison is looking forward to summer and a chance to start fresh. She’s just left her best friend, Gwen, who is distraught over a crummy ex-boyfriend, and now Allison is on her way back to Sears, where she’s midway through a shift in the women’s lingerie and swimwear department. The year is 1987.
Poor Gwen, she’s really taking this Andy thing pretty hard. I wish I could be more help, but it’s not like I’m an expert on romance. I’ve only been in a few relationships. The truth is I’ve never been what you call a “social butterfly.” I didn’t go on my first date until halfway through 9th grade; didn’t have my first kiss until the end of that year. In the 7th and 8th grade, while my friends were at parties playing Spin the Bottle or Truth or Dare, I was home watching videos, making cookies, or reading the Narnia books. Not that I’m complaining. The time and energy it took was exhausting, especially while I was trying to keep up my grades and focus on soccer.
On my way back to Sears to resume the rest of my shift, I stop in front of a sunglasses kiosk and try on a pair of fake Ray-Bans. The vendor is a college guy, cute, with that pseudo-bohemian look that comes with the first taste of independence. He has a clock radio tuned to the local college station. The female DJ stumbles through her intro to the next song.
“WBWC, where we… uh, play all kinds… all of the music you want to hear. Coming up next is the latest from Echo and the Bunnymen. Ummm, just a… sec. Having trouble with the record sleeve… Okay! Here it is: Echo and the Bunnymen, ‘The Game.’”
The song finally begins. I like it, bobbing my head to its moody rhythm.
“You like these guys?” College Vendor asks me.
“I, uh, yeah,” I reply. “I mean, I only have Songs to Learn and Sing, but whatever I hear by them I like.”
“’The Killing Moon,’ now that’s a song.”
“I’m partial to ‘Rescue.’”
“They’re touring soon.”
“Really? Maybe I’ll go see them.”
He stares at me.
“You look really good in those shades. But you probably look good in everything.”
He gives me a look of confidence. But it’s not about me, it’s all about him. He knows he’s hot, and he thinks that I think he’s hot, too. Actually, he is kind of hot, in a Andrew McCarthy kind of way, but his posturing reminds me of Sean, my ex-boyfriend. Sean and I went out when I was a freshman and he was a senior. We both played soccer, so we saw each other on the practice field almost every afternoon. I was a dumb 9th grader, wooed by his cute smile and the idea that he was more “mature.”
It’s not like I had much guidance. My mom was caught up in her own problems, such as the impending dissolution of my parents’ marriage and overdue bills. Meanwhile, my older sister, Teri, was all about being the life of every party. She’s the real social butterfly of our family. When Sean crushed my heart, breaking up with me because I wouldn’t have sex with him, Gwen was the only one who knew.
Just the thought of Sean sours my mood on College Vendor here.
“You work at the mall?” he asks.
As if the memory of Sean isn’t enough, now he proves to be either unobservant or stupid. My Sears nametag is right above my left boob.
“Uh, yeah,” I reply. “I work at Sears.” I return the fake Ray-Bans to where I found them.
“Oh, you don’t want those? Cause we give a mall employee discount.” He smiles again.
“I’m sixteen,” I tell College Vendor, turning to walk away.
“So?” he calls out.
Back at Sears, I check in with Maggie, my supervisor.
“Your sister called,” she says, as she flips through the latest catalog.
Great. Teri. If there’s one person who can get under my skin, it’s Teri. We used to be close. However, when she became Miss Popularity in high school, Teri outgrew our family. She outgrew me. Then, while I was stuck at home and the roof was caving in on our family, she was away at college having a good time and avoiding the situation.
My parents divorced in October. Dad is a gambling addict. He lost most of our savings, including my college fund. It wasn’t until November that we learned that he’d embezzled one hundred thousand dollars from the grocery store he managed. Mom’s method of dealing involved drinking mass quantities of wine. When she wasn’t getting on my case about all of the extra credits I was going to need to earn scholarships, she was drowning her blues in chardonnay. My personal method of dealing was suppressing my anger and putting on a happy face. I thought that once I was out of the house, I’d be able to deal with the emotions.
I was wrong.
You know how many times we saw Teri throughout all of this? Two weeks during winter break. That’s it. She was safe at college living off of academic scholarships. Now she’s home for the summer, and she seems to expect the world to revolve around her. I’m not bitter. That’s just Teri: selfish.
I walk away from Maggie to adjust the clothing that has slipped off its hanger, a common problem with swimwear and lingerie. The phone by the cash register rings, and Maggie answers.
“Allison, it’s your sister again. She says it’s an emergency.”
Oh no. Something’s up with Mom, I know it. I quickly take the phone receiver from Maggie.
“Teri,” I ask, “is Mom okay?”
“Why didn’t you return my call?” she asks, indignant.
“What’s wrong? You said it was an emergency.”
“I need your car.”
“I need your car tonight. There’s a group of us meeting on the east side and–”
“Wait. You called my job and said it was an emergency… because you want to borrow my car?”
“Okay, when you put it that way.”
“I can’t believe you.”
“Don’t be a brat.”
“You can’t have the car, Teri. I already have plans.”
“What, you going to a movie or something? Have someone else drive.”
“Allison, let me borrow your damn car.”
She lets out an exasperated groan, swears a couple of times, and then finally speaks.
“I’m gonna talk to Mom about this.”
Who’s the older one here?
“Fine, talk to mom. You know what she’s going to say.”
I can feel the steam coming from her ears transmitting over the phone line.
“Thanks a lot, Allison,” Teri yells. “You ruined my night!”
She hangs up, and I imagine her slamming the phone in the process.
I return to the floor, angry with my sister, concerned for my best friend, and appalled by the three hundred pound woman holding up the string bikini as if it might fit her.
Today’s artwork is by Oliver Akuin. Oliver is a Los Angeles based illustrator/designer, Adventure Time animatics editor, co-owner of Fluent Flyers, U.S. Soccer supporter & eater of ramen. For more information about visit his website www.fluentflyers.com, his blog otakuin.blogspot.com or by following him on Instagram @space_toast
Echo & The Bunnymen’s song, “The Game” is found on their 1987 album, Echo & The Bunnymen.
Read Chapter 5 of Legendary