The girl at the counter had Padre Pio’s gift of bi-location, the ability to be here in person but entirely somewhere else in spirit. She said: “I’ll ring you at 12, to organise a repairman.” But she sounded like an actor that wasn’t sure of the lines and was just winging it. Got the feelin she hated the repairman, like it was beneath her to be callin him, and he’d ask her questions she couldn’t possibly answer cos she didn’t know what the hell she was supposed to be doin here, just ridin out the day til the clock ticked relief around.
I said: “12?”
And she blinked, like she wasn’t sure if I understood numbers, and said: “Yes, 12.”
The place was empty but she gave the impression of being busy. The form with all my details had disappeared into an abyss below the counter. I sensed a looming tea break, miraculous scones and a phone full of unchecked notifications. At 1.30pm she still hadn’t called so I drove back and I couldn’t see her and I went to find some kinda supervisor instead. People on the aisles talked about RAM and hoovers and Macbooks. There was huge televisions blaring the background. The manager was a red haired stack of bad beats at poker and always angry about it. Belly full of Domino’s crusted leftovers. He was nudging a mousepad around some dust, moving to his own slow rhythm. Spots on his forehead, flab comin over the jeans, maybe twenty seven years old, tippin into a cardiac forty. Lettin his thoughts roll wild. Lecturing the audience in his head. Champions League tonight, six pints of Carlsberg and a Mexican Fajita with taco fries, and hey, I’m only doin this for a while til I get sorted, get those dirty beanbags off the apartment floor, clean the weed from the ashtray, put away the empty Tyskie bottles and close down the Ladbrokes account. Buy my own house, put a poker table upstairs, with a home cinema system, and some finger food, spicy stuff, invite the lads, fuckin belly’s cuttin on my belt again, must get back at the indoor soccer. One of the days now, not today, it’s busy today. I need a pint later, all these fuckheads. Jane wants to get married, might pass a year or two, somethin to talk about. She might lose weight, maybe kids, big session in the hotel, and a big feed, roast beef and gravy, half chips, half mash. Lotsa Guinness, all the relations, honeymoon too.Vegas, maybe. Might have my own shop by then, a computer shop. Chelsea match tonight, not too bad, finish up here early, fast one in McSwiggans before I go home. I mightn’t go home, need a shirt. Forgot to shower this mornin, too stoned, shoulda won with them Kings online, four aces, how often do you see that? Christ what time’s lunch? Probably do a chicken roll, maybe Subway, meal deal with the tayto. There was a little ride here a while ago promoting blenders, where’d she go? Take a scan around, kid, you might catch her in the canteen for a bit of shite talk. Fuck, no sign of her, who’s this fella comin? Not in the mood for any shite now. What can I do for you?
“Hey, I was supposed to get a call and I didn’t.”
“I can’t do anythin about that.”
“You have to do somethin, you’re the manager.”
“I don’t have to do anything. As you can see, it’s really busy, who were you talkin to?”
“Girl with glasses.”
He pointed and said: “Her?”
She was back now, a real apparition. I said: “Yeah.”
“Tell her you were talkin to me, and to make sure to call you this time.”
We shook hands, wet and spongy. Made my way over to the counter and she saw me coming and blinked for a second and seemed to think: Did I meet him travelling? In a pub? At the weekend? Did he ask me out? Why’s he lookin at me like that?
And then it all came together and she put her hand to her mouth and said: “Oops, sorry, it’s just so busy. I’ll do it now.”
“You’ll do it now?”
“Right away. Someone will call you in the next hour for your address…I promise.”
Three weeks later I got the call. One of these fellas that doesn’t trust the phone so he roars into it. Squeaky voice, like he’d swallowed a parrot. “Hello!! Were you lookin to get somethin repaired or somethin….?!”