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The Night Shift Guy

July 7, 2016

It’s 3am, one of my favorite times to be alive. I’m always torn by whether being asleep or being awake is the better state of existence: If I sleep, I might miss something; if I stay awake, I might fall asleep the next day driving to the university or while giving a lecture. I choose to be awake now, but I know I’ll regret it somewhere around 11am tomorrow.

At 2am, I ran out of cigarettes and Mellow Mood decaf iced tea. It was not my plan tonight to go to the gas station, mostly because I’ve done it virtually every other night for the past week, and night shift guy would, naturally, be working the night shift.

At some point during the past several months, my mumbled requests for a pack of smokes have become full on conversations with the night shift guy, sometimes carrying on for 10 or 15 minutes outside the store. He must already think I’m insane for being up all night almost every night. And then there’s the babbling. Oh god, the babbling. And the awkward faces I make throughout the course of conversations. And my very real inability to look strangers in the eye when I talk to them.

At 2:30am, however, I found myself at the gas station, as usual. Sure, I could have gone to another gas station equidistant to my home, but the closest one chargers more for cigarettes and gets robbed on a regular basis. Having been robbed in the past, I have no desire to have my sense of peace and security taken from me again, and so I go to Night Shift Guy’s gas station 95% of the time.

As I pulled into the lot tonight, two other cars pulled in behind me, and I felt my body stiffen, wondering if I was about to be robbed. Average looking girls in their mid-20s emerged from the driver’s seat of each vehicle, however, and the sense of panic faded. (And I’m going to apologize here for sounding sexist, as if women are not capable of being scary as hell, but, statistically, a gas station is much more likely to be robbed by a man than a woman – this old article states that robbery is the most gender delineated of crimes, with less than 10% of robberies being committed by women. It’s an outdated article, but supports my claim nicely, and is really worth reading.) By the time I had chosen my Mellow Mood Relaxation Drink du jour, I was the only customer left, and the chit chat between Night Shift Guy and I began. Tonight I learned that he is older than me, which I was not expecting.

And then, while we talked some more outside the store about the show Deadliest Catch and gym memberships (don’t ask me how the random topics we broach come about, because they’re always very random), Night Shift Guy seemed legitimately taken aback when I mentioned an ex boyfriend in the context of one topic or the other.

At first, I assumed it was because I had said boyfriend, but then, perhaps seeing the look of not-quite-embarrassment on my face (I don’t think much about outing myself to strangers, but I had a moment of “oh crap, he’s gonna think I’ve been coming in here to hit on him”), he asked, with the slightest emphasis on ex, “Your ex boyfriend?” I nodded, sorry I had said it, but he smiled, and laughed a little before saying, “Yeah, my ex boyfriend blah blah blah…” He was saying something about the gym his ex had joined.

I don’t really know exactly what he said after “my ex boyfriend,” because my mind was reeling again, overthinking the way my mind is wont to do: oh fuck, are we now establishing that we’re both single and like guys since we’ve gotten our respective ages sorted out? fuck, fuck, fuck.

Because, while I’ve often been curious about him, at the end of the day, I’m not trying to hit on him. He’s a nice, cute guy – don’t mistake me – but I’m really not interested in dating him, primarily because if (when) things went sour, I’d be left a) with no reliable source of Mellow Mood iced tea in the middle of the night and b) paying way too much for cigarettes at a gas station that gets robbed far too frequently. Also, he’s, uh, not a city dweller (firsthand knowledge from a previous conversation). I have a natural romantic aversion toward people born and raised outside of the city limits that actively avoid the city as if traversing a bridge or tunnel was a cardinal sin. It’s not a fair generalization, but that type tends to be small-minded, poorly educated, and socially and politically unconscious. I know, I’m a prejudiced dick when it comes to suburban life, but in this town, the generalization is all too true:  be wary of those ‘burbers who avoid the city. I grew up around that type of attitude, had an entirely shitty time of it in high school, and consequently, I work to steer clear of people who give any inkling of that mindset.

So there I stood, silently scolding myself for about 20 things simultaneously like my aforementioned suburban prejudice, like my assumption that he’s fishing for information and being suspiciously  open about having an ex boyfriend of his own, like my secret bet with myself that the next time Night Shift Guy and I have a conversation he’s going to ask me out. Meanwhile, he was still talking about his ex and the gym to which he belonged. I consider myself lucky that another car pulled up, and another woman squeezed between us in the doorway, giving me leave to say goodnight and disappear.

With a smile, he said, “Hey, you have a safe night, ok?”
I smiled back, trying not to make it seem forced. “Yeah, you do the same.”
And that was it. I gave him a small wave, and we went our separate ways.

I’m going to hope that I’m wrong about this, and that I have entirely misread Night Shift Guy. I can’t imagine I’m his type, anyway. He could be married. I’m still not quite used to having to check for rings, although it does occasionally dawn on me to do so. But surely all this comes from having just reread a favorite old book where one of the main characters has a chance lurid encounter with a beautiful night shift clerk in the back room of a convenience store. Yeah, that must be it.

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