by Liliana Ries
Freshly minted college graduate Callie Cronin attempts to survive in the real world.
When I was eight years old, I wanted to be Robin, Batman's red panty suited sidekick. I ran around the house with a towel tied around my neck, which wouldn't stay put, and pretended to assist Batman in his moral schemes to fight crime and walk up buildings with a rope. That lasted all of three weeks. I wonder how long online masturbating will last?
Chapter One: Welcome to the REAL World, except no Puck and there are no raunchy unaired clips.
I have a Bachelors degree! It's signed, sealed, and will be delivered to my front door step in 3-5 weeks. Right now it is probably sitting all by its lonesome in a mailbox, or patiently waiting in a file cabinet for some minion to stamp it with the University seal. I'm also unemployed, broke off my ass, and in dire need of a life line. Regis, can you hear me!
I have spent the last five years of my life toiling away keeping my grades at the standard level, as to not fulfill my mother's expectations of maintaining a 4.0 in route to become a doctor. My poison of choice was the University of Central Illinois. Go Jaguars! Located in the three street lights and one horse town of Thortan, Illinois. UCI is where dreams are deterred, the sky is overcast three hundred days out of the year, and it's bottomless-bring-the-biggest-cup-you-can-carry night on Thursdays at Hulligans.
I threw all of my class notes into a waste basket and resisted the urge to light the sucker up. I was in my apartment and I wasn't positive I could have an open flame, that and I had a serious fear of fire, and dialed my uber-handsome, very educated boyfriend, Chase Jones. Chase has melt-your-panties-off sapphire blue eyes and has summer tan all year round. There's a hint of Italian, but mostly tall dark and handsome for the rest of his genetic makeup. When he kisses me, I hallucinate rainbows and small woodland creatures prancing around.
"Hey," he answered. I felt my nipples get hard. Even Snow White got hard nipples when Prince Charming was around, and you know Jasmine did.
"Hey yourself, what time are you picking me up?" We had a romantic dinner for two planned. AKA we were going out for pizza and beer at the Heidelberg.
"I can't go, babe," Chase said. For as long as we've been dating, two months and twenty-two days, he's called me babe. I've heard him refer to me once as Callie, but I think he called me Connie first.
"Damn, I was looking forward to greasy pizza," I whined. In this world there are two things I would stop a fast moving car for, a clearance sale at Anthropologie, and Heidelberg Pizza. Can't get enough of shabby chic.
"My family's in town and I'm going to be showing them around." I guess family is a good excuse. I'd never met Chase's family. I had heard of them from other sources, like Chase's roommates, my secret spies. His father was a dry cleaner franchise owner, and his mother made Martha Stewart seethe with jealousy. Chase had specific rules about his order of milestones, and girlfriend meeting parents was somewhere between getting engaged and marrying me. I guess my ring finger will go bare for a while.
We hung up, him promising to call me after they'd left, and me wondering if it would look too pathetic if I could reconnaissance their visit. So, in order to not become psychopathic girlfriend of the year, I got my cute 1950s style purse out and went job hunting!
I've partaken in this event every summer since sophomore year. I had stayed with my parents the summer after my freshman year and I made a personal pact that I would never sink that low again. My father comes home from work, shucks his shoes off, and turns the television on until he falls asleep at eleven p.m. He believes I should be home by nine, have boyfriends meet him first before dating me, and that I should never dye my hair. My mother attests that pimples and freckles are because I told lies, and that I got broken up with in tenth grade by Jack Stein because I didn't go to church. Yeah, I cut that umbilical cord early.
Each summer the mass exodus of the normal, less independently courageous students gives way for many part-time jobs. Being a creature of habit I like my part-time jobs to have either free food or at least 20% additional discount to merchandise. The pay has to be living substantial, and I need at least 30 hours a week or I'll go blind from all the extra time I'd be masturbating. I like to do three things on a daily basis, yoga, run, and masturbate.
I ran through the house looking for suitable attire. Mini-skirts and lace blouses tried-on and then found their way to my bedroom floor. Kitten heel shoes, squeezed into and then kicked off. I stared blankly at my reflection in the five-dollar 5 foot tall mirror hanging in the hallway. I liked it because it made me look slimmer than my jeans made me feel. I come from a long line of Irish Americans. We married and bred only with other Irish Americans and had affairs with Italians. My eyes were green, my skin was pale, and against popular belief, my hair was not red. I’d maintained a size four through most of my college career, although I was basing this on jeans that had been stretched to my perfection. I refused to go pants shopping during the all-you-can-eat-fudge holiday season and I was on intimate terms with the stair master at the student rec. Take that freshman fifteen!
My reflection stared uselessly back at me. My tits were firm and swollen with a strong desire to be held and caressed by Chase, but that wasn’t going to be happening anytime soon. I grabbed a push-up bra and beige panties that covered most of my ass. In any woman’s lingerie drawer she has three types of undies: The every day, usually satin or silk un-seeable through khakis and slim dresses; the PMS variety, large, cotton and able to withstand a nuclear attack; and the kind men imagine to be in our drawers but I only wear when I know I’m getting naked, thongs, lace, etc.
On top of that I chose a stretch knit polo and the khaki pants that brought attention to the prodigy of thirty minutes three times a week on the stair master, my ass. Through elementary and high school I wore a uniform. Insert image of Catholic school girl plaid and knee high stockings. Most men’s sexual fantasy was my idea of a fashion nightmare. We got demerits for having our shirts un-tucked and our shoes had to be brown or black with laces. I never figured out how to dress myself in casual circumstances. While public school girls were learning how to put makeup on or pairing floral blouses with cashmere, I was getting excited over wearing denim to school on jeans day. Of course our polos were still required to be tucked in. Accessorizing was another story. I went through earrings like underwear and don’t get me started on necklaces. Dressing up for the summer job hunt was hard work.
Being a college graduate required composure, skill, and tastefulness that I’d earned with all of those credit hours. Truth is the real world scared the bejesus out of me. No wonder I added an extra year to my studies. I had applied to dozens of advertising agencies across the Midwest my last semester. When everyone else was getting call-backs, I got rejection e-mails, or worse, nothing at all. I had never been outstanding but it wasn’t like I sat in the back flicking spit balls. So, in order to maintain the college lifestyle without being in college, I renewed my lease with the aspiration that one day I’d get a bone thrown my way. Until then, it was cloudy with a chance of working the evening shift at Subway.
My car was a 1995 Saturn Coupe. It ran fine and guzzled oil like my grandpa does Guinness. I hopped in and drove to the Thortan Mall. A good place to start looking for fun and interesting summer jobs would have been the independently owned shops on Broadway. But they gave you stink eyes if you weren’t in their social network. Thortan mall was where teeny-boppers came to spread out their hormones and dare each other to make eye-contact with the cute Abercrombie and Fitch staff. In Thortan, the only other form of entertainment for the under 18 was flashlight tag in the corn-fields.
I was hoping to make this my summer home away from home. The stores were lit with Florissant lights that caused skin to take on a strange lavender color and the air conditioning unit was set at a constant 66 degrees. Perfect for raging teenage angst, but for the rest of us carbon based humans, it was a good idea to bring a jacket and a water hose.
The mall usually smells like Mrs. Fields cookies and if Ambercrombie’s doors are open too wide, like testosterone. It reeks of burnt popcorn today from the cafe at Target. Burnt popcorn is the only smell that can break the sound barrier. Within minutes its stench suffocates an entire building. My part-time job instincts tingling, I step foot inside the Target and try to keep my mind on happier perks of a job wearing red and khaki every day. The atmosphere is cheery, but not exactly up to college graduate par. I spot several buggy boys, the cart retrievers, stopping to snack on the remnants of hotdogs and nachos. I discount a hotdog as free food. More like dog food.
Places like Target usually have employment kiosks. A place where you sit down and enter in mindless questions about yourself and trick questions about your morals. Like, if you had a friend who smokes pot on the weekend and came to work the next day, would you alert anyone? And you think to yourself, I don't give a damn what Eddie does the night before as long as it's not jerking off to a picture of me. Of course, that's not one of the answers, so you chose politely like a good little minion, C: I would handcuff him to the fitting room desk, and wait for the proper authorities to arrive.
I filled out electronic forms for the rest of the day. I skipped over the teeny stores, Claires, Journeys, the movie theater, and found my way to Panera to grab a quick coffee and a brownie. My heart skipped two beats when I saw Jeff Morrison standing in line waiting for his turkey club.
Jeff Morrison is an ex-boyfriend famous for his dump-me line, "I'm up here," motioning to the height of his hand, "And you're down here." His other hand significantly lower than the first. I cried for three hours afterward and almost bit off a sorority girl's head when she complained about me being on the stair mill for over an hour. I hadn't spoken to Jeff in three years, and my stomach does flip flops whenever I see him milling around the student bookstore. I had heard through channels that he'd taken on a job as a campus IT guy and makes boucoup bucks without a college degree. Bitter, no. Ok, maybe.
Jeff rarely sees me, or if he does, he pretends I don't exist. Which is fine, my middle finger was itching to come out since I put it in storage after choosing the thumbs down approach to road rage. Angry gestures are common, but disappointment and guilt stick with you. He keeps his hair short since if he'd let it grow out it would be an all out Jew-fro and he works out once a year and maintains a smaller pant size than I do. Jeff grabbed his to-go bag and paused, like a dog picking up a scent. I knew my period was coming soon, but I was positive it wasn't going to start today.
I pretended to be involved with my half and half pouring, but I'd been stirring the coffee for over three minutes and there was a line starting to form. A pint sized girl with an ohm tattoo on her wrist and a prairie skirt was tapping her toe very loudly behind me. Come on, really, is this the only cream station?
"Hey, Callie," I heard after adding my second pack of raw sugar. I looked up, focusing on not acting like a scorned brat and flicking him the bird.
"Hey Jeff," I answered stepping away from the milk and honey before the hipster girl behind me lost her cool and went for my throat.
"Long time, no see." He said, sipping his drink and eye-balling my brownie. Actually I saw you twice last week, once two days ago, and I think you still have my lace up thong.
"I've been around." I answered politely wondering where this was going and if it was all going to end in tears.
"What are you up to?" What have you been up to, more like?
"I'm a college graduate." The term never got old, especially when he wasn't one. Take that 'I'm up here, you're down here.'
"I'm happy for you," he smiled and I could have sworn I heard a fairy die. I mentally clapped my hands together chanting, I do believe.
"What are you up to?" The viewing public wants to know.
"I'm working full time in campus IT. I've got a small website business on the side and it's making some progress." He went on and on, and I lost him after I got the answer to my immediate question. Basically he still lives in the two bedroom apartment sans his ultra conservative neonazi roommate Andrew. Andrew went on to try and take over the world, which landed him a permanent job as a custodian in Portugal.
"That's cool." At this point I'd say that to anyone or anything, even if he just told me his grandma had passed away. We parted awkwardly, I needed to get back to doing nothing, and he needed to get back to his full time job with benefits and paid vacations. Jeff brushed the back of his hand against my bare arm and smiled again. Damn, another fairy just kicked the bucket.
"I'll see you around," he stated and he was gone. I'll see you around? Did that involve scheduled rendezvous or just run-ins at the grocery store? P.S. You hate Jeff Morrison, who cares if you see him around. He's probably just between fuck buddies right now, and you looked good. My inner mother hen keeps me out of trouble, unless I get her drunk or sway her with an I.O.U. I don’t intend on paying back.
Five hours and countless online job applications later, my Saturn pulled up into the driveway of my rented duplex. I used to share it with a disorganized perfectionist. Oxy-moron, you bet! But she graduated and moved back home with her parents. The part where I got to walk around naked was fine, but I would need to pay for the whole rent instead of half. I started sweating a little bit at the thought of having to make seven hundred a month. A rational person would down-size or consider a new roommate. I stuck to my gut and claimed I was incapable of moving my stuff and I didn’t want to share. Plus I'm reluctant to change.
Chase hadn't called while I was out. Nothing new. It was now eight o'clock and Friday night. My fingers were itching to call him. Would it be weird to just say "Hey"? I dialed fast before mother hen could argue, and I got his voice mail. I hate his voice mail. It does that stupid thing where he answers and then pauses. I start talking, thinking I've actually reached another living breathing creature, but then the rest of his message comes up.
"Hey, it's Callie. I'm still up for something if you want." Call me. Call me. CALL ME! "So give me a call." I hung up reminding myself that we were listed as "In a relationship" on Facebook and that should mean something.
I felt my fingers begin tweeking for something else. I looked down at them. I knew what they wanted, and I had nothing else better planned for the evening. I looked toward my night stand. It was beckoning. Normally it just sits there and holds my little lamp and Nora Roberts novel, but tonight it was beckoning. I hesitated. I might as well own fifty cats and wear moo moos. Friday night and where was I; at home with my vibrator.