Thursday, January 7, 2010

At what point do we want to stop impressing other people? Even the most self-assured among us have come upon another person who we're so galvanized by, we cannot help but to try to pop a wheelie, or climb a water tower or otherwise unicycle our way into that person's heart.

We were in Old Navy in some mall in ugly, sunny Orlando - my old roommate and I. I was working at Disney World (so was she; we lived in corporate housing for the sadly underpaid college students) and therefore, I was full of virtue by association. The same did not hold true for Joie, though, and for that I envied her. She was this strikingly beautiful, hysterically funny Hispanic girl who just radiated confidence and I loved and was comforted by that. There were actually 6 of us in that 3 bedroom apartment (two girls to a room and they charged an arm and a leg that was automatically deducted from our paychecks) and I wasn't bunking with Joie, but another girl - Katie. Katie is another character who gave me a couple of zinger memories that I will surely share another day. Anyway, so Joie was my BFF in the house, but at the same time, I couldn't get too close to her because I was truly intimidated by how fucking cool she was.

I guess I was looking to prove myself to her, that I was cool, too (god, at 22, really?) and I could be dangerous! and break the law! We were wandering, like young people without money or sense of urgency for their lives passing them by, and then we were in Old Navy. What a shitty store, Old Navy. It's like the Worst of Gap. Everything was ugly so we didn't stay long, but as we were leaving, there was this giant barrel of key chains that were emery boards shaped into ugly objects. Like a skateboard, and an apple, and the ubiquitous hearts. Joie stopped to rifle through them, picked one and walked casually out of the store. "Oh, shit!" I yelled in my head, my stomach sinking, "I have to do this! I can't not do this! I have to do this!" And I was terrified! Because even when I worked at Target in high school I would be sweating the entire time I drank the I Sprite I would take from the soda tap when all I had actually paid for was water. Shoplifting actual objects was completely unimaginable. I had never even let myself have the desire to, because I knew there was no way I could follow through without freaking out and peeing myself upon someone, anyone giving me a sideways glance. So I was scared, but I couldn't hesitate; she was already out the door and me standing there like an idiot was neither cool nor nonchalant. All I could think to do was to imitate her moves: hand into the barrel, feigned interest in items, and then, naturally push lucky clover into my sweating palm. Exit all slow-motion-Reservoir Dogs-style. I walked out with that nail file key chain doing my best to not physically acknowledge the idea that I owed anything for it - terrified to the end of every hair on my body that an employee would stop me and my life would be over.

Of course, no one stopped me. No one gives a damn at Old Navy about people walking out with 'their' products, nor do they care about the people who make their products. If they did, they wouldn't work there. Like me, working at Disney. I had these childhood fantasies come true when I had the opportunity to work there, but the more I learned about the company, the more disgusted I was by it. Or maybe I'm just saying that to impress you - so you don't think I'm one of the clueless masses who buys Performance Fleece.

I don't think we talked about it. I may have teased her about it in the moment I met her outside the store, but I knew it wasn't any sort of event to her the way it was to me. I remember when she had to leave the program early because her father was very sick...was it that he had already died? I didn't have a clue what to say to her. I was so heartbroken, for her and what she must have been going through and I had no idea how to properly relate (which I still regret - not being a very strong friend at that time for her), and also, for me. That semester in Disney was like summer camp. You were thrust amongst strangers who, because of distance from home and proximity to each other, quickly became your support system - your family. Joie was like the big sister I'd never had. She was wise and clever and sneaky and gorgeous and ballsy and all the things women admire in their siblings (if they're lucky) and I still don't think she has a clue how badly I wanted to be her for those six months. Although I held onto it for a long time, the key chain didn't help.

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