Burrito Shacked by Paige Garner

            It’s been 11 months since I got my heart ripped out of my chest. Here. In this shitty fucking bar.

I slammed the shot of Jose that the bartender had sat down in front of me and nodded a silent thank you to her. I glanced over three bar stools. There it was. That was the spot. My girlfriend of three and a half years drug me to this bar to tell me that she had been sleeping with my roommate Ryan for the last four months of our relationship.

I couldn’t believe I was here. Just being inside this dump left a bitter taste in my mouth. It hadn’t changed a bit. The paint was still chipping off the walls, grungy dollar bills still hung behind the bar, and the jukebox was still making the tables creak. I’m sure my best friend’s telephone number was still scratched into the door on the bathroom stall, followed by “if you need a booty call…”

“Can I get you anything else, babe?” the bartender interrupted my train of thought as she grabbed the empty shot glass from in front of me.

“Vodka and water, please.” Hell, if I was going to be forced to be here, I was at least going to try to block most of it from my memory. And what better way to do that than with a little help from my best friend Burnett.

I was about five drinks deep when my friends finally showed up. As soon as they walked through the door, I was bear hugged by my best friend Dayne. His girlfriend Laurie smiled and waved over his shoulder.

“How’s it going, man? I haven’t seen you out in forever!” Dayne said as he ordered a round of Jägerbombs.

“It’s going, eh.  I guess,” I slurred as I chased my shot with my watered down vodka. “I haven’t seen Katie since…forever. Man, I really hate that bitch.” I trailed off as soon as the jukebox kicked on.

“It’s cool, Zac. You’re way too cool of a guy for a tramp like her. She’s probably pregnant by now, anyway.”

  Empty beer bottles, half eaten lime wedges and cigarette butts littered our table. The digital clock on the wall glowed 3 a.m. The bar was beginning to clear out and the only thing I remembered after seeing that clock was the bumpy cab ride back to my apartment.

 

 

            I stumbled out of my car, pulling the wrinkled grey t-shirt out of the passenger seat behind me. I was still half drunk from the night before and the stench that lingered from my body was worse than a pile of garbage.   My head was bumping like the subwoofers in my neighbor's Cadillac. Whomp. Whomp. Boom. I walked through the door, tugging my Burrito-Shack shirt over my head, knocking my hat off in the process. 

“Oh boy, look at you. You look like you had a really good time last night…why didn’t you swing by my place for a night cap?” I sighed as I bent down to pick up my hat. My least favorite coworker, Manny, was standing behind the counter, dumping sauce packets into metal containers.

Before I could even so much as mutter a fuck off, she had already started spouting off something else. I ignored her as I made my way behind the counter.

“You look like a semi truck just ran your ass over,” she said.

I let out a grunt as I staggered over to her register, struggling to keep my balance as I reached forward to clock in.

Ever since she had started working here, Manny was always trying to flirt with me. She wasn’t my type, so I never gave it a second thought. I liked tall, tan girls with long brown hair, and Manny was short, pale and blonde. But today, she looked a little different than usual.

Her long blonde hair wasn’t pulled up in its usual messy bun, and as I looked down, I noticed she was actually wearing jeans instead of her usual black sweats. Her sneakers were non-existent, and instead were replaced with a pair of black flats.

“Whoa, you actually look like a real girl today and not a lesbian gym teacher,” I said as I took a cup from the shelf and pressed it against the 7-Up lever.  “Hot date or something?”

Before she could answer my question, my boss Juan poked his head through the kitchen window. 

“NO DATE!” he yelled, pushing his whole body forward, as if his sudden jerking motion would put an emphasis on the statement.

It was a funny thing, really. Manny’s reputation as the “Burrito Shacker” had finally made its way to our boss a few weeks ago. After all, hitting on every person on the schedule--regardless of age, sexual orientation, or marital status--was what Manny did. It had gotten to the point that every time he saw Manny ‘running her game,’ as she put it, he would pop his head out the window and scream those two words, “no date,” as loudly as he could. It didn’t matter if the dining room was completely full. He had even gone so far as to make a “No Dating Policy,” which he had plastered across the marquee.

Manny rolled her eyes as she turned to face me. Juan had disappeared from the window to finish opening the store.

“Don’t you ever get tired of him giving you shit?” I asked, taking a sip of my soda.

“Yeah, I do. He acts like I’m always trying to fall in love or something,” Manny said.

“What’s love got to do, got to do with it?” I paused, hoping she would understand the song reference. I always spoke in song lyrics with Manny, because she was never smart enough to catch onto it.

“I know, right?! I’m not even looking for love.” It was over her head.  I tried again.

“Tell me why? Ain’t nothing but a heartache?” I didn’t even like the Backstreet Boys, but I knew for sure she’d get this one. She seemed like the type of girl who blasted boy bands from their stereos as she jumped on her bed, singing into her hairbrush.

“I don’t know,” she paused for a minute, twirling a little piece of hair around her fingers.

Yes, I thought to myself. She has finally caught on. “It’s just that…I don’t want to tie myself down, you know, in case I come across the one. Plus, we got a new girl today, and I’m going to be all over that. I want to be the cheese to that girl’s quesadilla, know what I’m saying?”

            I shook my head and turned to head back into the kitchen to help Juan with the opening duties when the door swung open.

            “We’re not open…” I started to say, as I was turning to face the entrance. Walking through the door was a pretty girl wearing a green Burrito-Shack t-shirt.

            “…And that’s definitely my flavor of the week,” Manny said as she turned to see the new girl walking through the door.” Holy shit. I wonder if Manny knows she just hit me with a song lyric, or if it was complete accident. I really didn’t care about the lyric too much, because my eyes were fixated on the girl walking towards the counter.

            “What’s her name?” I asked, hoping Manny would be able to spit it out before the new girl was close enough to hear us talking about her.

            “Penny, I think. But she’s more like a dime. Yeah, girl!” Manny was always making wise cracks, but I had to agree with her on this one. The new girl had everything going for her in the looks department, and that was enough to catch my interest.

            I walked back into the kitchen. Juan had just finished scraping the caked-on chicken juices from the grill, and tossed the spatula to the side. I walked behind the line, flipped open the table containing the vegetables and condiments, and started taking off the lids. Everything else had already been done.

            The ticket machine screeched and our first order made its way to us. As I slipped on my gloves, I nonchalantly snuck a glance through the kitchen window. Manny was being a flirt, but didn’t seem to be making any progress. The new girl was leaning away from Manny as she was showing her how to ring up an order on the cash register. Any time Manny would move, Penny would flinch. That was my first indication that Manny had no chance at scoring with this girl, and that the opportunity was definitely up for grabs.

“Hey Juan, that no dating rule…is that a Burrito-Shack rule or just specifically one for the ‘Burrito Shacker’ up there?”

            He was too busy scanning the ticket to answer. I threw a few tortillas on the grill and leaned against the wall, considering my options. I could be a gentleman and go save the new girl from Manny’s cheesy pick-up lines and awkward conversation. Or I could just sit back and watch this love boat sink.

            I handed the tortillas to Juan and peeled off my gloves as I stepped into the prep room. I leaned against the counter for a second and then decided to be Penny’s knight in a grungy salsa stained Burrito Shack tee. I grabbed my cup and walked around the corner to the front register.

            “So what do you like to do for fun and stuff?” I heard Manny ask her as I popped up behind them.

            “Um…I do a lot of volunteer work, on top of homework…” Penny muttered, almost reluctant to answer. We made eye contact and I shot her a smirk.

            “Hey Manny, why don’t you go help Juan? I feel like I’m about to throw up. Like I’m about to lose control…” I had to throw in the Le Tigre reference. I knew she wouldn’t catch it, but it was habit.

            “Uhhh, fine,” Manny said with a hint of bitterness in her voice. She stomped back to the kitchen and I heard Juan start barking orders at her through the little window.

            “…And I think I like it,” Penny whispered under her breath. Wait a second. Did this girl just finish my lyric?

            I propped myself up against the front counter and stared at the cash register for a minute, trying to figure out what exactly to say to the new girl. I was a little nervous, which made me feel a little awkward and self-conscious. I hadn’t felt like this since I had first started talking to Katie. I started tapping my foot to the beat of the music blaring from the back and began humming along to the song.

            “Oh, you know MGMT. I’ve seen these guys in concert,” Penny said as she came over and stood beside me. “They’re actually really good live, I was surprised.”

            A girl that’s seen my favorite band in concert? This had never happened—I had never met a girl who had listened to them, let alone seen them live.

            “Oh, yeah? These guys are phenomenal. Probably one of my favorite bands ever,” I said as I looked over at her.  Her green eyes seemed to light up as we locked eyes. She blinked and looked away, her cheeks suddenly a light shade of pink.

            “They’re actually playing a show in some small town dive bar about an hour from here in about a month. I don’t exactly remember where, but I don’t really have anyone to go with...would you want to maybe go?” she asked as she glanced up at me.

            Tingles suddenly shot through my body. I hadn’t felt anything like that for over a year. I couldn’t help but smile as I nodded my head to the beat of the song.  “I’d love to go with you, but I don’t want to steal Manny’s potential girl…” I chuckled to myself, as Penny let out a slight groan.

            “Well, you can’t find nothing at all, if there was nothing there all along.” This girl just hit me with Death Cab for Cutie. Without missing a beat. Maybe Manny would just have to face rejection yet again and move onto the next, cause this girl was mine.

            “About that concert. Yeah. Definitely…”

 

© Paige Garner

Paige Garner was born and raised in a small town in the Bootheel of Missouri. She is in her last semester at Southeast Missouri State, where she will obtain a degree in Journalism. After she graduates, she plans to move to St. Louis to pursue a career in writing, find the French Bulldog puppy of her dreams, and have a nice time.