I work with a guy named Manny who also goes by his given name, Manuel, or Manuelo or Manuelito, depending on who he’s talking to. He’s one of the line cooks and his arms are lined with tiny burn scars from all the grease splatter. Sometimes when I look at his arms I want to connect the dots with a Sharpie. Manuelo is a small man, shorter than me, but I’m pretty sure he has a killer body. When he hugs me his chest is rock hard and hot. He likes to play soccer, and when he’s on break he hangs out back, bouncing a soccer ball off his feet, kicking it against a wall, sometimes faking like he’s trying to score on an invisible goalie. Manuelo has three children; two are still in Mexico. Sometimes we sit on the loading dock eating fries and pickles, or Mexican food he brings from home, the real stuff, not that shit from Chevy’s. He shows me pictures of the kids he had to leave behind and tells me in days and months how long it will be until he sees his babies, sus bebés, sus queridos, otra vez. He always holds the pictures carefully, cradled in the palm of his hand. I get jealous of his kids even though they live in a really small house, far away from their father. My dad would never show anyone a picture of me and he doesn’t know how to hold things carefully.
We were lying on the hood of Jason Miller’s car at the overlook on the edge of town when I turned and pressed my hand against his face. He flinched and tried to push my hand away but I wouldn’t let him. I felt bad for once thinking he was ugly. There is nothing ugly about that boy. He’s the most perfect-looking person I know because you can tell he is good. I like his face. In seven weeks he’s going back to school. I will still be here and people will think they still know me. Boys will think they can do whatever they want to me, that I will let them. I will know they are all wrong. I’m not sure if Jason Miller is my boyfriend but when I’m alone at night I pretend he is. I say Jason Miller is my boyfriend over and over like that will make it true. I asked Jason Miller if he was going to forget me when he went back to school with all the beautiful girls he must meet every day. He said he wouldn’t. I’m not stupid like most girls who believe any old thing a boy tells them. I believed him even though I shouldn’t.
Jason Miller brought me to the apartment he shares with three other guys. The place was a pit, well, the shared areas, but his room was really nice. I could tell he cleaned up because I was coming over. The place smelled like Lemon Pledge. I appreciated that. We watched reruns of Law & Order and the detectives kept saying the word Miranda until it started to sound funny and we laughed every time. I yawned after a few hours and Jason Miller asked if I was ready to go home. I shook my head. I said, “I’m spending the night.” He asked about my parents and I told him they don’t give a damn where I sleep. He nodded and went to his dresser and grinned as he threw me a T-shirt. When I started to pull my dress over my head, he turned away. “You don’t want to look at me?” I asked. “Not without your permission,” Jason Miller said. I told him he could look and he turned around real slow and watched me undress. The shirt he gave me was from the school he goes to and it smelled like him and also chlorine. I took my time. He started breathing funny and well, you know. It’s not hard to tell when a guy likes your body. Jason Miller stripped down to his boxers and crawled into his bed with me. It was narrow but we fit together nicely. I was so sure we were going to finally have sex and for once I really wanted it. He turned the lights out. We lay facing each other. I could barely see him because there wasn’t much of a moon. His breath smelled nice. Finally, I leaned into him and kissed him. He made my lips tingle and it wasn’t just because his lips were chapped. I said, “You can have whatever you want, Jason Miller.” He kissed my cheek and my neck and my collarbone. He slid his hands along my ribcage, down to my thigh. “Anything I want?” he asked. I nodded and rolled onto my back. I don’t know why but I felt a little sick to my stomach and I kind of wanted to cry so I covered my eyes with my arm. Jason Miller pulled his hand away and said, “What’s wrong?” I shook my head and swallowed what I really wanted to say. He pulled my arm away from my face and I started crying really hard. “I only want to hold you,” he said. He asked if that was OK. I whispered, “Yes.”
The morning after I spent the night at Jason Miller’s crappy apartment he woke me with coffee exactly how I like it. I didn’t even hear him leave to get it. I was so tired and I slept so hard because I knew it was safe to sleep hard next to a boy like Jason Miller. I don’t think I’ve ever slept so good my whole life. I sat up and crossed my legs and he stared at them the whole time. I’m never going to complain about running again. It totally pays off. I pulled the T-shirt further up my thighs and set my coffee on the end table before pulling his hand between my thighs. “Last night’s offer still stands,” I said. Jason Miller looked at me strangely and I thought maybe he didn’t like me anymore because we hadn’t fucked yet. “Why do you always do that?” he asked. I had no idea what he was talking about. “Do what?” I said. He slid his hand up my body and held my face and it kind of freaked me out because he was so gentle. “You don’t have to make everything about sex.” My face suddenly felt really warm and I was nauseous again. I got out of bed and pulled my pants on, accidentally spilling my coffee, and I knew I was about to start crying again and I didn’t want to do that. I said, “You’re an asshole. I was trying to do you a fucking favor, you freak.” He called after me but I ignored him. I ran out of his apartment holding my shoes and I walked the three miles home barefoot. All I heard was a loud ringing.
I haven’t spoken to Jason Miller in three days. I’m pretty sure he’s done with me but I’ve also seen him sitting in his car out in front of my house. I don’t know what the hell his deal is. He’s called my phone a few times but I don’t answer. I’m sure he’s just calling to say something mean. I probably deserve that. You should have seen his face when I called him a freak. That was a low thing for me to say. Still, I don’t want to hear anything mean from him. I am going to pretend he’s as nice as I needed him to be, wanted him to be.
Something really gross and annoying happened after work today. When our shift ended, Manny offered to give me a ride home but instead of taking me home, we sat in the mall parking lot and he kept drinking from a bottle of cheap tequila. Manny offered me some but I didn’t want any. I haven’t had a drink since that encounter with that perv Billy Tomasetti. The radio was on a Spanish station so I only understood every other word or so. When a song came on that Manny liked, he slapped his hand against the dashboard and sang along. He got totally wasted and I started stressing out that he would kill us when he drove me home. He talked a lot about his family, how much he missed his wife, said she was fat but beautiful, una gorda guapa. I felt real sad for him again but I also wanted to go home and take a shower and go to bed. He’s been weird at work lately, always looking at me like a man instead of like a friend, grabbing my ass when I’m walking to the line to get a new order. I kind of expected him to be better. That was my mistake. The air in his truck was too hot and thick and I didn’t know what I could possibly say to make him feel better about being so far from the people he loves but at the same time I wanted to tell him it could be worse, that he could be living with people who didn’t love him at all or who loved him wrong. When I told him I wanted to go home, it’s like he instantly sobered up. He looked at me real angry. I know that look so I reached for the door handle but I couldn’t find it and my hands were shaking and it was so dark. He slid across the seat and started feeling me up and licking my neck. His breath smelled and it was the worst. I told him I was the same age as his oldest kid but I don’t think he could hear me. I kept fumbling for the door handle and when I finally found it, I started jetting across the parking lot but he ran after me and tackled me to the ground. He is way faster than he looks.