Issue 46 Mar 2017
Aaron made sure there was no food stuck in his teeth and flattened his hair. Again.
"Would you stop that?" Nate punched Aaron's shoulder.
Aaron shoved his hands in his pockets and concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. Another block to go. He had seen these cookie-cutter houses with their carports, barbecues, and well-trimmed lawns a thousand times. His house was only five minutes away and looked just like them. But that night, he knew he was in a whole different world.
The street was quiet, unlike his racing mind. Sweat was pooling under his arms, and he made a mental note to keep his Beatles hoodie on all night. He didn't know much about impressing Tess Jacobs, but he knew that giant pit stains wouldn't help.
"Seriously dude, you look like you're about to puke. We're going to a party, not Principal Mackie's office," Nate said.
"This isn't just any party. Tess is going to be there." Aaron's voice was higher pitched than usual. "What am I supposed to say to her?"
"Talk about her band. Haven't you been to every one of their gigs?"
"If she finds out I've been sneaking in and hiding at the back to watch her, she'll think I'm a stalker."
Tess was the lead singer in a girl's rock band called Minor Blaze. The group was still working some things out -- like how to play the right notes and sing on key -- but God, Tess looked amazing up on stage.
"You are a stalker, dumbass. You've been staring at her from a distance for the last six months, not to mention talking my ear off about her. Trust me, it's time to make your move."
The bell rings for the shift change. Everyone puts down their instruments and we turn as one. I stand behind Beatrice and see the clock on the wall, the red hand ticking steadily, one-two-three-four-five seconds, then I take a step forward, one-two-three-four-five another step. I watch the blue and red lights of the scanner wash over Beatrice, her up-stretched hands hardly reaching the over head bar we must hold to keep us still. She steps forward, we all step forward as one.
My head buzzes from the scanner, the only sound I have heard all day aside from the dull whir of machines. Everything sounds muffled as I hang up my white coat and remove the shoe covers and deposit them in the bin. I follow the line down the long, brightly lit corridor towards the exit. However bright the white light tubes might be, it still takes me several moments to adjust to the outside. I can not wait to allow my eyes to stop watering. I know without seeing that a corresponding line just feet across from me is walking in the opposite direction to begin shift. Another will be taking position at my work station, donning my gloves and equipment ready to take their part in the production line.
I step through the gates, turn to the right finally losing the view of the top of Beatrice's shining blonde hair. I take a deep breath but keep walking. It is forbidden to stop in a public place during shift change, between the hours of 11pm and 5.30am, and during the Sunday worship period. I walk along the perfectly manicured streets following the perpendicular grid of roads and pavement until I reach “Joe's” cafe bar. I push through into the cool clean interior. I take a seat next to my sister Lisa who is staring at the tv screen with an equally silent Justine, our cousin. We all work the same shift at New World Pharmaceutical Institute.