By S. Trinh
My boss is sad today.
He's been chain smoking since I got here. K told me that he's gone through a couple packs already; I'm tempted to follow in his footsteps. It would be easy to take a pack of cigarettes and walk outside, not come back. But the phone rings, and I am pulled away from my daydreaming at the window, and I answer it.
I talk, ask questions. The person on the line answers. It's a simple system, really, but it's the only part of my job that I don't quite like. I hang up, hit a few buttons on the computer, and go to the walk-in freezer.
I work at a pizza joint in the Northeast. It's typical of me, a student in college, working to pay off whatever I can with what I can do. But the job here is more than just a way to pay bills and have some extra spending money, it's so much more.
The dough in the freezer is soft, pliable. I take it back out to the stainless steel counters that I so admire, and a few minutes later, it's ready to be sauced and topped.
My boss walks in. I wish I had a crossword puzzle to distract him; he likes those. K stares absentmindedly out the window while B dances around the store. He likes dancing.
J, our driver, walks in. He says that the store is his family. A lot of other people agree; I feel as though the store is a break from my real family, a place where I can be wacky and efficient and take smoke breaks. You can't take a smoking break from your family.
"Hey there girls, how are ya today?" J says as he rushes past.
He doesn't bother waiting for an answer as he runs out the door with another deliver under his arm. K and I sigh, shake our heads, and decide to make some food for him, lest he pass out later in the night.
The store has a temporary calm. I fold pizza boxes and stare out the window, only vaguely listening to the noise of my co-workers. My boss walks up to me. "So. You're folding those boxes, eh?"
"Yeah," I say. I can't help a sad little sigh at the end. He doesn't ask, but he stands with me, the two of us marinating in our unhappiness.
"I had a dream about you last night," I tell him. "I was at Hogwarts and you were my teacher, but instead of teaching me how to make pizzas, you were teaching me how to make shoes."
He stares at me oddly. "That's a weird dream."
I go back to folding boxes. He goes into the back room, and picks up a guitar. Music emanates from there, and B runs back, eager to see who is making music, who he can sing along with.
K has anxiety problems. She gets anxious about the future. J has to work two full-time jobs in order to keep his life from falling apart. B is trying to quit smoking, and my boss, our boss, he loves his girlfriend who wants to be free and not think about marriage. Instead of letting him shower her with love, she showered him with rejection.
I'm depressed and I constantly feel like there's no way out. My real family is something I run away from. So really, we're all broken here.
And working here isn't quite as easy as it seems; it's a chore most nights. The store is hot and I come home all the time with flour all over my face, wearing formerly black shoes that are now white with dough that can't be scraped off. Cheese gets stuck under my fingernails and my body aches from standing all day, from making dough into pizzas, which requires a good amount of strength. Sometimes, I don't get home until close to , and last night, I passed out at work from dehydration.
But I love it here. Just the way J says, the store is a family. It is strong, it helps us take a break from these seemingly impossible-to-solve problems that make us worry and take over our lives.
We talk and we joke and take things seriously when they are needed. We take cigarette breaks from each other. But it's an escape, working here, an escape from people who don't understand us, from thinking too hard, from the complications of life.
The most complicated thing I face in the store is getting a hole in my dough, but that's fixable. I can fix holes in dough; I can't fix holes in life.