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“Around the Way Girl”

You could tell she was fiending for attention, hanging out in there by the side of the gas station counter, doing god knows what. Dressed in the usual wear of women of today, and doing so well.
I’d walked to the gas station. There had been a jolly dude running, and a dude passing him on a bike. He passed at the exact second I was trying to look at the jolly dude, just to get some good vibes. The dude on the bike stared at me like a jerkhead. I would have yelled “Fuck you!” at him, but for one he had headphones on, and for another I still had the sprained wrist I’d got from falling on the ice a shitload of times five months earlier. I’d always reinjure it trying to do pushups. Trust me, you would too, in my town. Then this dude in a pickup truck had looked at me malevolently. He looked pretty big, but probably a big softie. Either way, it was cloudy in the middle of America in 2013. You know what’s up. Not much congeniality being doled out for just anyone. Not even for her. That’s why she was the around the way girl. She was bending over doing something on the counter. When I got my dip and started to leave, she straightened up and looked at me, the way I’d hoped she would. I just figured she was with someone, but I don’t think she was. I’d taken so much satisfaction from her looking at me that I didn’t even do anything. Guy behind me, what the fuck. Huge chump. I’d try to say what’s up to him, but he didn’t do anything. I saw him staring at her like a reject, totally telegraphing it. I mean, it’s bad when you’re walking out and you notice someone still in there staring. He was the last guy in there. By that point I’d missed my chance to talk to her. I walked outside, and I’d just read like 30 or so pages of Theodore Dreiser’s The Genius, so I was in a pretty good mood. Me and this black dude said what’s up to each other. Sometimes this will happen in my town, especially say on a Memorial Day when it’s not too windy, you just say what’s up to everyone. Except the around the way girl. No one ever says what’s up to her.
I could see trying to walk with her, trying to act tough, like I was on top of the world, she being like, hey what do you think of him, her, him, me like everyone else trying to be tough but still having my damned sprained wrist, like, well shit, I can’t avoid the conflict, well can I? So I did. It’s the fear of living that you finally call your own, just for wanting to own something, anything. One thing I wasn’t was bored. Despite logic dictating that I should be. So in a way, walking home, feeling a strange truth ricocheting off my dark eyes as I looked at the trees and the river, I’d rather have been me than her. Nothing owed, everyone accepted. Some things you just have to savor sometimes.

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