When you work with someone who talks all the time about everything, you learn to listen and make the appropriate noises at the appropriate times. That was Matthew’s conclusion, anyway. J and M work as ushers at a movie theater in an upscale shopping district. J talks constantly. Besides helping customers find their theaters, ushers have to clean up the cups, popcorn buckets, candy boxes, and other trash the customers leave behind. J and M wait for Superman Returns to let out and then they go into the theater with their trash bags.
“You see those girls walking out?” J asks.
“Yeah,” says M, “they looked good.”
“Damn fine,” J says. “I haven’t had sex in way too long.”
M opened his mouth as if to speak and looked uncomfortable.
“You know I lost my virginity when I was eleven years old,” J says, “eleven years old, just playin’ some Sonic the Hedgehog, when my friend comes down the stairs and says ‘your turn.’ I went upstairs and –”
“Wait, when you were eleven?”
“Yeah, it wasn’t no big thing. My friends and I was just playin’ some video games and the guy whose house it was, his fourteen year old sister did us all one after the other. Except for her brother, you know.”
“Since I got back from my tours I haven’t had much luck, though. It’s harder to get laid when you live with your mom.”
“…how was your luck in the Middle East?”
“Not great. Had a Japanese girl in Hawaii, when I was on R&R. Met her in a club. I still keep in touch with her, you know. Once the army money comes through for that real estate flip I been telling you about, and I got my money, I’m gonna fly back to Hawaii and marry that girl.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
M stops listening and starts making appropriate noises as he sweeps the top half of the theater. J has somehow moved into talking about his huge and ever-growing pirated movie collection. Probably the Japanese girl got him thinking about anime. M finishes his half before J, as usual.
“You play video games?” J asks.
“I used to play all the time; shooters, mostly.”
“Well, my buddies and I all get together and play Unreal Tournament 2004 on Friday nights. You innerested?”
“I dunno, maybe.”
M starts wheeling the trash can out of the theater. J follows. M stows the trash can in a nook and they go to the lobby. The ticket line is longer than J has ever seen.
“The new Pirates of the Caribbean movie is bringin’ um in.” J says.
“Yeah. I doubt it’s any good but people seem to like it. Sequels normally suck.”
“Yeah, I saw it the day it came out and it wasn’t that great.”
They approach the ticket taker, who is in a motorized wheelchair.
“Can you take the podium while I go get dinner?” he asks.
“Sure,” M says, hesitantly. He and J exchange glances.
Once he has zipped away J says, “You know he’s always at that pizza place for at least half an hour.”
“Yeah I know. I’m sick of cleaning theaters, though.” M tears a ticket and points a customer in the right direction. Now all the customers in the lobby are in line for concessions.
“Check out that girl,” J says, nodding towards a woman paying for her drink. “Ooh she’s thick. Pretty face, too.” J stares.
M runs a hand through his shiny black hair and says, “Yeah, I guess so.”
“She’s comin’ over here, be cool.” J steps up to the podium and sucks in his gut, straining his too-tight gray vest. M hangs back, just off to the side.
“How you doin’ tonight?” J asks, voice smooth, teeth glowing against his dark skin.
“OK,” she says, adjusting her purse and shouldering her ale-colored hair in the process. “I’m waiting for someone. He was supposed to be here twenty minutes ago.”
“Shame to keep a girl like you waiting,” J says. She smiles.
“I called him a couple times but he didn’t answer.”
“Shame,” J says, shaking his head, lips pursed. “What movie are you seeing?”
“Pirates of the Caribbean.”
“Oh I saw that Friday, it’s great.”
“But I thought you said –” M says.
“I think it’s better than the first one,” J says.
“Really,” she says, raising her eyebrows.
“Yeah, better than whatever that hero movie is that’s out, too” J says.