Mendy Waits and Brian MacDonald

Brian MacDonald
Inspiration piece

By Mendy Waits


I’m not dumb. I do the math in my head. $59.50 (the blouse from Gap had not been on sale). That’s just over nine hours of work. Nine hours of teaching spoiled brats how to somersault and walk the balance beam. I get $6.50 an hour to listen to Mr. Private School’s stream of consciousness about Pokemon. I get $6.50 an hour, work my ass off, and my boyfriend gets ketchup on my brand new blouse. I feel my throat tighten.

“Michael – you just got ketchup on me.” My attempt to sound nonchalant makes me sound like a robot.

“Really? Oh. You’re standing too close.”

He takes another bite of his hot dog and turns on his heel to face Ethan and Andy. They pretend not to notice the tension and start in again about their video on YouTube. It’s been viewed over 100 times and they’re positive it’s gonna go viral, any day now. Any day.

My voice quivers slightly, “I just bought it yesterday.”

I feel the back of my neck tense. My arms stiffen. I just want him to acknowledge what he’s done; I don’t want to pick a fight. He laces his arm through mine and dances us over to the far side of the mini donuts booth. I am completely distracted by the seamless way his body moves.

“Look, I’m sorry,” he says. “Don’t make a big deal out of this. Just get over it. It’s just a shirt. And honestly, it makes your arms look big, so it’s probably a good thing it’s trashed. And don’t get all offended – you know I tell you the truth because I love you.” He brushes my hair to the side, tucks it behind my ear and adds, “Not like some of your other friends.”

I fold my arms and stare past him – past his end-of-summer tan and perfectly snug shirt. I can see tiny sugared donut rings poking out of a funnel of wax paper. I’d just like to cram one in my mouth. Before I can say anything, he intertwines our arms again and twirls us back to the guys. All smiles.

“Emma is so obsessed with her clothes. Doesn’t she know I just want to make sure I get a good view of the twins?”

He pulls me in front of him and reaches up under my breasts. I anticipate the man-hand bra and grasp his right hand and duck back under his shoulder, wrapping his right arm around me. I act playful, but I see from Michael’s sideways glance that I didn’t fool him. Ethan avoids eye contact with me. He can be so weird sometimes.

“I’ve got to pee. I’ll be back in a few minutes,” I announce.

I slide out from under his arm and walk towards the Ferris wheel. I don’t know where the Porta Potties are and I don’t care. I just want to get away from him. I try not to walk too fast or too anxiously. With each step I feel the heel of my shoes digging ever so slightly into the soft ground. I’m so tired of him turning everything around on me.

It’s crowded and I blend into the bodies. It smells like sweat and cotton candy. I spot the entryway gate and an empty bench. I weave through the latecomers and hastily search through my purse for my phone with my right hand. I feel around and find Chapstick, wallet, sunglasses, and then finally my phone. I sit on the plastic bench that’s supposed to look like wood. It’s warm. I feel sick to my stomach.

I want to call Olivia. I want to tell her everything, but I haven’t even told her that Michael is all intense about eloping next weekend. I haven’t told her about the ring. I twist it around aimlessly. My fingers are a bit swollen in the heat and it feels pinched. I already know what she’ll say. She’ll offer to come get me. She’ll side with me and list every horrible thing Michael’s ever done. But she’ll leave out the good stuff. How he celebrates everything – buying me little gifts just because. How he calls me six times a day and how cute he is when he gets jealous. She’s never seen him balled up in the fetal position and crying his eyes out about how worthless his dad makes him feel. She doesn’t know about the time he showed up in my room in the middle of the night, threatening to hurt himself if I ever leave him. That’s why I agreed to elope, so he would stop telling me how he was going to go off in the woods and never come back.

Everyone makes me feel like I’m crazy. If I’m so effin crazy, why do I have a full ride scholarship to ISU? Ever since Michael found my acceptance letter, he’s been pressuring me to get married. I keep telling him he can work while I finish a couple of years. That makes sense, right? Of course, he says it means I don’t love him if I don’t want to marry him. I haven’t even graduated from high school. How can I get married? I’m supposed to go to college. That’s always been the plan.

I set the phone down next to me on the bench and stare at all of the couples. I don’t want anyone to see me sitting here by myself. Michael may have his faults, but the boy is seriously hot. Like Zac Efron hot.

I’ve got to get back before everyone thinks I’m taking a crap. I lift the spot on my shirt up from my side and examine the red blot. The tiny dot print of the fabric almost looks like confetti. It seemed like a good choice for the state fair. He didn’t even apologize. I just need to stop stressing. I know he loves me. It’s not important. It is just a shirt. I pick up the phone and text Michael.

“where r u?”

“by the blchrs. bull riding up nxt. Luv u.”

The arena? Nice. It’s way the BFE on the other side of the fair grounds. My new wedges are hurting my feet, but I half run/walk to get over there, dodging strollers and balloon animals. I find Michael at the Super Dog stand. Really? How many hot dogs is he going to eat today? Didn’t he say ‘bleachers?’ He sees me and turns around to lean an elbow on the booth’s plywood counter. He loves a good pose.

“What took so long?” he quips.

“Long lines,” I say while glancing around. Apparently the guys have moved on.

“Oh yeah? You sure you weren’t talking to your BFF? I’m sure the suburb baby is too good for the state fair. Or maybe you snuck off with Ethan? He seems to disappear every time you do,”

“Michael, please. That’s stupid.”

“What’s stupid is the way you’re always nice to him. I’ve seen you looking at him and going out of your way to talk to him, especially when you’re wearing those super tight jeans. Don’t think I don’t notice.”

“He’s your friend isn’t he? And he’s your only friend that has half a brain.”

“What the hell Emma? You think just because you got a scholarship that you’re smarter than everybody else?  That you’re better than the rest of us?” He pauses to glare at me, “You’re a slut and an idiot.”

I always thought I would hear something snap, but I feel remarkably calm.

I barely feel my body moving toward the counter of the Super Dog booth. I see Michael toss his last bit of hot dog onto the ground. I step on it without looking down. In one swift tug I’ve got the ring off my finger. I grab his nearest hand and push it into his palm, jabbing it a bit so it digs into his skin. He starts to open his mouth. His pale blue eyes are on fire. I start shaking a bit, but I know there are too many people here for him to blow up. Instinctively my arm reaches for the ketchup bottle just sitting there on the counter. I flip the tip down and squeeze hard on the plastic between my fingers and palm. The string of red paste flies up and down two times across the shirt his mom bought him. He knocks it out of my hand before I go for a third swipe.

“Emma! What the…..”

I look first at his angry eyes, and then glance at his shirt.

“It’s just ketchup, Michael. Get over it.”

I don’t look at the people that have started staring. I don’t think about how he’s going to come looking for me later. I’m not dumb. I’ll figure out what I need to do. I start walking deliberately without turning around. All I need to do now is find the exit.