what's there to be happy about.


gina took my application, but when i told her this, she said she didn't remember doing so. "i did?" she asked. "yeah," i said. she'd go on and on about girl bands, and i don't know why, but i liked girl bands, too. "have you heard the new sleater-kinney yet?" "yeah, it's pretty good," i said. and then she'd list out all the bands she loved, like the softies, and all girl summer fun band, and le tigre, and others that fell into that same category. i liked that we had our own little thing going. we seemed to be the only two tower employees who gave a shit about indie girl rock bands.

she was always broke, but she could make it out to baja fresh every now and then. sometimes, i drove, and sometimes, she drove. i'd drive us in my dad's camry, and when she drove, she drove this beat-up old red thing. even though it was 2001, she still had a tape player, and she told me she liked making tapes. "i'll make you a tape sometime," she said, even though she never did. we wouldn't say much to each other. it's like if we weren't talking about girl bands, we had nothing else to talk about. we weren't really the gossiping type.

she was a few years older than me, maybe about eight or ten years older, and i thought that was kind of cool. i liked being young and being friends with an older person who was still as obsessed with music as i was. she always wore flannel shirts and dark corduroy pants, dark cardigans and a pair of untied black chucks. sometimes, she would put pink or red streaks in her hair. and even if she wasn't in the greatest shape, i thought she did a good job of hiding it well.

she told me about the red house painters and what it was like to work at a record store for so long. she hated her job, but she liked sunday mornings when we would open together, and nobody would ever come in, except for russ solomon, and he'd only buy a newspaper. when nobody was in there, we'd listen to clarity or old ramon and we could just stand at our registers and listen to music. there was nothing quite like a sunday morning at a record store.

at one point, gina really started to hate her job. this was when tower started losing money, and they did everything they could to save a buck. they sent an email out to all employees saying that discounts would no longer be given to friends or family, and that all employees could only use their discount once a day. we all talked about how stupid and illogical this move was, but gina felt she had to do something about it. she must've felt like she had nothing to lose, so she went ahead and responded to all employees, including corporate. she called the rule out for what it was, and then compared the higher-ups to nazis or something like that. it was a bit dramatic, but kind of funny, since the owner was, you know, very jewish.

i went back to school after all that mess, but gina must've done something again because i heard she was fired. if i recall correctly, it had something to do with a note she wrote, insulting another employee's baby. i don't know exactly what the note said, or what happened, and when i asked her about it later, she was vague and wouldn't tell me. either way, she was out of a job, and she was unemployed for quite a while. i'd send her emails, and she wrote back infrequently, stating that times were tough, and she couldn't afford a decent computer, let alone internet access.

when i quit my teaching job, i found a test-grading gig through craigslist. as it turned out, it was the same one gina was in, so we became coworkers again. by then, she was more broke than ever, since the gig was part-time - nights only - and paid poorly. we'd go out into the cold parking lot late at night to get some air and have a snack. she'd often pull out a plastic bag full of candies and cookies she had bought from the dollar store. she told me how much she loved the dollar store. i felt incredibly bad for her, this woman who lived in an apartment she couldn't afford (her grandma paid her rent), who had no friends except for her six year-old niece, who hadn't been in a relationship the entire time i'd known her (six years), and whose sole dinner consisted of nutter butters and trail mix. i wanted to give her the world then - or at least a hug - but i had my own worries to think about.

the gig was seasonal, and the work was so mind-numbing that we were glad when christmas came, and it was finally over. eventually, she got a job at the dmv, where i assume she still works. the last email she sent me, she said the job was boring, but at least it was full-time. she said that she wished she could have been adventurous as me, and moved to a different city, started a different life. i wasn't sure what stopped her from doing something like that.

there was also that one day in the backroom, when gina was telling everyone how a customer was always telling her to smile more. she was always having weird interactions with customers. there was that one guy who stalked her, some creepy old man i had seen once or twice. and then there was her ex-boyfriend, who worked for corporate, and he once allegedly played for the death metal/comedy band anal cunt. she had a crush on another tower employee, mike, who my cousin and i called "pinkish hue" because of his rosy cheeks. and there was also a rumor circulating that she banged the tattooed jock devon, who worked for loss prevention.

i was shocked when i heard the thing about the loss prevention guy, since gina seemed awkwardly introverted. "what you don't know," another coworker told me, "is that she isn't as innocent as she seems." he then went on about how they used to work at shakey's pizza or godfather's, and how she was always doing all kinds of scandalous things with the male employees. i couldn't believe it at the time, and it made me think that all women had some sort of deviant thing going on the side, or else a psycho-sexual past.

anyway, she was in the backroom that one day, complaining about a customer who kept telling her to smile more. i only caught the tail-end of the conversation. she said, "i don't know. what's there to be happy about?"

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