I’ve been thinking about my first adult job lately. The one I that I acquired in high school, that paid for my first apartment afterwards as well as two full years of moonlighting college courses- cash up front, of course. I never trusted the student loan invites.
It was a job in a trendy cafe that also had an antique old-man appeal to it, a place I had long looked up to when I was a young intimidated teenager standing in line for an Autumn Sunset before walking across the street and going to see a movie with friends. It had a strong contemporary vibe but also a bluesy New Orleans vibe, and I ended up hanging out there in my later teens, making friends with some of the staff, and eventually taking a job there doing all the typical restaurant positions from washing dishes to cooking food to taking orders.
The building and the atmosphere lingers heavily in my mind, but it’s the people that yet haunt me so. It was the time in my life when I had the most friends at once, for sure. I remember many of them specifically- Will, who was very creative and sensitive and funny, whose dad had the same job as mine, how we would laugh the night away. Jimmy and his sarcastic wit. Justin, of course, with his sunday morning scrambled omlette feasts and joint smoking in the walkin cooler, Angela and her neurotic tirades on her frustrating love life- I could count people forever and what immense little they meant to me at one point upon a spinning star…but it’s more a certain feeling of belonging with all of them that really hits me, almost exactly the amount of life I had lived up to that point later.
I could just walk into a huge crowd and trust that I knew most everyone there and most everyone there was happy to see me and had something to say. We were like this giant mass of peer gravity feeding meaning and comradery off of one another. What a shame that for a work environment to foster such feelings and relationships, it must be that stressful and vice conducive.
All these little memories from that time have been coming back to me, like from a distant dream- much like memories I had back then about my early youth. A similar time-earned reverence, but more clarity now than then. I can’t get over how much more sophisticated people were before the internet, on an interpersonal and cultural level. What an incredible world to have briefly been a part of, and what failure on our parts to have preserved it. I am grateful for these jewels of memories, at the very least.
I had this very special place I would go, often with dates. One date, in particular, possessed the bulk of my interest and attraction during that period (though I dated plenty besides), and I can still remember the butterflies in my abdomen as we parked my car in the near blackness of the forest after a long two-track late at night. I’d pop open the moon roof, we’d climb out and sit on the roof of the car with our legs dangling inside, listen to Mazzy Star from below and smoke a joint. I remember she smelled like coconuts and had small soft legs. And the butterflies. And the smell of the forest at night on a late warm June evening.