He can’t remember the last time he was ever happy. Truly happy. He would get a glimpse of it every now and then, but it would fade away in a matter of seconds. He’s gotten to the point in his life where he has to force himself to get up in the morning and convince himself everything is going to be okay. He will get through the day and press on because that’s what life is. But he’s tired of thinking that way, and this morning he woke up and realized how repetitive all of it has been. He woke up and realized he never wanted to do any of this again. Every day, he got into his car, and inside the console of his car was a rusted, old pistol he carried around for self-defense. He never had to use it, and why would he? Most people liked him or at least tolerated him. He never had anyone he considered an enemy. Heck, he rarely argued with anyone. Most people saw him as a pushover and a beaten dog who bends to the will of the loudest person in the room. He’s aware of it, and it’s always bothered him. He liked to think of himself as a tough, silent type, but that’s not how the world viewed him as.
It’s January, so the wind is blowing extremely hard and sending chives down his spine. He’s wearing a wool scarf that always makes him a bit uncomfortable, but he likes to wear it to show off what little fashion sense he had. He gets into his 2003 Toyota sedan and drives it to work. Once he gets there, he takes his coat off on the coat rack and hangs his scarf over it. As usual, it falls down to the floor, and he has to pick it up and hang it somewhere else. Once he gets there, he puts on his uniform and starts prepping overpriced food with his fellow chefs, all dressed in white. The entire kitchen is spotless because his boss is a real hardass who wants to make sure every little thing is clean. They weren’t necessarily a high-end restaurant, though his boss liked to think they were. People only come in every once and a while to feel fancy for a night before going back home to their mundane, boring lives. Jake would be lucky to even afford dessert at a place like this. With the amount they were paying him, he was lucky enough to make rent in his crappy apartment with his dick of a landlord.
He gathered all of his materials and went to the salad station. For the first few hours, everything was relatively quiet. Gracie, the pastry chef, was going into the latest gossips, and when she wasn’t, she was going about the government and diving into all of the conspiracy theories she read online. Jake wasn’t sure if she believed them at first, but the more she talked about it, the more he realized she actually brought into all of these lies. Whenever someone disagreed with Gracie, she mocked them and told them not to cry to her when the government turned on the people. But for once, Jake had enough. He didn’t want to think about all of these bullshit lies coming out of her mouth on his last day, but what was he going to do? Tell her to shut up and start an argument with her? It would just be one more talking point for her, and she would become the center of attention which she enjoyed being. It always pissed him off how she’s always able to come off as the good guy, even when she’s wrong.
“Biden’s just going driving this country to the ground. You know he and the commies are trying to push that green deal or whatever it’s called? They’re actually going to pass that bull crap. Can you believe it?” She shouted out loud.
“No, he’s not,” Jake said out loud. Everyone went silent and turned their heads.
“What do you say?” Gracie asked.
“No, he’s not! Honestly, what kind of news are you reading?”
“Alright, alright, let’s stop this before it gets out of hand,” Marcus, the sous chef, exclaimed.
Gracie scoffed. “At least, I talk to people.”
“About complete nonsense! At least when I open my mouth, I say something useful. You open your mouth, and the whole kitchen groans. I’m tired of hearing all of it. Can’t we just have a day at work where you’re not talking complete nonsense all the time? Please?!” Jake yelled. He wasn’t even completely aware of what he was doing or what he was about to say next. The words were just coming out of his mouth, and he had no control over them.
Gracie opened her mouth to respond, but Alice, the soup chief, shouted, “Gracie, stop! He’s going through some things. Jake, head outside and take a breather.”
“I’m good,” Jake said before looking at Alice and telling her sorry.
“What? I don’t get an apology?!” Gracie shouted.
“Enough!” Marcus screamed. “Or I will throw you out of the kitchen!”
The kitchen went dead silent again, and no one said anything until Alice spoke about the latest episode of some show Jake had never watched. Jake didn’t open his mouth for the rest of the shift, and in fact, he actively tried to avoid conversations all throughout work. Yet, he caught Alice looking at him a couple of times throughout his shift. Not knowing what to do, he would look away and try to hide his face.
Once his shift was over, he went back to his car, but he heard a voice call out from behind him as he was about to enter the car. It was Alice.
She was racing towards him, trying her best to catch him before he left the parking lot. She was a generally nice woman. She was always kind to him and never said anything horrible about him behind his back. She seemed to be one of the few people who actually cared about him at work. She was a very beautiful woman. She had dark, brown skin and a large afro. She had a perfectly symmetrical face and large thick glasses which covered a good portion of her face. She always seemed happy, and he could only think of a handful of times when he’s actually seen her upset. What’s making her come over to talk to me?
“Sorry. I don’t do much cardio,” she told him when she finally reached him. “What was that? In the kitchen earlier? You’re not the kind of person to start shit with anyone.”
“I just…didn’t want to hear it from her today,” Jake told her.
Alice chuckled. “It does get a bit tiring hearing her talk, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah. It does…”
That’s where most conversations with Jake would end. They rarely went forward because he was so awkward with people and couldn’t hold up conversations with people, but Alice wasn’t about to let him drop the conversation.
“You know? I think you’re the best salad chief we’ve ever had.”
“Really?” He says. “What makes you say that?”
“The preparation, the actual process of making the salad, and the presentation. It’s perfect. It makes me wish you tried for a better position in the kitchen. You should try to take Gracie’s job.”
Jake laughed. “I don’t think I’m qualified.”
“You’ve been with us for years now. I’m sure they would be more than happy to move you somewhere better in the kitchen,” Gracie said.
Jake chuckled a little. “I’ll think about it.”
“Hey, ummm….I’m cooking a lobster bistro at six today. I can’t eat all of it myself. I was wondering if you would like…”
“Yeah,” Jake said, ears perked up and smiling like an idiot. “That sounds great. I’ll see you then.”
Alice gave him a peck on the cheek before walking to her own car. Jake’s heart fluttered for a bit, but it died after. How long has it been since you’ve been on an actual date? He asked himself. For a while, he couldn’t remember the answer. Then he realized it was actually with his last girlfriend, Maria. They went out for three years, but they quit seeing each other after she had to move. That was five years ago. How pathetic do you have to be….