Small Talk

The McDonald's outlet is decorated in black and white plastic, with cubes for chairs, shiny metal legs on the tables and a line of bar stools by the window. There are five cash registers and an employee standing at each one, uniformed in navy blue, greeting customers with "Bonjour-Hi" and asking if they wanted it super-sized. Behind the glass in the Happy Meal/Joyeux Festin display case are plastic mermaid dolls and race cars. It smells of salt, deep-frying oil, various perfumes, and cigarette smoke from outside.

A girl sits at one of the two-person tables, having positioned herself underneath one of the lighting strips on the ceiling so that the light falls on her copy of The Fellowship of the Ring. She holds the book with one hand while nibbling French fries with the other. She wears a blue sweater with her school crest on it, blue jeans, and glasses with rectangular frames.

A second girl turns from the queue, carrying a tray holding a chicken salad and a cup of Coke Zero. She wears the same school sweater, but her jeans are low-slung, showing the outline of black panties. Her eyes are lined with black eyeliner and her perfume follows her like a cloud.

She sits down with the first girl, who closes her book. They talk as they eat.

*

"Hey-y! How are you?"

"Um, I'm fine, thanks. And you?"

"Good, good. Yeah. So, what'cha been up to since graduation?"

"What have I been … up to?"

"Yeah, like, y'know. Are you working, studying … ?"

"Um. I'm at university, actually."

"Yeah? Doing what?"

"Studying, Obviously."

(Giggles) "I knew that."

"So what'cha reading? Lord of the Rings? Uh … wow. Heavy, isn't it? You like it?"

"I love it."

"Oh … so … yeah, I watched the movie when it came out, but I never had time to read all those, like, big doorstopper things."

(Nods)

"Hey, sweetie, are you okay?"

"Of course I'm okay. Why wouldn't I be? And I'm not your sweetie."

"Okay. All right. Geez, I was just asking. You seem a little out of it."

"Huh. So yeah. I guess I better get going. Nice seeing you."

"Goodbye."

"Bye-bye!"

*

I am so fucking tired from my stupid job, all I wanted was some hot food and a nice chat with a familiar face. Sure, we were never all that tight, but we were in a bunch of classes together – where does she get the balls to ignore me like that? So I thought, maybe she was sick or worried or something, and she just starts bitching at me! Fucking bookworm. No wonder she never had any friends. Try living in the real world, baby. I've got a shift coming up, and a poetry reading down at the pub after that. I've got more important things to worry about than her.

*

I recognize that girl. God, those eyes make her look like a raccoon. Back then, they said she was arrested for shoplifting. Or was it drunk driving? Why in the world would she sit down opposite me? She never had two words to say to me back in high school. Why does she care what I've been up to? Why would she ask if I'm okay? If it's gossip she's after, she'll get no fuel from me. That thing with my English professor has been blown completely out of proportion. I'll keep my dirty laundry to myself, thanks all the same.