I found myself standing at the back of Alpson’s Family Restaurant wearing a stained black men’s chef uniform; pinstriped black pants and all. On my head I wore a black baseball cap, and my jet black hair was being held captive in a hairnet. As strange as I may have looked, this is how I looked at least five nights a week during my grade 10 year of high school.

It was very late in the evening, and I was mindlessly peeling leftover chicken to be used in the next day’s soup. At first, I had thought it was a weird job, but after only half a year of peeling chicken for Alpson’s, I found it almost therapeutic. I especially liked the fact that the fresh chicken was not going to waste. It was being reused in a very delicious way. As I peeled, Logan Lowly walked by me unbuttoning his baby blue server’s shirt as he cheerfully sang, “quitting time!”

I smiled as I watched Logan disappear into the men’s change room. I liked him. I hated to admit it, but I really liked him. It actually made no sense. Logan might as well have been my polar opposite. He was extremely loud and obtuse, always going for the cheap laugh and trying to be the centre of attention. He was a typical Bridgewood kid turned young adult, who I would normally be inclined to loathe, but for some reason I didn’t. Quite the opposite, in fact. I admired his lighthearted confidence, and his often inappropriate and raunchy humour. Most of all, I liked the way that he paid attention to me. He was five years my senior, but he definitely didn’t treat me like some dumb high school kid.

Sometimes, I suspected that Logan would even flirt with me. Well, Logan actually flirted with everyone. But for me, that just added to his appeal. I liked that he treated me like everyone else. He treated me like every other girl at Alpson’s restaurant, even the pretty ones, despite the fact that I was just boring 15-year-old Alexis Ryder. And sometimes, even in an oversized chef’s uniform, wearing no makeup, with pulled back hairnet hair, I got his undivided attention all to myself. I loved that.

When Logan emerged from the change room, he had changed into a black t-shirt and a puffy silver winter jacket. His blond hair had been freshly gelled into short spikes. He walked over to me, flicked the brim of my hat, and sent it flying, hairnet and all, onto the greasy kitchen floor. I rolled my eyes, “Logan!”

I bent down to pick up the hat, and when I stood up again, he was dangling his car keys in my face. I smiled politely. “Goodnight, Logan.”

Logan frowned, the pale skin on his freckled nose wrinkling. “I’m offering you a ride home. Do you want one?”

A ride home? In a car? With Logan? Heck yeah, I wanted one! I’d never caught a ride home with a coworker before. It sounded so grown up. I wasn’t even old enough to drive yet. I tried to play it cool. “Oh. Yeah, sure. Let me, uh, call my ride to cancel. I’ll be off in ten minutes.”

I called my dad and told him my friend Olivia’s Pagliacci’s dad would be giving me a ride home. She worked at Alpson’s too, and I often did get rides home with them. I didn’t really like lying to my parents, but it really did help to avoid unnecessary questions.

Before I knew it, I had changed out of my uniform and was walking through the dark parking lot alongside of Logan. My stomach was doing flip flops. Even though my house was only five minutes away, I was worried about what we would talk about in the car. I hadn’t been able to brainstorm conversational topics ahead of time! It had all happened so quickly. Five minutes was definitely enough time to ruin Logan’s normal-girl impression of me once and for all. Soon, he could be regretting offering me a ride home in the first place.

Logan stopped at a souped-up, lowered, dark green Honda Civic with tinted black windows. Of course that’s what he drove. Before he unlocked the door, he pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lit one up. I couldn’t help but exclaim, “you smoke?!”

“Yeah,” Logan replied casually, as if lung cancer wasn’t a growing healthcare concern. “You want one?”

Suddenly years of public service announcements and after school specials flooded through my head. I’d never been cool enough to be offered a cigarette before. None of my friends smoked. I wouldn’t even know how to smoke, or how to ignite the lighter. I imagined myself battling peer pressure in a family sitcom as I replied kindly, but firmly, “No, thank you.”

“Good,” Logan confirmed. “Nasty habit. Expensive too.”

Inside the car, I noted that Logan had three things hanging from his rear view mirror; a plastic red pepper with a gold stem, a white rosary and black and red fuzzy dice. As soon as Logan turned the car on, deafening European dance music attacked us through the car’s upgraded sound system. I had never heard anything so loud before. The horribly pulsing bass infiltrated my chest, almost suffocating me. If this car had belonged to anyone else, I would have mocked them relentlessly. It was so gaudy and unoriginal. There was nothing good about it. But this wasn’t just anyone’s car. This was Logan’s car, and it was perfect. I could be a bit hypocritical at times.

To my relief, Logan quickly lowered the volume. He was still smoking in the car. I wondered if my parents would be able to smell it in my hair and clothes.

“So where do you live?”

“Really close,” I said suddenly feeling guilty about accepting a ride home. My house was literally around the corner. I didn’t need a ride. I could have walked. Or had my dad pick me up. I hoped Logan wouldn’t regret his offer when he realized how unnecessary it actually was. “Turn left on Easton Road.”

As Logan drove faster, the exhaust whirred louder. I watched Logan drive, his face lit up by the blue light from the radio and the streetlights shining in through the windows. I almost couldn’t believe that I was riding in a car with a really cute guy. It was so different than my regular life. I felt excited. I felt happy. Most of all, I felt cool. In a loser, Bridgewood kind of way.

“It’s the third right after the stop sign.” I directed as we neared my street.

“Are you sure you want to go home?” Logan asked, mischief dripping from his voice. His green eyes looked at me expectantly.

“Yeah, of course.” I replied instantly.

“I was just joking.” Logan replied, almost defensively, turning onto my street.

I didn’t get the joke. Where else could we go on a Thursday night, at nearly 11 o’clock at night?

2005

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