Turning 30, Chapter 5

Ashlynn looked at her phone, a cracked Galaxy s7 active, and followed her GPS walking directions. It took her to an old arcade. She double checked her open Facebook page, and it confirmed that this was the right place. She closed everything up and went inside. She had to adjust to the dim lighting in there. Every kind of arcade game that she could think of seemed to exist there. There was so much noise from the various game sounds and kids laughing, screaming, and just having loud conversations that she wondered how she would find him in all this chaos. She really hoped that he didn’t choose this moment to take his lunch break!

Down another aisle of video games, Ashlynn spotted a man wearing a colorful stripped shirt lie the circus tent-themed walls. He had a money belt on and a backwards Mets’ hat. This had to be him. A kkid flagged him down, “Hey Mister, this thing ate my quarter!”

The man turned his attention to the machine. It was confirmed, this was definitely Will. He looked just as she remembered him in high school except for subtle signs of aging. Will studied the screen for a minute and turned back to the kid. “Look kid, I can’t give you your money back just ’cause you died right away.”

The kid protested, “That’s not fair!”

Will responded, “Life’s not fair. If it were, you think I’d still be working here having this conversation? Again. Every day. Ten times a day.” The kid gave him a blank loo, so he changed the subject. “Hey, why don’t you play that game? It’s awesome!” Will pointed to an old Mortal Kombat game.

The kid made a stink face. “That game’s dumb!”

“What, are ya crazy? That was the hottest game back in my day!”

“You’re old!”

Will did not give any indication that this comment bothered him, but he did, however, rant, “You know the great thing about getting old is that you don’t give a rat’s behind about what other people think! There’s no cliques, and strangers’ opinions don’t matter. It’s liberating! And you stop worrying about how you look and keep up with trends. Look at you! You probably took forever to put on those skinny jeans! And is that eye liner? Guys in my day at least wore baggy jeans, way more comfy. You can judge me all you want, but everyone knows this wanna-be hipster generation is way lamer than my generation, and we were the last ones to know what cool really means. Go ahead and judge all you want! Why would I care what millennials think?”

The kid asked, “What year were you born?”

“Eighty six.”

“Well, technically you’re a millennial too! Loser!”

The kid laughed and ran off. Will shouted after him, “Hey, hey! Don’t you dump us in generation y! We’re the bridge generation-generation xy!” When he was out of sight, Will muttered, “Little punk!”

Ashlynn stepped forward so Will could see and hear her. “Don’t take it personally. Kids today have no taste, and I’d rather be called old than considered cool by this generation.”

Will replied, “When did I get old? It feels like it wasn’t that long ago that we were in high school!”

“It was a long time ago, Will,” Ashlynn said. “Is that why you’re talking to me like we we just saw each other? It’s been twelve years, you know.”:

It finally clicked for him that Ashlynn was here and that he had not seen or heard from her in ages. “Oh, Ashlynn! You’re back!” He gave her a jocular hug. “I read in the paper that your job closed down. That’s really shitty!”

Ashlynn agreed. “Pretty much.  Hopefully it doesn’t take me too long to find another job.”

Half joking, Will suggested, “This place is hiring if you’re desperate.”

Ashlynn briefly but unwillingly considered it. “Thanks, but I would prefer to make enough to move out of my parents’ house.”

Will did not get offended by this. ” I hear ya. The only way I could move out of my folks’ place was to rent a room from this old broad, Miss Constantine. It’s the cheapest rent in the state! Seriously, I barely pay anything. But I’m roommates with sixteen cats. No joke, sixteen! I get a huge reduction in rent by feeding them.”

Ashlynn commented, “That’s a lot of cats! But it doesn’t seem that bad.”

Will reacted, “Sixteen cats! That’s low balling it! And did I mention that they don’t eat like normal cats? There’s a ratio of wet food to dry food that I  gotta mix just right? She treats them like humans, and we have to set them all places at the table. Even in the garage! They don’t sit at the tables, they swarm-like rats! Also, I’m pretty sure the house is haunted. I’m getting too old to live like this.”

Ashlynn used this to transition to her point of being there, “Speaking of getting old, Tadd will be turning thirty next month.”

“Oh Tadd? Is he here? I thought he left with that crazy chick!”

“She dumped him. Really, he should’ve dumped her dumb ass before…anyway, he’s not taking the break up well at all. I was thinking it’d be cool if we could get old..squad? Am I using that word correctly?” Will shrugged. “Anyways, I thought our old group of friends from high school could get back together to make his day really special. I also thought that this Friday we could meet for dinner to plan it out.”

Will nodded, liking the idea. “Sounds awesome!”

A man who was obviously Will’s boss went up to him in a huff. “What are you doing? Stop talking and get back to work! You need to go help a kid in aisle three-a machine ate his quarter!”

Will muttered, “Of course there is. There always is.”

“What did you say?” his boss probed.

“Right away boss!” He gave him a toothy but clearly fake grin. His boss sneered and left to another part of the arcade. As Will walked away, he mumbled, “God, kill me now!”

Ashlynn commented, “Gawd, I’m so sick of hearing you say that!” Will stopped in his tracks and gave her an inquisitive look. “Sorry, I spent three hours babysitting Tadd and he…” Will looked more confused. “Never mind, I’ll text you later. Have fun at work!”

“Yeah, that’ll be the day!” Will waved goodbye and walked away to continue working. Ashlynn left the arcade kind of amused.



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