Right now I’m the sole customer at Bageltopia, where my new roommate, Jedd Evan, works. It’s grimy in here and the lighting is wanly inconsistent and none of the accessories or furniture or trimmings match, and the acoustic tiles on the ceiling are riddled with patches of water stains and mild rot. The walls are painted the color of what white walls look like in a room that allows smoking. There is an unplugged, antediluvian ATM in the corner where I am sitting, and on the wall to my right is a cheaply framed, warpy print of a cartoon chef somberly whisking ingredients in a bowl, the French moonlight glinting off the left curl of his ridiculously long handlebar moustache. The layout is questionable; the wall bisecting the restaurant flagrantly disrespects all tenets of Feng Shui, and my centrally located booth manages to only afford me a perfect view of the condiment area and trash can. The tablecloths are real fabric and look as though they were plucked from a very dead grandmothers’ estate sale reject pile. I love the tablecloths. I absolutely love it here, in general. I don’t know why. Well. Maybe I do.
Jedd Evan is pacing back and forth behind the counter keeping busier than anyone ever employed by Bageltopia in its 13 years of existence, I’d be willing to bet. Chopin is blaring, but it’s fine because even if you blare classical music, it’s still peaceful. Jedd Evan’s coworker, a tall, slouchy, slack-jawed Post Office Kid in his mid-20s, is expounding on the particularly good parts of the funeral march, and if I was still the sort of person to judge others’ intelligence by the way they dress, I’d be surprised. One of them is whistling every note of the Chopin arrangement perfectly. I’m not sure which of them it is, and I decide not to look up and find out.
The Post Office Kid comes and sits by me and we talk about several different things such as mutual acquaintances, lucid nightmares, his broken windshield wipers, Mexican potlucks, billiards, Band of Horses, and the unsecured wireless network of the Karate school next door. He tells me he is a perfectionist and I believe him mainly because the word looks so ludicrous coming out of his mouth. I like him. He’s smart.
I’m trying my best to ignore the fact that when my roommate’s at work, he wears his hat backwards and I guess the combination of the humidity from the rainstorm in the parking lot and the heat from the bagel ovens in the kitchen makes his hair flip up on the sides, because it doesn’t really do that, normally. I’m listening to two high school girls act their ages diagonally from where I’m sitting and it’s driving me almost insane. They’re theater-types and they’re speaking so fast and with such deliberate, impeccable enunciation that it sounds like a different language entirely. They’re dressed ridiculously and I want to judge them really badly until I remember:
1. I’m fucking 30, and
2. At their age, I thought combat boots were best worn over jeans and the only t-shirt you could possibly pair with yellow fishnets, mismatched argyle socks, a gold taffeta skirt, and black lipstick was the “Satanic Army” Marilyn Manson one, or, if that one was dirty, the “got weed?” one, or, barring that, a simple black bandeau top that made me look like the absolute slut that I certainly wasn’t, and
3. They’re 15 and adorably having a great time doing exactly what they should be doing in High School, which is embarking on a bunch of superly important adventures which, in time, will reveal themselves to be worthless, useless, really fun memories.
I just realized my Bageltopia table is about a half a block from East Chapel Hill High School, which would explain the clientele thus far. I’ve only seen one customer over the age of 15, and Jedd Evan is alarmingly patient with all of them. He’s not completely moved all his things in yet, his toothbrush and alarm clock and laptop charger or favorite coffee cup, and I’ll tell you what a shitty roommate I already am: I set my alarm clock for 6am so Bageltopia would open on time, and when it went off, instead of trying to wake him up, I disemboweled the entire alarm clock and went back to sleep. When I woke up staggering around the kitchen for water and a hairbrush (which I needed), he was somehow gone and my alarm clock was in angry little pieces. It still is.
The perky theater girls are discussing their past repertoire of roles in various “important” stage productions. I immediately remember why their infuriating voices sound so familiar.
They sound exactly like the Chip ‘n’ Dale cartoons.
It’s not like I’m sitting here, creepily watching Jedd Evan and the Post Office Kid do their jobs, but, I mean, I sort of am. I like that at Bageltopia I can put my feet up on the vinyl booths. I like that the owner looks like he’s totally over it, but he still tucks in his shirt. I like that I can watch Jedd Evan make a pot of coffee and, while he waits for the drip to subside, he’s suddenly behind me reattaching a chair seat to its frame because at Bageltopia, he’s a man of many, many backwards baseball hats.