I was sitting in the alleyway behind the Lowell movie theater. This was my second day working there and I was having a cigarette break by myself. I liked all my coworkers; they were very laidback and easy to talk to. I could smoke whenever I wanted to as long as I didn’t have any other tasks to complete or if there was no movie rush going on and I had to work box office or concessions.
This was my first real job.
I worked at a DJ studio for a little while when I was a few years younger but that job led me to a dead end. I tried working at a smalltime coffee shop but I took too many cigarette breaks and too many free drinks and they let me go after my first day. Nobody trained me or told me what to do so I got bored and smoked cigarettes and drank soda for the whole day until the manager told me I clearly didn’t understand what they were doing there and he had to let me go. I worked a day at a grocery store just to get fired. I contacted the Better Business Bureau about this. They hired me to fill in a shift and then fired me at the end of the day. But at least I made 30 dollars.
Now I was 18 and I was working at the Lowell movie theater in Harvard Square.
My black, flamboyant manager exited through the backdoor and stood there and retrieved a rolled cigarette from the inside pocket of his Lowell vest and turned to me and said: “Do you mind if I smoke?”
I raised my cigarette so he could see and smiled at him. “I’m already smoking.”
He chuckled and lit his rolly and instantly the smell of pot smoke wafted through the air. I understood now. He held the joint out to me. This was my manager and this was my second day working here. I felt like I had no other choice. I took a hit and passed it back to him and he took a hit and passed it back to me and I took a hit and passed it back to him and when the joint was cashed, I lit another cigarette and my black, flamboyant manager went back inside. I finished my cigarette and stood and the murky alleyway floor shuddered and swirled and I grabbed the wall and held on so as not to fall. The pot was so frikken strong and I realized I didn’t know how to walk anymore. I couldn’t move my feet. My knees didn’t bend properly. I had no feeling in my toes. My heels were crooked. My thighs were oscillating and the ground was liquid. I held onto the wall and felt my way to the door and grabbed the handle and cranked the latch and the door released so suddenly I fell through and almost collapsed but I caught a pole and hugged it. I looked around the store. My coworkers were busy at work. The next rush of movies was just getting started.
A girl I worked with, who had purple hair that moved and flowed like Medusa’s head of snakes, hurried over to me and said: “Get a move on, you’re ticket taker.”
I stood there silently. I had to cross the large mass of moviegoers pouring out of the theater doors and pooling in the atrium and talking and laughing in droves. I held onto the wall and stared at the distance I had to cross to get to the front doors.
She said: “Are you okay?”
I leaned close to her and said: “I don’t know how to walk.”
This was my second day working here and I was so fired. Why did I have to smoke that pot?
“You’re stoned?” she said.
Shit, did I say that out loud? Or can she read my mind?
“Shit, what the hell is going through your mind?”
“But the black man. I can’t remember his name.”
“Come on,” she said, and grabbed my hand and led me to the front doors.
I was so getting fired.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “No one’s firing you. This happens to the best of us.”
She can read my mind. She is so hot.
Wait, think of something else.
Next thing I knew I was standing at the front of the line taking people’s tickets.
I did not get fired for that.
These people got me.
One day I brought a half gallon of whiskey to work with me and as soon as they caught wind of it, the break room was packed with us all sharing the whiskey.
Four months later, AMC bought out the store and they were so strict they took the fun right out of working at this smalltime movie theater. I was one of the first of my coworkers to quit.
The last time I ever set foot in that movie theater was because I was in Harvard Square with Samantha and she had recently acquired some crack cocaine and neither of us had ever tried it before and we needed a quiet, closed-in location so I went into the movie theater and asked the boy working there if we could smoke crack in the alleyway in back. He remembered me from when I used to work there.
He said: “No problem, go right ahead….”