Aspen dropped Jolene off at school, and went back to the hotel to get ready to see her “friend”/weed man. She combed her coils into a huge bun, and put on a short red sequin dress, and some red pumps. She put on her trench coat, but noticed it had a stain and a stitch, so she opted not to wear a coat. She put on some red lipstick that she got from the dollar store, and she left. She called her friend once she was at Walmart.
“Hey, Gas man. I’m at Walmart on MLK. Come pick me up.”Aspen walked around Walmart for twenty minutes, looking at all the things she wished she had money to buy for Jolene. She wanted to give Jolene the world, but buying a five dollar gift at Walmart was a stretch.
When her friend got there, he picked her up at the front door. She was shivering. “You look amazing, but where the hell is your coat?” he said. “Hello to you too, Gas man,” Aspen said, while getting into the car. “What’s up, beautiful,” he said.
“You always go to Walmart looking this good?” her friend said. “Only when I know the Gas man is going to pick me up,” Aspen said. “Come on. You don’t have to call me that anymore. We’re way past that now, don’t you think?” her friend said.
“Oh, we’re on a government name basis now?” Aspen said. “Sure. We could’ve been on that, but you just want to use me for weed and sex,” he said, jokingly. Aspen laughed, “Don’t act like you don’t enjoy it.” Her friend laughed, “Oh, I love it, and enjoy it.
It’s just that you’re so mysterious. I don’t know much about you. I can never pick you up from your spot. We always have to meet somewhere. You don’t have a dude, do you?
I’m not trying to get caught up,” he said. “I hope Gas man isn’t catching feelings,” Aspen thought to herself. Aspen didn’t have time for love, she had to figure out her life. Love would only make things worse. Besides, she thought that Gas man wouldn’t want anything to do with her if he knew she was homeless.
She felt like she didn’t have anything of value besides her body to offer him. Her self esteem was shot from her childhood trauma. She had trust issues, and she didn’t want to get close to people because everyone she loved, died. She felt as if she was truly cursed. Jolene was the only one keeping her from a razor to her wrist and ending a life of struggle and pain.
Gas man lit a blunt and took a couple of puffs and passed it to Aspen. Aspen took a puff. Weed took her mind off things temporarily. “Hey, let me ask you something, and I want you to be real with me,” Gas man said. “Oh, Lord.
I hope he doesn’t blow my high. “What’s up?” Aspen said, taking another puff. “Are you okay?” he said. “Yeah, I’m straight. Now that I have this gas, I’ve never been better.
This is some premium octane right here,” she said, with a mild choke. “Aspen, I’m serious,” he said, as he stopped at the gas station. Aspen noticed it was the same gas station that Joe was murdered at. “Can we leave?” she said.
“Yeah, I just need to grab some wraps first. You want something out of there?” he said. “No, I’m good. Please, just hurry,” she said. “Okay… you aight?” Gas man said.
“I told you, I’m straight. I’m good. I’m great. Just hurry, so we can get out of here,” Aspen said. Gas man got out the car and went into the store.
Aspen hadn’t been to this gas station since that tragic incident. If she hadn’t been smoking, she would have had an anxiety attack. Thump, thump, thump… Aspen jumped. Someone was tapping on the passenger window.
“Do you have a dollar. I just need to get something to eat,” a woman in dirty clothes and rotten teeth said. Aspen looked at the woman through the window and stared, while the woman continued to talk. Aspen didn’t know what the woman was saying, but she looked in her eyes and understood exactly what the woman was trying to convey. Aspen grabbed some change out of Gas man’s ash tray, and was about to hand it to the woman.
Gas man came out the store and handed the woman a five dollar bill. Aspen put the change back into the ashtray. God bless you,” the woman said. “You okay,” Gas man said, after he got into the car. “I told you, yes,” Aspen said anxiously.
“Why do you keep asking me if I’m okay?” Aspen yelled. Gas man threw up both of his hands. “Aight. I’ll leave you alone,” he said. “Yeah, just leave me alone.
You know what. Just take me back to Walmart. I’m not feeling this today,” she said. “If that’s what you want,” Gas man said. “Please,” Aspen said.
When Aspen got back to the hotel, she cried. Life was hard without Joe, but she was determined to figure things out. Aspen changed into a jogging suit that had been worn two too many times, and had a slight stench. I have to wash clothes, she said. She went to the library to go online and apply for more jobs.
Aspen was smart, but she didn’t graduate high school, because she’d ran away three months before graduation. As she was leaving the library, she saw a flyer about how to obtain her GED. After she left the library, she went to pick Jolene up from school. Seeing Jolene was like seeing the sunshine after a rainy day. “Hi, mom,” Jolene said, as she got into the car.
“Hey, baby girl. How was school?” “It was okay,” Jolene said. “Just okay?” Aspen said. “Yeah, I was this close to knocking Jeff out,” Jolene said, with a pinch of her fingers.
“Ugh, he’s so aggravating,” Jolene said. “I think he likes you,” Aspen said. “Well, getting on my nerves is not the way to my heart,” Jolene said. Aspen laughed, “I feel you, baby girl.” When they got back to the hotel, Jolene hand washed a basket of clothes and hung them throughout the hotel room to dry.
Jolene ate a Lunchables, and did her homework. The next morning, the clothes weren’t completely dry, so Aspen ironed them. She dropped Jolene off at school, and while dropping her off, Aspen received a phone call. “Love you, baby girl. See you, this afternoon,” she said, as she waved goodbye.
“Hello.” “Hi, may I speak with Aspen Lewis?” “This is she,” Aspen said. It was a temp service, calling to see if Aspen could start work at a chicken factory. “Yes, I can start right away,” Aspen said.
“Great, we just need you to take a drug test, and you can start immediately after you pass,” the woman on the other end of the call said. “Yes, ma’am. Thank you,” Aspen said. “No problem, I look forward to seeing you,” the woman said. “Yes, ma’am.
Thanks again,” Aspen said. “Okay, bye now,” the woman said. “Bye bye,” Aspen said. She made a U-turn and went to Jolene’s school. She had to get a cup of Jolene’s pee.
“Really mom. Do I have to?” Jolene said, standing in the stall with a old McDonald’s cup in her hand. “Sorry, baby girl. Just this one time, I promise,” Aspen said. “Jolene peed in the kid sized cup, and Aspen went to get the drug test.
She wore an oversized sweat shirt and put the cup in the middle of her boobs. The drug test came back negative. Aspen got the job. She had to start that night, from 7pm to 7am. Things were finally starting to look up.