Everyman: A Bildungsroman

Garland Grey tells a universally relatable story about coming of age in America.

bildungsroman
  • I think it is appropriate to spend your college years discussing how weird people are at parties while at parties.
  • I hate guys with big meaty handshakes. They’re schemers.
  • I once met a relative of mine in New Mexico who did her entire bathroom in bright yellow. That is happening in my lifetime, that’s all I’m saying.
  • I go through bathroom decorating fads.
  • Yes! Shocking!
  • What was I even talking about?
  • I used to work at Chik-fil-A.
  • Don’t be jealous.
  • I’ve had to wear a uniform and a name tag and be super enthused about chicken.
  • Like, WHOA, was I cut out for this job!
  • Before that I worked in a bookstore.
  • For like two years.
  • Working my way through college.
  • THEN I quit that job for more money at the Hardware Store!
  • Within five minutes I was like “I have to get the fuck out of here.”
  • I stayed for nine months. There were some great moments.
  • There was riding on a cherry picker on a daily basis. Which is a lot of fun.
  • There were hours to flesh out short stories. I was taking Creative Writing from the novelist Angie Cruz, who is like one of the coolest fuckin’ people I’ve ever met.
  • She gave great criticism.
  • And so I wanted to impress her.
  • So I spent every shift auditioning ideas that might be suitable for The Type of Writer I Wanted To Be at the time — sort of tortured and formal.
  • I wanted people to read my short fiction and say “He has good form.”
  • I wanted a waxed mustache on a nickelodeon on some dancing legs, something burlesque and sepia-tinted.
  • I frequently try too hard.
  • So I spent a weekend with my old roommate Jules, who noticed I was uptight and started unspooling the emotional/mental performance I had been trying to convince myself was the best I could hope for.
  • And by that Sunday, I knew I couldn’t even do that anymore. EVER.
  • So I called in sick. And then I tried to quit.
  • And my boss wanted to know why.
  • Because he had been a nice, fair guy, never mean-spirited or rude, fun to be around.
  • So I fucking had to come out to him on the phone.
  • And he apologized for any comments he might have made.
  • And that broke my heart.
  • Because this was a really nice guy.
  • But I had to GO!
  • To sell chicken.
  • Two interviews. They made me do two interviews to sling chicken.
  • Like paying me 7-something an hour for 14 hours a week was The Gravy Train.
  • Honestly.
  • They were oddly religious. But my boss liked me!
  • He also ignored the fact that I was gay.
  • That was weird.
  • Especially since everyone else knew.
  • I mean come on.
  • A straight man can’t properly sell someone on a milkshake.
  • You gotta lean in and say, “Honey, I think you deserve it today.”
  • ANYWAY.
  • One day I was on boards.
  • Assembling food, not selling it or preparing it.
  • And my manager was on bags.
  • It was a Saturday. We were busy.
  • He’d call out what he needed and I’d get it for him. All around us employees were standing at registers, mopping floors, deep-frying chicken in these giant pressurized vats of oil.
  • “I need a small salad.”
  • I opened up the small refrigerated compartment and reached my hand in to get a pre-made salad. I handed it to him.
  • “Here you go,” I said.
  • He called out for a carrot salad, I handed it to him. It was a few hours before I got off work, I had a date that night. I was in the mood for ABBA.
  • “I need a large fruit!”
  • “Ta-Da!!!” I exclaimed.
  • Along with Jazz Hands.
  • And everyone laughed.
  • Except him.
  • Like, come on dude.
  • Lighten the fuck up.

Photo by Kevin Lim