I instinctively shouted “COMING OUT” as I walked through the kitchen door for the very last time. Christian stood in the middle of the dining area, his black coat absorbing all the light coming from his brilliantly blond short hair and incredibly pale skin.
“Dude, we’re the only ones left here!” Christian remarked, flashing his beautiful white teeth. “You don’t need to say that anymore!”
I forced myself to smile. “I think at this point, I’m gonna be saying that every time I go through a door.”
We both laugh until I was a few feet from where Christian stood. He was half a foot taller than I was, so I already know that my neck will be sore in the morning just from looking up at him all night. His body was also half as wide as I was, but hidden underneath his jacket was an incredibly tone body that I had the pleasure to work next to for one evening.
“So, I guess you’re not coming back tomorrow, huh?” Christian asked, a small frown forming on his face. I didn’t think it was possible for him to show any emotion other than happiness. I shook my head slowly. He lets out a long sigh and placed his hand on my shoulder. “Well… I guess you’re gonna go through the ‘walk of shame’ tonight. Come on, I’ll walk you to your car. You parked in the garage, didn’t you?” He chuckled as he must have seen my face contort in confusion. “Every new guy parks in that garage. Besides, you had a rough night, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the company.”
“COMING OUT!” Christian and I shouted as we exit through the front doors of the restaurant. I immediately stop laughing as the biting cold touched my face.
“You ready for this?” Christian asked, nudging my left shoulder with his elbow. “My ex-girlfriend called this the ‘Walk of Shame.’ See, people have been destroying us from behind all night, and like every good one-night stand, we gotta walk back to our cars past judgmental assholes.”
“Oh.” I said, hiding my disappointment. “I didn’t know you had a girlfriend who worked here.”
“You met her tonight!” Christian replied enthusiastically. “Ashley. Dark brown hair. Wearing a purple dress suit. You met her, right?” I nodded. Ashley was one of the assistant managers. That would have made her Christian’s superior, and dating each other wouldn’t have gone well with the General Manager. “It’s all good now. We can’t win everything in life, right?” We walked down the dimly-lit Baltimore street towards the Caroline Street garage, which was located two blocks away. “I normally don’t do this for people who only lasts for one night, but you’re actually a really cool guy.” I felt my face warm up a little bit. “Even after you cleaned up all of that gin on the floor, I didn’t hear you complain about anything at all. Your feet hurt at least, don’t they?”
“They do!” I reassured him. I wanted to complain. My feet hurt. My ankles are on fire. My body smells like soy sauce and gin. With all the broken shards of glass that I had to help clean up tonight, I’m sure I’m bleeding somewhere on my body. The embarrassment from everything that happened tonight burned inside me. I wanted to complain. “But I try not to complain in front of people I had just met. I learned that it’s one of the fastest ways to make people dislike you.”
I heard Christian chuckle. “I never really thought of it like that. Well, it’s still amazing that you stayed through the night. You were a trooper!” I looked over at Christian, who was already looking at me. His teeth glowed in the dim light. His blue eyes sparkled like stars from the ambient light of the city. “And everyone did like you. I hope you leave here knowing that.”
We passed by a crowd of drunk people walking in the opposite direction. A couple of them saw us and started teasing us. “Ooooh, looks like someone’s gonna get laid! Don’t forget to use a condom, boys!” My face felt warm once more as the crowd cackled away.
Christian nudged my shoulder again. “I think they figured out that you’re gay, bro.”
“What?” I turned to Christian once more, disbelief plastered on my face. As we passed underneath the first streetlight, Christian’s golden hair made it look like he sported a halo on his head. “How did you—”
“Bro, you were checking me out the entire night.” Christian grinned widely. “And you giggle every time you say ‘COMING OUT’ through the kitchen door.” I didn’t know he was that perceptive. Maybe I was just having trouble hiding my attraction to him because I was exhausted. “And also,” Christian added. “One of the servers is gay. He said he saw you on a dating app a long time ago.
“Ah.” I said. “That makes sense. I guess word travels fast in this job.”
We cross the street and reach the first floor of the Caroline Street Garage. I took the parking ticket out from my wallet and scanned it on the lock to open the door to the stairwell, which felt colder than the outside air. The parking pay station stood right next to the stairs leading up. “Which floor did you park in?” I asked as I slide the ticket into the machine.
“Oh, I live down the street.” Christian replied. “I’m just here to make sure everything is fine.” As soon as he said “fine,” my heart sank. On the machine’s screen, it said I needed to pay $15. I only had $5 on me.
“I… I thought it was only $5 for the entire day…” I muttered to myself. “I can’t even go home now—”
Suddenly a $10 bill appeared right in front of me. Christian held it out with his hand, then proceeded to insert the bill in the bill slot. Before I could say “Stop!” at him, the machine slurped the bill. The screen flashed and changed. “Remaining Balance: $5.”
“I knew you wouldn’t get tips tonight since you’re still in training.” Christian beamed. “I also know that this happens all the time for new guys who park here. You’ve had a rough night; you deserve a break.”
I smiled. Not because I wanted to. I wanted to hug Christian. I wanted to cry right there in that cold garage stairwell. I smiled because it was the easiest response that my body could afford. I pull out my last $5 bill from my wallet and inserted it in the machine. It spat out a receipt and my parking ticket with an apathetic mechanical grunt.
“Seems like you don’t need me anymore.” Christian laughed. “It’s been a great evening working with you, Paulo.” I nodded. I couldn’t speak because I know I’ll start crying. I hated complaining in front of people, but I hated crying in front of people even more. “And remember,” Christian added quickly before I could move. “You’re always welcome back to eat with us. Really, as long as you’re not carrying anything heavy and expensive, we don’t mind having you around!”
He jabbed my shoulder for the last time. We both said goodbye, then he yelled “COMING OUT” as he left through the stairwell door and back on to Caroline Street. His hair continued to shine like a beacon as he walked into the night. I went into the elevator and pressed “5” before leaning with my entire body weight on the glass wall of the elevator.
I feel like this entire ordeal would have been easier if I wasn’t so good at making friends.