By Chris Miskiewicz
The florescent lights flicker above me. I can hear them. But, more important is the fact that I can feel them. It’s something about the electric. I know it is.
My stomach hurts, and I can smell this shirt. I hate this shirt. I really do. But my stomach is killing me. It’s the Taco Bell. It’s got to be.
There are four people standing dull eyed on line. Two women. The blonde is cute. Two guys. Both guys are getting pissed off by how slow we are. I already don’t like the guy with the brown hair and black jacket. Roberta is falling asleep behind the counter, and Jack doesn’t have any idea what’s going on. Jack isn’t even his name. “Jaqualababo” is. Whatever that means. He fucks up every order. It never fails.
“Next. Welcome to Kinko’s. How may I be of service?” I say in my most sarcastic voice to the blonde girl.
“Um. I, like, need to have my resume copied. I, like, need about ten of them,” she smiles.
“Sure thing,” I go, handing the pages over to “Jack” who will probably fuck them up.
“Not a problem,” I say, staring at her little hat and perfect boots. But she doesn’t want to talk to me.
“How was your day?”
“Fine.” She looks around me. Past me.
“A little cold though, huh?”
“Just a little.”
“Yeah, well, I’m burning up,” I said, catching her looking back towards the guy with the brown hair.
“Here dey is,” Jack says, handing over the pages just as things were starting to heat up between us.
“It was nice talking with you.”
“I’m sorry, but can we move this along?” Brown hair guy says.
“I’m sorry sir, but I’m helping someone else right now,” I say, smiling brightly. I really hate him.
The blonde girl leaves. My stomach hurts. I can still feel the electric lights above me. Then the place empties out until he comes in at around three in the morning.
I tell you, I could pick them out of a police line up. The way their eyes look. The way they move. How they clutch the folder tightly against their chest.
“Excuse me?” he asks, timidly moving up to the counter.
I see his swollen and teary eyes. How broken up the guy is.
“Welcome to Kinko’s. How can I help you?”
He stares at me for a good twenty seconds before placing the black folder on the counter.
“I’d like it if you could make me a copy…of her.”
I shake my head.
He nods, almost breaking into tears.
“Yeah, she’s my…my girl…ex-girlfriend.”
I exhale. I get about three or four of these guys per week on the night shift coming in like they’ve just had their heart ripped out. It’s always the same.
“Could you make a copy of my girl? Could you make her just like the real one? Could you help me? She was the best girl in the world and I can’t live without her?”
“Color or black and white?”
“Well…color. I’d like her to be exact.”
“Uh huh,” I said, grabbing an order form. “Let’s see what you have here.”
He opens the folder pulling out dozens of pictures from every angle, holidays, in her favorite clothes, smiling, pissed off, fat, thin, looking good and bad at the same time.
“This is everything that I could find,” he sniffled.
“She’s the best one. She’s the best girl in the world.”
“I bet she is,” I said, not really paying any attention to the pictures as I filled out the form.
“She is. She is and I lost her.”
“Do you want a duplicate made or just the single copy?”
“Yeah. How many of her do you want?”
He shakes his head.
“Just one. I just want her back.”
I felt my stomach gurgle again.
“Look buddy, they may look the same, but they’re different. You know that right? It’s a copy. They break. Sometimes the color even runs. They don’t say the same things. And they don’t have half of the personality of the original.
“Sure they show up pretty, but there’s nothing upstairs. You know what I mean? It’s just a pretty face, but it’s not your girl. You understand that right?
“You can’t bring them outside when it rains because the paper gets all funny. I’ve even seen some of them on trash day all used up waiting for the garbage men to come and take them away.
“And the garbage men…Jesus! The garbage men do the worst shit to them in the dump. You don’t want to know all of the sick sex stuff that they make them do to each other. It’s sad. And you’re a good-looking guy. You’ll find someone new in no time, and then what are you gonna do with this poor copy? Are you sure you want to do this?”
As usual, he says the same thing as the rest of them.
“Yes. I just want her back.”
“Okay. Fill out this form and then you have to go talk to Jack over there when you’re done. It takes four days. You come back in two to check out the proofs and it’s just two days after that. Then you can take her home.”
“Good. Thank you,” the poor bastard said.
I picked up the folder and threw it on the pile and went to finishing my other orders. Around five AM I got to his. That’s when I opened the folder and felt my heart stop as I took the time to stare at her pictures.
She was absolutely beautiful. I had never seen a woman who looked like she did. She was breathtaking. I saw how happy he was with her. How he seemed to gleam at her side.
I looked over my shoulder. No one was watching. Then I checked the duplicate box.
She came home on Wednesday and I quickly threw out the others. Francine, Jenn, Dina and Frankie. I asked them to go downstairs and wait by the curb. The only problem was that it started to rain, and I looked outside and saw that their colors were running.
They stood there getting wet until the garbage men came and threw them into the back of the truck, loudly laughing about whatever sick fantasy they were gonna make my old girls do.
Some men just don’t get art.
“Well Linda. This is your new home,” I said while pulling the blinds closed.
She smiled. There wasn’t as much of that vacant look in her eyes that they all get. She was new. She was perfect, for now.
“How do you like my place?”
“I like it.”
“That’s great. I want to show you your favorite room. It’s the bedroom,” I giggled. “It’s right this way.”
“I’m very excited. I like it.”
“Maybe later we can go out and get some Taco Bell. Would you like that?”
“I like it,” she smiled, making the corners of her mouth crease into perfect points.
“Yeah. I thought you would,” I said as I walked her into the bedroom, glancing at the clock to see that I had the whole day to play with her before I was on the night shift again.