A Short Story

In the early 80’s I used to work at the Giant in Chevy Chase, Maryland. It was my first job as an adult. My job was keep the store clean, but if that was done then I would help people load their groceries into their car and greet the people coming into the store. Minimum wage back then was $3.35 hr. and we were paid every week. I manage to bring home a decent salary for the time especially when you counted in the tips. I lived in SE in the Wingate apartments and had to be to work at 8am. At that time there were no Metro Train stations in SE and I had to catch the 32 Chevy Chase bus to work. I usually caught the first thing heading out around 6am. $3.35 hr was a lot of money back then and I wasn’t trying to lose my job on account of being late. I usually arrived in Chevy Chase just a little bit after 7am. Before I got my official job a Giant, a group of us would go out there and freelance.. that is we would wait outside the store and as cars pulled up we would ask them if they needed help putting their groceries in the car. Some of us would be inside bagging groceries for the cashiers. Being inside is where the money was, especially the express line because that’s where the most customers came through. You could make $50.00 a day in tips in that line. Of course getting that plumb position was like hitting the lottery. The manager usually held that job for the old timers, the guys that had been working freelance for years. The rest of us would try and get the leftovers… the closer to the express line the better… if not close to the express line … whatever lanes were available. If all the lanes were taken then it was the outside hustle. Some of the oldtimers preferred to work outside because they had clientele, people who would only let them assist with their groceries. Sometimes when the oldtimer who was working the express line need to go on break or wanted to go to lunch, he would come outside and pick someone to take his place while he was gone. You could make $5 or $10 in the time he was gone!! Now I know some of you are asking, “Why is that dude getting so excited over $5.00?” Well that was a lot of money back then, as a matter of fact that $5 is the equivalent of about $16 today! That’s $32 dollars an hour if the guy takes an hour lunch break! Anyway I am getting off the subject. I just wanted to make the point that the earlier you got there the better. So most of us would try to get there before the store opened at 7am. Across from the store there used to be a deli that opened at 6am. We would all gather at that deli in the morning for breakfast. They had the best bacon and egg breakfast and man was it cheap. Behind the counter was a black guy named Bebe. Bebe was gay… no Bebe was “real” gay! He was the first gay person I had ever met. He was a few years older than us, but you wouldn’t know by the way he acted. Almost every morning we would go into that deli and get breakfast before work. Bebe became one of us. We would laugh and joke and talk about our jobs.. we would even laugh and joke and talk about each other… lol… one of the most realest people I have ever met. When we didn’t have any money for breakfast Bebe would let us get it on credit until we made some dough bagging or hustling groceries, then we would pay him. Bebe didn’t own the deli, he just worked there. One day we went in there and there was a new guy behind the counter. We asked where was Bebe and was told he was out sick. A few months later we were told that he had died. He died from acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.. AIDS. Things just weren’t the same after that. We stopped getting up early to meet at the deli and then we stopped going to the deli…
Well since that time I have met and known a lot of non cisgender people, some of them friends and some of them family. I know I joke a lot about you.. but I know you joke a lot about us too… don’t deny it.. I ain’t mad at you.. “My brother disowned me when he found out I was trans, but I try and take the high road. When I heard that he and his wife had a child, I sent them the nicest greeting card. It said ’Congratulations! It’s a boy! For now!’”... LOL!! … Laughter is the language of the soul… and we all got one.. and so as laughter is the language of the soul, love is the language of the heart… and we all got one of those too.. It is what makes us human and it is what makes us the same. We love who we love and that’s that. -Ghill Editor


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