and I stood there behind my register in my Chick-fil-a uniform—chicken breading smeared my black pants.
Her bleach blonde course hair was pulled back in a tight pony tail behind her tanned, but weathered face. A spray bottle hung in her left pocket, and as she mopped, she sloppily sprayed a table with the bottle, wiped it with a dirty towel.
“Hi Marlena!” I greeted her from behind the counter after my last customer walked away with his chargrilled sandwich, no pickle.
“Hi honey!” She beamed.
“How are you?” I asked.
“I’ll be great once the truck guy gets here. It’s Thursday, you know.”
“Our truck guy?”
“Yes, girl. Have you seen him?”
I laughed. The “truck guy” as she called him was a hit among the single (and not single) women who worked at the mall. He appeared every Thursday, armed with chicken, waffle fries, cheesecake, and other Chick-fil-a essentials. One of our employees, sometimes even me, helped him unload the truck and load everything into our freezer. I’m not gonna lie…his green eyes sparkled every time he said, “here, let me help you with that box.”
“Marlena, I thought you had a husband. Why are you worried about the truck guy?” I asked her.
“Oh you talking about Wes? Yeah, I do, but he aint worth much. Doesn’t hurt to look, does it honey?” She winked.
I laughed again and then thought of my own boyfriend and how awful things were going. I was 17, he was 18, and he had just moved away to college, nearly four hours away.
“May I get a number 1 with coke and extra Polynesian sauce?” the red-haired woman with the small…what was that? A cross between a rat and dog poked its head out of her purse. “And an extra fry for Scrappy,” she said. Scrappy, yes he was, I thought.
I punched her order into the register, and I noticed Marlena straightening our chairs in the lobby. She was hanging around so she wouldn’t miss the truck guy.
The customer and the rat dog walked away and I said, “Hey Marlena, my boyfriend just moved away. Should I break up with him?”
She frowned, her bluish gray eyes squinted a little.
“Honey, do you love him?”
“I don’t know. We’ve been together since I was 14.”
“Well, if you don’t even know if you love him, and you’ve been together that long, I’d get rid of him. That’s what I did to my first husband. Well, my second and third one too.”
“First, second, and third? Marlena, how many times have you been married?”
“Well…” she picked up a crumb off the table, dropped it on the floor and swept it up.
“How many? Tell me.”
“Nine,” the sheepish word escaped from her mouth, and she looked like she wanted to stick it right back in there.
“Marlena, are you kidding me? You don’t look that old!”
“I’m telling you honey, when I get tired of them, I toss them. Life’s too short.”
“Wow,” was all I could muster.
Right then the truck guy walked up to the counter with his paperwork, and Marlena’s eyes lit up. She patted her hair down, and I swear, she batted her eyes.
“There he is” she mouthed to me. I smiled, as I vowed to never take her advice.