Truth be told, there was not much for Jeremy to gather as he carried the warped cardboard box into Ducante’s. It was the only thing that he could find behind his house that morning, but supposed it was good enough to carry out the extra change of clothes and miscellaneous personal effects that had been left at the bar over the past week. But as of now, all that rested in the box was a single sheet of white paper with the most brief letter of resignation he thought he would ever write:
Dear Mr. Ducante,
For reasons I believe we are both aware of, I no longer feel that your establishment is an appropriate fit for my skills, as well as my mental and physical temperaments. I will be leaving effective immediately.
That was it. That was all he wrote, and a few extra pieces of clothing were all he needed to grab. Yet something about the act seemed difficult; the feeling in his stomach was a heavy one, not the light freedom he had expected. He paused, leaning against the interior doorframe of the bar as he sucked in a deep, cool breath of air from the darkened interior.
Everything would be alright: he could get a new job. He had told another bartender to come in and cover his shift – she would be there in an hour, before Ducante could ever know that the pre-happy hour shift had ever been lacking in service. Everything would be –
“You didn’t strike me as a quitter, Jeremy,” a voice said calmly.
The bartender nearly jumped out of his skin before he recognized the level tone of one belonging to the bouncer rather than the bar owner. “You don’t strike me as a lot of things, either,” Jeremy said tersely. Immediately, he felt guilty about the tone – he liked Jason, at least when he was looking past recent events that he had been trying so hard to forget.
“Hey,” Jason said defensively, holding up his hands in front of his body. The motion made Jeremy stiffen. “I’m just trying to help. This is a pretty good gig.”
“Why are you even here? Your shift doesn’t start until four.” Jeremy asked sharply, dropping the box onto one of the sleek mahogany tables.
Jason shrugged his broad shoulders. “You run out of places to go, sometimes, when you’re being shunned.”
“Nevermind,” he said, knitting his fingers together atop the table. “We’re talking about you, and why you’re quitting.”
The bar tender ran his hand through his hair, pulling at tufts of the course wheat in frustration. “I just… I just can’t. I can’t take this place. I just want to go back to where everything is normal.”
Across the room, the bouncer laughed. “Normal? You think leaving here will make your world normal? It’s not like you’re going to forget what you’ve learned.”
“It’s not like you won’t jump when you see someone move a little too quickly out of the corner of your eye, or do something that seems magical. You’re still going to pay extra attention to people out after dark. And if you think you’re paranoid now… hell, wait until you’re somewhere that doesn’t have a security service.”
Jeremy slumped against one of the polished chairs. It felt as if the muscles had just gone out of his legs. Truth be told, he hadn’t thought much beyond the shorter-than-ever letter and what would go in his box.
“It was like that for Maya. Look at where she is now, she’s sure as hell not going back.”
“You mean… she’s not like you?”
Jason snorted as he pushed himself away from the table, striding over to investigate the single white sheet of paper that lined the bottom of Jeremy’s box. “You have a lot to learn, kid,” he added as he picked up what would have been the bar tender’s resignation. After a quick once over, he tore it neatly in two. “Good thing you’ll have an entire lifetime to get on top of things.”
There was a heavy feeling somewhere in the pit of the bar tender’s chest. It was the weight that he had expected to carry out in the form of a box; but now that it was internalized, he could feel at something deeper. Resignation in its least expected form.
“Damnit,” Jeremy mumbled.
“You’re telling me,” Jason agreed.