Dollar stores are fairly new to me. I’ve seen them, have heard their praise, but it wasn’t until this last year that I finally stepped into one. Just like I expected. A giant room full of crazies. Aisles and aisles of stupid shit: Chips. Balloons. Shampoo. Towels. Tools. The signs didn’t lie. Everything was a dollar. Three frozen tacos: One buck. A pack of green candles: One dollar.

What a wonderful world.

I was in the candy aisle loading up on chocolate when I noticed some dude looking at me. I thought nothing of it. Just people watching. I got a handful of Toblerone bars and went to the toy section to shop for my nephew. Not that he didn’t have enough cars and trucks and motorcycles and other bullshit scattered all over the house. But, whatever. I’m his uncle. It’s my job to buy him things he doesn’t need. Look, Cole! It’s a giant rubber gorilla! Who does it resemble, boy? Your father! You’re good! Hey, Cole, check out this witch mask I bought you! Awesome! Doesn’t it look like your mom? You bet it does! Hey, Cole! Look at all these markers your bitchin’ ass-kickin’ uncle got you! Tag the walls, son! Who’s the coolest uncle ever!

I was dicking off in ShenaniganLand when I heard:

“Reno?”

I looked over and it was the dude who was looking at me slobbering in the candy aisle. I looked at his face, his perfectly clipped goatee, his neatly pressed clothes. He was gay. I knew the dude. But what was his name?

“It’s me, Matt. Remember me? We used to wait tables together at O’Aces.”

Matt. Son of a bitch. I hadn’t seen him in over ten years. We were old drinking buddies. He was a local Las Vegan, born and raised, and was a full-blown lush when I met him. His boyfriend at the time sold speed so Matt lugged around two monkeys and would come to work speeding like a motherfucker all the time.

“I’m a spun little cookie,” he would say with big tweaked-out eyes and prance out on the floor.

We were good friends, like a couple of kids always terrorizing each other. We’d call each other horrible names. We’d leave foul notes in each other’s aprons, on the dry erase board. He knew I hated the sound of burps and would burp around me all the time. I’d threaten to fart in his station.

“You better not you nasty bastard!”

We’d do this bit where he’d tell me that girls were dirty and that their parts were gross and reeked of dead lettuce. I’d tell him that most men were arrogant pricks and the last thing on earth I’d want to do was fondle and suck their boners. Or listen to them talk. Vote. Or hear them snore. Or watch them walk around in those stupid fucking shoes they love so fucking much. He’d bust up.

“You’re a man. What’s that saying about you then?”

“I’m just speaking the truth, man. I’m giving you pearls. So pay attention and quit staring at my crotch!”

“Kiss my ass, Reno!”

“Just stop. Please. I’m getting sick over here.”

“You’re such an asshole!”

We worked with each other for a couple of years before he got fired. The story was that he showed up to work drunk off his ass and cussed out one of the managers. We kept in touch for a couple of years and then we lost contact. He looked great. His blue eyes, pretty as ever. He had a boyfriend, were going on eight years. He put away the dope, the crazy, and worked for the city pushing a pencil. It was great to see him.

“So what are you buying?” he asked, looking in my cart.

“Oh, just shopping. Looking for some stuff I don’t really need,” I said, remembering the time we got all coked out and danced all night at Drais. I looked up and saw a bloody rubber severed hand hanging behind him. I grabbed one.

“Want a severed hand, Matt? I’ll buy you one. You know, just in case you get lonely. Eight years is a long time.”

“Oh, my god! You jerk! You haven’t changed one bit!”

“Never.”