By Lily Sabella
“Find Jimmy,” the text read, “He has a dog named Lucifer and he’s an old buddy of mine. He works in town.” I looked up from the phone screen as I entered Tacombi, a tiny Mexican restaurant where I was picking up tacos, the only thing I had been eating recently.
I had been texting my former high school history teacher, Mr. Engleberg; A hippie, turned beloved mentor to his mass of students. Eighteen years ago, he was a freshman at the same school I was attending, but that’s where our similarities ended.
“How did you make friends?” I asked him at my graduation.
“I just went up to people. I met the best man at my wedding at a hacky sack game I joined outside of my dorm. I went up to people smoking by the pond and joined them. It was a different time then; There was no social media. You just went up to people if you wanted to make friends.” Engleberg said as students lined up behind me to take pictures with him in their caps and gowns.
“It was a different time then.” I thought about his words as I waited on a sticky bench in the restaurant. I hated hearing that phrase. It made me feel like I had come late to a party I didn’t know was happening in the first place and by the time I arrived, the festivities were over. Friendship seemed effortless for my former teacher but, here I was eighteen years later– at the same age and in the same place– and I was lonely. Lonely, despite how much I wished it wasn’t true.
I had been on campus for three months so far, and I felt like I was failing Engleberg by not being able to make a place he held in such high regard feel like home. But above all, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was failing myself.
A server handed me my tacos in a plastic bag and I paid. I needed to stop spending so much money on food, I thought to myself. But ever since moving to campus, this restaurant had been my needed respite from the slimy dining hall meals that couldn’t satisfy my picky choices. The bell above the door dinged as I exited the restaurant and texted Engleberg an “OK” back. Find Jimmy? Sure, I guess I could do that.
I was happy to have a task, even though I wasn’t sure how to go about it. I began to walk back to my dorm, when I recognized one of the servers at Tacombi taking a smoke break. Find Jimmy, I heard myself think again. Find Jimmy, but how? There was no way I could do that without asking around. An anxious feeling flooded my chest like a beach wave, but I gathered myself and walked up to her, where she leaned between a doorway and inhaled smoke.
“Hey, can I ask you something?”
“Hey, you,” she said to me. My anxiety calmed, she recognized me.
“Oh! You know who I am?”, I asked.
“Of course, you’re one of our bonafide regulars. Vegetarian tacos with avocado sauce, right?”
“Yeah,” I smiled and tried to hide my surprise. I was always unsure of how much people noticed me. Sometimes, I forgot I could be noticed at all. “Can I ask you something?”
“Sure, what’s up?” She blew smoke from her nose where I noticed she had a septum piercing. The jewelry suited her, it was my first time seeing her without a face mask.
“Do you know someone named Jimmy, by any chance? Someone told me that he works here in town.”
“Oh, Jimmy!” she said, “The scraggly looking guy with the French bulldog attached to his hip?”
I smiled and asked, “You mean Lucifer?”
She laughed, “That’s the dog’s name? I love it!”
“Do you know where I can find him?”
“Sure, he works at the record store Rock and Soul that’s just down the street. He should be there right now.”
“Thanks, I’m gonna go say hello to him.”
“No problem,” she grinned at me, “He has a daughter who seems to be around your age, you know. I see her in the store a lot.”
“Thank you!” I said again and began to walk away, but I turned around suddenly, “Wait! What’s your name?”
“Sandy,” she tossed her cigarette to the ground then met my eyes and smiled, “I’ll see you around.”
“See you,” I said. Sandy lifted her mask and disappeared through the door back to Tacombi. She was kind, even though she didn’t know me at all, and I was grateful.
I walked down the street until I saw a record shop with windows covered in music posters. I stared at them, and the faces of Amy Winehouse, Hendrix, and Diana Ross stared back. Crates on the outside of the store were filled with vinyl albums for sale. I looked through them; There were a plethora of artists and bands in there that I hadn’t even heard of, but I now wanted to.
I stood outside the door, where a poster with a Bob Dylan quote caught my eye, "Some people feel the rain, others just get wet.”
"Hmm,” I muttered. Whatever it meant, I was ready to feel the rain. I pushed the door open and went inside.