how beautiful is that.
a 711 in sunset.
in the fall of 20XX i visited every 711 i've ever been to.
i set off in the early morning.
i started with the farthest, in the side of a motorway, sixty miles from my city.
when i arrived, the world was still blue, and the cashier was still sleeping on the counter. i bought my first bottle of water for the day there.
there was nothing special in here, i thought, other than the fact that it felt like the farthest familiar place i've been to.
i took a taxi back to the city, to it's seaside. as the sun rose i arrived at a grand hotel.
it was a sight to behold. but a horror to stand around in; the stench of the city seaside smelled like all the worst parts of a seafood market back dumpster.
i crossed the avenue to the 711 adjacent from the hotel. there i bought another bottle of water and sat to stare at the sunrise.
it was better back then, i thought.
the last time i was in that 711 was the afternoon before a js prom.
i bought a bottle of gin and a bottle of grapefruit juice. i mixed those and gave it to my friends.
they needed it; they were scared shitless of their dates. i needed it too; to survive the stench of a stinking sea i really did prefer just removing my sense of smell entirely.
once our confidences were healed back and our ties and collars were sufficiently stinking of alcohol we ventured into the hotel.
i exited the 711 and stood at the bay walk area besides the hotel. the sun is rising in the east right now, but in that prom day then we would've been treated with a sunset.
there is nothing like the sight of a hundred suits and dresses in a hotel courtyard, illuminated by the light of a sunset amplified by a million reflections from ocean waves.
i would say that now, but me back then would have thought differently.
unfortunately for me i was drunk for the duration of that day and night, and the only beauty i was eager about was that of my own date.
but even then it wouldn't have been the same without the sunset.
her in a lilac dress, her hair glowing like fire from the sunlight, her face perfect in shade and shadow and hue.
even a drunk wouldn't forget such a sight.
i left the seaside once the sun was high.
the next 711 i went to was in the inner city, right besides a university.
it wasn't far from the hotel, so i walked all the way. i intended to sweat all the water i drank so i wouldn't have to *** behind a 711.
i arrived at noon. i bought another bottle of water, and one of their hotdogs cooked in the steam of sewage.
god, for such an awfully average establishment, one couldn't deny how much impact it has for a lot of people.
for the kind like me, a teenager back then, who wouldn't have been able to hang out in bars and parks and such, the 711 was where we ended up in.
they'd let anyone in, let anyone hang around as long as you bought anything, and the cashiers would just let a kid buy any ***** he wanted, since they weren't paid enough anyways to deny business.
for a kid like me back then, i would always end up in a 711. when the classes ended, or before they started, or even when i chose to ignore going to school altogether and went on random adventures, still, i would end up in a bench inside the 24 hour orange green red.
and for an entire spring in 201X, it was in this 711 i ended up in every afternoon. inside a busy city, besides a university.
and i would get my phone, send a million messages saying "i'm nearby", and then wait for her.
fancy university girl. glowed bright as a star, brighter than anyone in high school, and was now in her rightful place in the heavens.
heaven being an overpriced sweat shop for smart people.
(of course, no one told her that joining the stars in the heavens would only make you as bright as they are, or as dull as they are. sure, i guess they'd be taught what apparent and absolute magnitude is, but bet you they won't realize how it applied to them.)
i would wait for hours.
sure, i would have spent my time walking around the city and loitering around and discovering thrift shops and alleys and sewers and such, but eventually that wore me down and i would just sit in the quiet of the store awaiting her.
and when her classes ended, she did arrive.
for the first few weeks she would rush to me, sometimes even with an embrace, but often with enthusiasm anyways, and we would spend the time together.
i would buy her something and she would tell me her day in the classrooms and i would tell her my day in the alleys.
it was well for a while. it made the effort of travelling worth it.
but after a while her cheer faded. her stories dampened, replies dull.
i asked her what was wrong.
she would tell me she had problems.
though then days after that she would only tell me she was tired.
days after that she'd say she didn't want to talk about it.
after that, nothing at all.
and then the days would get colder.
she would stop responding to my messages, but i would still be waiting.
and eventually i would see her, across the street. and i know she could see me too.
but then she ripped that glance off her face, and boarded a bus.
it stung then. of course it would sting.
spring ended into another summer. for me however, it didn't feel like summer. i felt cold under the sun. under layers i would still feel cold. in hot buses it would still be cold. within the bustling unforgiving city, within all it's smoke and steam and heat, still it would be cold.
you would ask why i was still in the city. i still went, to wait. besides the university, in the 711, in the same seat.
it stung, yes, but it's never just the first sting that you go through. it itched. and i had to itch. i couldn't stop bothering it.
not the best behavior, i know, but i didn't bother then. i couldn't care less about what i was doing.
i still waited until her dismissal time. and i would see her, of course, across the street, on her way. i knew she could see me, because she never again glanced towards where i was. she would take the first bus she sees.
this went for a while. about a month. until the last day of semester.
there was an event in the school grounds that day. everyone wore the same shirt. students were coming in and out of the 711, buying amenities, buying soda, chips, *****.
i watched out for her, in case. though with difficulty, since they all wore the same clothes, and all the girls all looked the same from behind with their hair.
but i watched out, for one with a pair of thick framed glasses. i watched out for anyone carrying a brown faux leather sling bag. i watched out for anyone standing at about 5'4.
crowds passed, came and went. dismissal time arrived, yet i still haven't seen her. i decided to wait a bit more.
the crowds became thinner, yet still i haven't spotted her.
i bought a bottle of dark ***, and mixed it with coke, as my late lunch. maybe i thought the alcohol would help with the spotting. maybe i thought it could help with the waiting. maybe i just needed it.
sunset came, and i still didn't spot her.
in desperation (or utter idiocy), i did the one thing you probably shouldn't do when you're (for a lack of a better term) stalking someone: i called her.
no, not even a text message, a call. god was i stupid.
she answered the call.
"hello?" it sounded. behind her voice was music, and cheers.
i hung up. i said nothing. she could still be in the campus. or home. or someone elses.
i was ready to give up then. for a moment i stopped thinking about her, and considered what i was doing.
but i was stumped. honestly, i had no idea what i was doing. all those months all i was doing was winging it. i had no plans.
i drank all the rest of my *** and chased it with the last drops of coke i had.
somehow, i felt too tired to go. i stayed in my seat. i wasn't waiting anymore, but i stayed anyways.
sunset turned to dusk. i sat. i sat and stared at the blue of the world, stared so hard i didn't notice the blue turn to black.
suddenly, i felt sweat. and heat. it could've been the alcohol.
i stood and left the 711. in drunken boredom, i decided to walk around the circumference of the university block.
i distracted myself. the world was pretty; the shining light of traffic, the window lights of high rises, all heightened and saturated by drunken eyes. i took three laps around the school.
after the last lap, i was finally tired enough. i decided to go.
i waited on the pedestrian. right across me was the 711.
there were barely any people around anymore. i looked around.
inside the 711 was the cashier, and two people seated. students of the university. one of them was a tall man with waxed hair. the other was a girl with glasses. there was a brown bag on the table.
she looked at the window. i kept my eyes on her. we held our vision for a moment, until a bus came in between us, stopping at the red light.
i broke my focus and boarded the bus.
i hate this 711, i have decided.
i ****** on the back alley of it and left for the next one.
the next few 711's were not much special.
one was on the city edge, besides another gas station. my memories within it aren't interesting. i bought energy drinks here, and that's it.
the next was besides another school building. nothing special here either, just an establishment i bought stuff in. i think i may have visited this 711 while drunk.
this one is besides an interesting road, full of antique shops and japan surpluses. of course, nothing happened in this 711, since i always went for the shops afterwards.
then there's this one, a stray 711, within another inner city, right at the commercial district. where my farmers market resides, where the only pub in town resides.
unsurprisingly, i seldom visit this one, since i always go for the bar first. but this place stood out from the others, because of the cats.
the cats live in the farmers market where they prowl around in the meat section. some of the shop keeps adopt them for pest control. others for some additional display.
who wouldn't like to buy vegetables AND pet a cat at the same time.
this was the 711 i go to after i get inebriated in the pub. after a few beers, i buy an energy drink to assist me as i return home.
and this 711 had it's own shop cat. a brown tabby who hangs out besides the parking lot.
and he would meet me every time i visit the establishment.
yeah, i like this 711, i have decided. i'm welcome in the bars and pubs, but i have never felt more welcomed by a place than this. the cat would always come close and purr when i pet him.
he was a sight for sore eyes, even drunk eyes. one time i gave him a piece of meat i bought from the market.
i looked around the 711 area. he doesn't seem to be here right now.
surely, he's still alive. i've never had a day without him when visiting. but it seems he isn't here.
i decided to wait him out. i bought a pack of cigarettes and sat on the store stairs.
maybe he's in the farmers market. or prancing about in some different store. maybe someone adopted him. that would be nice.
i waited for an hour. i smoked a million cigarettes. the storeowner must be suspecting me for sitting on his stairs and polluting the air.
and when my millionth and one cigarette burned away, i decided to leave.
i seem to be doing a lot of waiting around for someone to come. but i've learned my lesson not to stray and stay too much.
it was fine for me to not see him today. he's a cat, not an ex girlfriend.
the light of the afternoon was blazing on the horizon. i felt nauseous. i decided to leave for the pub.
i had two beers and peanuts. 711's don't serve peanuts to people who drink in them, you have to buy them yourself.
it was three in the afternoon when i left the pub. i wasn't drunk, but i had enough drinks to stir my body. i went from the pub to the 711 again, to buy a drink before i go to my last stop.
and there he was, sitting besides a parked motorcycle. he got fatter, and he's wearing a worn out collar.
i went close and he did likewise. i petted the big cat. he purred like he was mine. what a nice cat.
i took a bus to my last stop. the sky was beginning to look beautiful again, as the sun set.
my final stop was the first 711 i've been to. which happened to be close to my house, and close to my schools.
there was nothing special about this 711, other than provenance and memory. it was as big as any other 711, with a parking lot and dining tables.
but being right between several schools, this establishment was always full of patrons of every age and status. university boys who finished playing in their basketball courts. nerds who order bottles of mountain dew and cough syrup. teachers who sit with the misfits every after class. it was the student's spot.
i had many fond memories of this place. my first bottle of gin. my first argument with a classmate. accidentally breaking a lamp with my friends, which ended up with us being barred from the store for two months. good times.
but some unsavory ones too, especially on the last days i went here. first police warning. first breakup. first theft. and some hurtful memories.
i sat on the waiting bench parallel to the 711. i watched as the sun crawls down on it's imprint on the windows.
i have decided i didn't like this place.
i lit another cigarette as the sun sank beneath the clouds, turning them into a lit mosaic of broken reds. how beautiful is that, a 711 in sunset.
i though of the last time i went here.
that phone call.
it was an hour before midnight. i received a phone call from a friend telling me to meet her in the 711. i happened to be at the pub when this occurred.
i said "yeah, i'll be there, but in this time of night?"
i boarded the bus and arrived at the 711. she was sitting on the steps. she wore a big baggy sweater. her hair was in disarray, and even in the shadow backlit by the store lights i could see her reddened cheeks and ruined makeup.
i asked her, "are you okay?"
she nodded, but with a deep expression. we sat on the seats outside the shop.
"why'd you call me today?" i asked.
she kept silent. she was eyeing the inside of the 711.
"i just got a bit of extra cash. Want a drink?" i asked her.
"no, i just needed to meet someone today." she said.
i could tell she was not well. "Was it (--------)?"
"i don't have to tell you." she said.
"was it your family?" i asked again.
"no, no" she took a sip of water.
she said nothing.
"christ, why did you ask me here then?" i retorted. i was inebriated, not polite.
she didn't respond. she took another sip. she sobbed a little bit.
a silence. it went for a minute. she drank all of her water.
"we can't keep meeting without you telling me nothing. I should at least know why we're here in the middle of the night."
"christ, do you have to know everything?" she grabbed her things, stood and went, wiping her face.
i stood to catch her. "(------), no, come here."
she was crying. her sobs were broken. it shook me, hearing someone cry.
"you don't have to tell me, just don't cry."
"you can't tell me that right now."
"okay then, cry. just--" i was lost for words. this has never happened to me before.
"you're an *******. why do you have to be like that right now. why is everyone-" she wailed. she was crying hard.
"please, (------). don't cry. i don't know what to do about this."
"just hold me, please. it's all you have to do."
i hugged her. i felt her sweater more than i felt her body. i was thin and bony; hugging her didn't feel correct. i felt like i was a cage.
"why does it all have to happen all at once? it's too much for me." she said. i was still clueless, but she was crying.
"there there, now." i was saying all the usual words. i didn't know what was the right thing to say. there is very little i could do about sudden crying.
"i can't do it anymore. it's too much."
those words struck me. i had no idea what to say.
i held her for a while, outside the 711. there was no one around to see us. there was only her, crying and sobbing, and me, clueless and helpless.
that was a year ago, after the school season.
that was the first someone has ever cried to me, in that way.
it was... unusual. i felt like it was too sudden, too unusual. though i know what could've been troubling her, i didn't expect tears. and that line...
i rummaged through my mind of all my memories of her.
sitting around and drinking outside the shop. watching her and her boyfriend dance around, locked in each other's hands, when a good song plays on the radio. sitting on the bench, talking about our lives and troubles, as the sun set.
all shadowed by that memory of her, in the night, crying on my arms. and that line...
"i can't do it anymore..."
i never got to talk to her again. she's ghosted me for quite a while, and never responded to anyone from our circle again.
it ruined me a bit, and my memories of this place.
and i never got to visit this 711 again. since then, i faced my own downward spiral and went distant from so many.
but i'd still go around adventures and walk around the avenues, within the city and within memory.
i sat in front of the last and first of my 711's as the sun disappeared. after a few smokes i stood and left for home.
what did i accomplish from this trip? **** all. i just needed an excuse to go around town. though i am reminded of how much little places can mean, even just the liminal corners we visit.
and i was partly reminded of what my adventures meant. what i've gone through from the years through these little stores we visit.
from a prom, to a stint of obsession, to a hard time, to cats.
and i am to visit a lot more 711's in my time. maybe the same ones, or even new ones.
besides, i know i'll be needing to go to 711's often, for drinks and food.
who knows what the years have in store for us, even in the smallest of places?
i look back at the store as it shrinks away, within the darkness...
this was a little exercise of mine, based on a true story, with parts that are inspired by reality. it's not polished, nor is it clever, nor is it striking in any way.
i just needed to write something.