A long time ago, it was on a tues. just another boring day at work. You know those days where they just seem to disappear in your life. You can’t remember anything special happening. No memories made. No events happening. Just the clock of your life running down . Waiting for death. One billable hour at a time. Most people have hundreds of hours like this. Spent thinking they have and endless supply.
They don’t. None of us do. We all die. This is unavoidable. What happens after death? what force keeps us alive? what eventually stops that force to mark our deaths? I am obsessed with death, I have always been afraid of death. I know all the facts and reasons why. But it never goes away this fear. I have dreams from time to time where my death is happening and I wake up screaming “I want to live”.
So this one tuesday I am thinking about holds a memory for me. It was a same old same old sort of day. One thing different did happen. I didn’t think about it at the time, but I should have. We had a young man working for us. He was a screen cleaner and general scrub. The screen cleaners came and went, we hired new ones every week, so this wasn’t new. This guy stuck out because he was missing his front teeth. They were knocked out some how and he didn’t have the money to replace them. Now I grew up in an area where we all had our teeth. And if we lost them we immediately replaced them. Not every person was as fortunate. I was kind to most people as Jesus taught me in church. So we struck up an acquaintance. I was able to see past his teeth and could see how uncomfortable he was about that so I made it a point to not look or talk about it. Others treated him cruelly or worse dismissed him as a viable person. Not worthy of general courtesy.
When I asked him about his interests , He was always talking about blowing things up. Pipe bombs. What chemical combinations created explosions. I assumed this was posturing. People with extremely low self images create a way to level the playing field. Some are descended from royalty or famous people. some take interest in fire arms, or explosions. When you meet kids with no dad, they like to brag about something to make it seem even. They say something like “my dad is cooler than your dad”. To cover up the gaping hole in their life. This guy was seemingly trying to even the playing field and I was reaching out to him to let him know, we are all fucked up. Even the people he envies are desperate and miserable most of the time. There are bright spots. but we all have some shit we are trying to cover. Like the time we crapped our pants when we were way to old to do that. Or the time that kid pulled down our pants in high school, or the senors who wanted to stuff our heads in a toilet … or the time we were the person inflicting pain on someone for our own amusement.
This guy was the ghost of all that pain and uncomfortable feelings balled up into one person. Ready to explode. He fixated on one of the female managers as the source of all his trouble. I have no doubt she hated him and wanted him to be gone. She was not openminded. She went to church but did not hear the words. She was judgmental in a way that said “you had something bad happen to you, you must deserve it” and there for are not worthy of my concern. Ever person was a baby at some point with a mom and a dad who looked at them with pride. A baby who did no wrong. A baby that was bragged about and celebrated. Over time babies grow and become these horrible people we see and loth around us every day.
The guy was acting squirrely this one tuesday. He called me out to his car at lunch time. I was wondering what it could be. I was afraid. I had no idea what he was about to show me. Did I really believe he was not so bad or was I judging him as well. He had committed no crime. Other than having lost his teeth,
We get to his car and he reaches behind his car seat … moment of truth… what was it? He pulls something out. A scroll of some sort. Covered in brown suede, it was a book of some sort. He said “look at this”. It was a book about Nostradamus photocopied from another book. In its entirety. He wanted me to read it. He obviously took a lot of time making this book. Hand binding it and making a cover for it. This was important to him. And he shared it with me. He asked me to read it and bring it back. This was an honor not many have been given. All I did was turn a kind ear and listen to him. Nothing more.
A few days later he went out on his lunch break and never came back. I rode around with that book in my car. I didn’t know what to do with it. I read a little bit of it. He had no idea I was a terrible student and the fact that I touched the book was a small miracle in itself. I have no tolerance for books without pictures. And book written in medieval text makes my eye go cross eyed and blurry.
The book haunted me though. I knew it took effort to make. I knew I would never read it. I knew I should read it. A few weeks later he shows up at the back door of the work place and asks for me. I went back knowing what he was wanting.
“Did you read it?”
I said “I read a little” It was raining so he didn’t stick around I passed off the book. I went back to my desk and continues processing films and screens and other print materials. I have since left that place, and it has moved and moved again. The people who worked there are all gone. The owners sold the company. I have changed jobs multiple times. This all turns into a shadow of a story in my mind. A non important non life changing day to day on the job transaction that amounted to nothing. A ghost of someone I met one time. An interesting fellow. A reject who had thoughts going on in his head and desires and dreams. That amounted to nothing. Who knows where that guy is now. is he a criminal? a dad? did he get his teeth fixed?
It reminds me of a different guy I knew who the last time I saw him he was whipping live snakes against a brick wall too watch them explode. That guy grew up to be a normal dad. go figure.