I’d just walked in, plugging my company-issued laptop into the dock when the email arrived. “Eric, In the future, if you are going to to be 15 minutes late for work, I’ll need to know before you arrive.”
I hadn’t intended to be late. My job was already hanging by a thread; they’d been courteous enough to tell me so in a private meeting. And now they were building a file on me, making notes on all the small imperfections which every employee has, but which would be used to document my upcoming dismissal. Corporations like having these things properly documented. The tsunami was already on its way and there was nothing anyone could or would do.
I hadn’t intended to be late. The traffic was heavy as we all jammed up on the highway near the frozen Delaware, fighting for position as 5 lanes merged into two heading for the state’s capitol. And we all hated each other, silently, without even knowing each other. But it wasn’t each other we hated, it was our own existences, and how small our petty jobs made us all feel, filling us with seethe which bared it gleaming teeth and showed its frozen soul in the daily traffic jams next to the blue-ice river.
It wasn’t each other we hated, it was that we knew none of it meant anything. It was that nine hours of time and another three hours of sitting in traffic jams was all we’d amounted to. It was the knowledge that none of it mattered, and– as a part of it, that none of us mattered. After decades of hope and promised possibility, it had come down to this, pissed-off, over-caffeinated assholes, cutting each other off in a race to arrive at tall, glass buildings filled with nothing but futility.
Sure, we’d make our money doing meaningless things, and we’d spend it all on meaningless things, hoping something might fill the emptiness which sits in the passenger seat beside us as we all sit in traffic seething. But nothing ever does, and the emptiness grows, and we turn up the radio to crush its cackling silence.
I hadn’t intended to be late– but the minutes and the moments have a way of sliding into our individual history, and becoming a wavy memory trapped in the past, desperate faces pushing up from beneath the river’s ice, a past which doesn’t even seem to be mine, somehow belonging to someone else, each a memory transplanted, and most of which I’d rather not have.
I hadn’t intended to be late, but I’m glad I was. Fuck them anyway. I didn’t get an email thanking me when I stayed late, or when I worked from home on weekends. Fuck them and their empty building and worthless job. It was all lies anyway. None of them gave a fuck about the customers, other than if they thought they might lose one for not giving a fuck. Then they cared, but it never lasted long.
I hadn’t intended to be late, but they didn’t deserve my time, or anyone’s. The publisher there had just retired after 20 plus years. They had a retirement luncheon for her, and I was on time for that, and we ate from fancy plates and clapped after the speeches which were more about the speaker than the person they honored and afterward we all left and belched loudly in the echoing emptiness of our cars, and everyone quickly forgot that she had even existed as another took her place.
I hadn’t intended to be late, but I was. And they fired me, though I tell people that they let me go. Not just for being late, but because I didn’t fit. There are a lot of ways to say it, but that’s what it was. And they were right to do so.. at least for that reason. I didn’t fit, and I would never fit. The man who used to be able to play the game is dead. I drowned his sorry ass in the river. That was his screaming face trapped beneath the ice. Scream all you want you fucking sell out. It’ll be over soon. And you’ll thank me for putting you out of your misery. You’ll thank me for bringing death’s honesty. You’ll thank me because you’ll never have to smile a fake smile again. Though you’ll wonder why it took me twenty years to kill you.
But I’m at a writing group today and there’s a lady next to me, writing about having to sell her toes. Better her than me, I suppose.
#notapoem Old stuff found in the archives