Paying Dues

I’d managed to get a decent job at a large tech company.

It was your standard 8 to 5 menial job that involved working with computers, routers, switches, wires, cables among other technological equipment – and even worse, other people…

So I went down to the job one day. When I arrived I looked at my wrist watch – 10 AM. The manager was waiting by my office door.

He was a tall, fat guy with a mustache that made him look like a proud Nazi leader.

‘You’re late,’ he said.

‘Uh-huh.’

‘What’s your excuse this time?’

‘I overslept, I guess, but you feel free to write it down any way you want to.’

‘Listen,’ he said, ‘you haven’t been pulling your weight around here. If you keep this up I’m afraid we’re gonna have to let you go.’

‘Uh-huh.’

I went inside my office. It was a small cubicle, really. Bright lights, a rather small computer and boxes and boxes filled with files and reports and schedules that I had no intention of diving into.

I needed some fresh air. I felt something chomping at the back of my head; something wrapping itself around my neck and squeezing tightly at it.

I walked out of the office. As I made my way into the hallway, traversing identical cubicles, I noticed everyone was hard at work, busting their guts, tackling their tasks. Those coffee-drinking sweating lookalikes: every office I passed in front of seemed identical to the one next to it. Even the faces started to show some similarity – it was like seeing the same employee working in all those small rooms at the same time.

I was losing my mind. But then again, I was often told I didn’t have a mind to begin with…

I was sweating. Every fiber in my body was screaming at me, tearing at my skin to break out of this corporate hell.

I checked my watch again. 10:30.

It was going to be a hell of a day.

I felt I wouldn’t make it through the entire day – I was too feeble, too scrawny, too weak mentally. I needed a drink.

I snuck past the manager’s office. He was just like the others, hard at work, typing at his laptop, hitting those keys like a virtuoso stroking his piano.

How I longed to be back home, in front of my laptop, extracting the juices from my mind and converting them to words on white documents. But this – working at this hellish place – was beyond me. Beyond my capabilities. Beyond my comprehension.

To what extent would the human body, the human soul, push itself just to make a living? Forcing itself to show up at unkind places, hostile environments, being dealt difficult work just to earn a few bucks? Or fulfill a sense of purpose, perhaps?

Well, I was in need of the money. I had lived off nothing but dry raisins and bread for the past month. But I guess, considering the circumstances, an extra month wouldn’t kill me.

And what about my sense of purpose? Oh, to hell with that! We were all walking toward the same end, anyway! Just different graves.

But I digress. I needed that drink.

I skipped past the few remaining offices, caught the staircase (the elevator would attract much unwanted attention), and went down two floors. Down, down to the parking lot. From there I found the exit and was back on the main street.

The sun was bright – much nicer than those bright neon lights they had hooked up in those deathly offices. I took a nice whiff of air and could smell freedom.

I turned and gazed at the mighty company logo arched high above me. It looked like it wanted to punish me for resisting and rebelling.

I spat on the damn building. Then I made it to the other side of the street.

There was a liquor store there. I went in and ordered a nice cold beer. Local.

I drank and tasted more freedom in my mouth. It was the best beer I had had in a long time.

I headed back to the parking lot, found my black car, and jumped inside. I finished my beer, took out a small yellow notebook and a pen and started working on a poem.

This is it, I could feel it, I could even hear the editors acclaiming me for yet another brilliant piece that would make the front pages of their literary mags.

I worked at that poem for some time. By the time it was complete, I examined my watch again.

12:15.

It was a hard day’s work. I leaned back in my car seat and pictured my manager’s face. Oh, hell, he wouldn’t mind me taking off early; I wasn’t pulling my weight in the company anyhow…

It was always the quiet ones – the ones who showed the tiniest bit of emotion, the least eagerness to get the job done, that were the most dangerous.

Those were the tortured ones, the chained warriors, the misunderstood dreamers…

And then there was me. I was one of the quiet ones, I belonged to their circle.

But I wasn’t like them. I was a savage, an uneducated madman who sold his soul to write.

And writing was still paying its dues in fine poetic lines and cold beers.

And here I thought man needed work to survive.

Dedicated to my dear friend, M.T.

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