Exit scenes

Finally spent time with someone outside of my job. We were supposed to go to the woods, to a lake with a rope swing. She had a group of friends who knew a good secluded spot in Maryland. I liked the idea but I was exhausted.

So we walked around and smoked weed and drank beer instead. Ate at the shitty, progressive diner in petworth. A black woman took us to our table and she was not as nice as the one from the other day. I understood her pain and didn’t feel entitled to better treatment. Service jobs take a toll on your mood. It was early afternoon and she had probably been serving people all morning. At least six straight hours on her feet feigning interest in anonymous eaters. Some people can remain cheerful but some people can’t.

Well then those people shouldn’t be in the service industry, someone will say. There shouldn’t be a service industry, I think to myself as I sit on the patio and wait to have my order taken. 

The sun stung my left arm. The rest of my body was in the shade. I ate my tator-tots fast. Then my egg sandwich. I can’t shake the habit of eating like I’m on a break at work, which is no break at all. You don’t even get fifteen minutes. You eat standing up in the hall or down in the basement on a dirty crate in a corner as fast as you can before more customers arrive. They don’t staff cafes for workers to take breaks. You suppress the pain of your bulging bladder until you get five free seconds to rush to the restroom.

I ate like a wild animal. My friend talked about her exes and I listened over the crunch of my tator-tots. I was happy to hear her talk about her life. There was no motive. I wasn’t trying to get laid. I don’t care about getting laid.

We talked and laughed and it reminded me of what it’s like to enjoy human company. Maybe I could have stayed in DC if I’d found friends like this earlier. Maybe I wouldn’t have hated this place so much. It’s too late now.

Everything comes down to timing. Where were you six months ago? Where were you when I had no one? When I was working two jobs and suffocating in silence and solitude. But I don’t want to be bitter. I’m glad I met someone I can talk to and laugh with even if I’ll never see them again after this week. It’s good enough. Time can be wasted but redemption only takes a second. We can make up for lost time. I hope.

I didn’t want to lose those moments while I waited for something else to come along. I wanted to remember the details and sensations. The sunlight blazing on the left side of the table. The greasy egg sandwich and effortless conversation. I forgot what laughing felt like. I need to laugh more.

We drank so much beer. She drinks much more than I do and I wanted to keep up. Not because she’s a girl and I have masculine pride. But because I wanted to be drunk during the day for once. Drunk enough to be carefree. We sat in the shade under a tree in a park and kept talking and joking. The conversation drifted from serious to frivolous. We were funny together. Like all people who think they’re funny we talked about doing a podcast.

I was supposed to clean and pack. She drove me to the grocery store to get boxes, tape and trash bags. Women find their way into my life and help me. I seem to stir their mothering instincts. She’s also not trying to get laid. We won’t be together. I’m leaving and she helped me anyway. I forgot that people do things for others without money or sex being involved. I felt some dead part of myself reviving.

We drank more beer and went to another park. The sun was setting. I hadn’t talked this much in a long time. I hadn’t listened this much either. We headed back to my house and I let her into my room. I hadn’t cleaned yet and it was squalid. Neither of us cared. We smoked more weed and she left. We made plans to see each other again before I had to go.

And then I felt hungry and it was late on a sunday night, so I walked to the 24 hour subway. A pack of blacks was ordering sandwiches and harassing the workers who where slapping chilled meats behind the bullet proof glass. Lower class blacks are abusive towards sandwich men and gas station attendants. Despite what I’d heard about how only whites are racists, and that racism is a hideous stain on the legacy of white people who at the same time aren’t white because race is a social construct, I began to suspect that these blacks were also racists.

They mistreated the indians, southeast asians, africans and koreans. I’d seen their dull contempt for bewildered indian shopkeepers who couldn’t understand their grunting and mumbling, and on this particular night I was a witness to the natives acting up in the always open subway, taunting and bullying the foreign born brown and yellow night shift mustard men.

As the vibrant youths waited for their sandwiches they took pictures and videos of each other fanning hundred dollar bills. I don’t know what lucrative occupation brought them their surplus of cash, but I doubt it was software development. These were not literate and productive citizens of a prosperous, virtuous republic. They were not budding conservatives just waiting for their chance to flower into decent, respectful and contributing members of society if only they were nurtured by all those racist white institutions. 

They flashed hundred dollar bills at each other in a 24 hour subway as they shouted slurs at the laboring minorities. I knew from what I’d been told that somehow white supremacy was responsible for this dehumanizing spectacle, but I couldn’t trace the cause from the effect. It was all too complicated and I had just turned into an uncomprehending racist, so I decided it was another bunch of blacks acting like overgrown children.

My shrunken liberal sympathies sided with the sandwich makers and I almost stuck up for them. But I also didn’t feel like getting stabbed in a subway defending the honor of alien people who shouldn’t be here anyway.

I waited quietly for the misbehaving blacks to leave like the good white that I am, and then I payed for my sandwich and tried to give the beleaguered brown man a look that said what he wouldn’t be able to understand in english words: I’m sorry you’re degraded and threatened by these perpetual public nuisances. And we had a vanishing moment of service industry solidarity across racial lines.

I went home, slept for five hours and woke up hungover and groggy. Not as bad as last time though. I can’t put off the work any longer. I have to get moving. 

Author: The Empty Subject

Born curmudgeon

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