Driving around Indianapolis looking for a house and a job. My sister needs her car but I need it too. Can’t stay at home. I love my parents and the house where I grew up but there’s nothing to do. I’m not a tradesman so I can’t start a business, can’t live at home and fix people’s plumbing or install electronics. Also don’t want to work in a gas station or a stone mill.
Specialty coffee is all I know. It’s a luxury good, a frivolous expenditure. But this is how we live, beyond our means with inflated, unsustainable tastes. Desire buries need; enough is never enough. We could all drink toilet water coffee for twenty cents a cup but once you get that taste of sweet orange in a shot of espresso you can’t go back.
The cheap commercial brands, the stuff you make at home tastes like charcoal and exhaust. Your intestines convulse and you sweat. It’s unclean energy, gut rattling swill good enough for the common man, the laborer, the manufacturer, the man who shapes matter with his callused hands.
I’m not that man. I built my muscle in a gym instead of hauling logs and carrying cinder blocks, tussling with steel and concrete in dangerous conditions. I tore my hands gripping iron bars in a surrogate struggle with weight and gravity. In this hyper developed world there’s no such thing as scarcity, only frustration. And there’s a limit to what’s lacking but no end to the upsetting. The irritating is infinitely expansive.
Highway 37 is under construction and the speed limit is 45. Orange cones lined up for miles. I’m driving and thinking about how the orange is psychologically straining. Driving in a car that isn’t mine that I could never build or fix if it broke down on a road I also didn’t build and would hate to work on and my thoughts center on what I find inconvenient and stressful about my magically smooth and unearned journey. The easier everything is the more anxious I become, the harder I look for difficulty and disturbance. If I were paid to complain I’d be a wealthy man.
I’m in downtown indianapolis in a renovated theater with a coffee shop. I need a job to get a house but I need a house to get a job. The only way this will work is with a lie. Yes I have a job or yes I have a place to live when I don’t. Hope the landlord doesn’t call the boss I don’t have. It’s a structure of impossibility. You need years of experience for an entry level position, you need to already know people to get to know the people you need to know.
But you have a degree, they say. That’s important, that’s relevant somehow. You can work in an office doing data entry. I can’t even imagine that as a daily activity. What is data entry. What are these office jobs, sitting all day in front of a computer, working with files and typing and consulting and talking to people on the phone. Going to meetings and spacing out, taking notes or pretending to take notes, writing poetry and doodling on scrap paper while a manager drones and points at charts.
The service industry is dirty and stressful and it pays poorly but you make tangible goods with your hands. There’s something to be said for that. You see the effect of what you do immediately. You’re present for the reaction of your customers and you know if you’ve done a good job or not. You have the power to change a person’s day. Otherwise it’s typing and and entering data, hours and hours of doing something that leaves no trace, that feels like nothing by the end of the day. There’s more money in your account and less time left in your life and that’s all you know for sure.
It’s like writing anonymously on the internet. There’s no feedback and you have no idea what you need to do to become better. People want to give you advice on your life but the point is how do you get better at writing, how do you write well, how do you develop a voice and perfect the craft. It’s just silence on the other end. But that’s what you deserve because it’s not like you’re teaching and encouraging other people either. Give what you get, so you get nothing.
It’s gratifying to help someone enjoy a little bit of luxury before they’re back in their office, typing and talking on the phone doing the thing you think you should be doing because you have a degree. You went to school to learn about history or literature because you thought you cared about those subjects and everyone encouraged you to do what you loved. Now those subjects don’t matter and you don’t need to know anything about them. You can start a blog and blather about elizabethan poetry or the real roots of fascism, what you think trump should do or what he shouldn’t do. Try to write literature without creating characters or thinking up plots so you lift material from your life and pretend it’s a story.
40,000 dollars, insuperable debt to know more about early modern philosophy and poststructuralism than the average person. Good luck having a conversation with anyone about what you learned in school that doesn’t make them want to punch you or make you want to punch yourself. Knowledge is power except for everything you happen to know, then it’s just annoying and depressing.
When you get a degree you show prospective employees that you’re compliant and dependable. You finish what you start even if it’s worthless, even if it’s an elaborate scam sucking up resources and precious non-renewable time. Trade away at least four years of your life to show people you’re serious about being told what to do. You show those companies you don’t care what you do as long as they’re willing to pay you until they pay indians or mexicans or robots to do it for less.
I’ve had too much espresso and I have nowhere to go. This is the last day I can borrow my sister’s car and then I’m stuck at home. What do people do when they don’t have money. Better prepare myself for my new life as a gas station attendant. I worked at a gas station when I was 20. It was a third shift job and I remember coming home at 7 am and watching everyone else waking up and getting ready to start their day. The sunrise was my sunset. I smoked weed out of an apple and slept through the day. It should have propelled me towards a real career but at 31 I’m on my way back to that mean existence. Ten years to work my way back into an old rut.