I was definitely in the factory. Yeah. The flickering fluorescent lights. The beat up yellow tow motor. The time clock computer terminal. Employee number: 9974. Employment status: temporary. You could technically be hired in after ninety work days; I can’t recall how long I’ve worked here. Longer than ninety days.
The power goes out and the lights go with it, just like that one summer when we stood in the light of the bay door waiting to be dismissed home, but instead we’re told to take lunch two hours early while they restore power. This time, though, they tell us to clock out and come back in an hour. It’s already so late in the day, I don’t want to work past my usual shift time, I wish they would let us go home, but I need this job so I do what I’m told.
I bump into Sam on my way out, I didn’t know she worked here, but I’m not at all surprised to see her. We greet each other and talk casually at first, but then I slowly become aware of a mounting anxiety. I’m overly focused on saying those perfect sentences, constructing those perfect ideas with words from my mouth, something beautiful and intelligent, but words won’t help because “THERE’S NOTHING BEAUTIFUL OR SPECIAL UP HERE,” I think as I picture my brain within my skull. Really, I’m just trying hard to not say the wrong things. I stay quiet and try to express the appropriate response to each of her statements, jokes, smiles, gestures.
We, Sam and I, are almost out the factory. It seems the rest have disappeared, but I don’t notice. They don’t matter. I look up and from within the factory I notice the external world. The contrast is beautiful, maybe. The factory yellow around the open bay door frames the intangible fluffy blue sky like an oil painting. Everyday I day dream through this… we used to watch rerun after rerun of Bob Ross while our grandma baby sat us. No one ever painted… I’m thinking I might tell Sam all of this, it seems beautiful, maybe, but we’re outside all of a sudden and I’ve decided against it.
I’m thinking this is where you say goodbye, but she’s walking as if she’s leading and whenever we make eye contact she smiles.
“You want to get a drink with me?” she asks.
I know we’ve got to get back to work in a little while and I find it difficult to stop drinking once I’ve started, but I know I’m about to say yes.
We come to a rural convenience store which is not within walking distance of the factory, but I don’t seem to notice or care, of course, it doesn’t matter. Sam goes in without saying anything and comes out with two tall-boys of Sparks. The cans are black; they have a higher alcohol content than the orange cans. I can tell she’s drank at work before by this selection; the fruitiness of the malt beverage energy drink helps cover the smell of alcohol.
I end up buzzed, well… drunk, and the smell of booze on my breath doesn’t matter anyhow, as I’m not going back to work. I thought about calling and what excuse I would use, but Sam didn’t seem to care so I just followed her lead.
Through a patch of woods and a dissipating fog sits a dilapidated shack emanating candle light and drunken laughter from within. Sam enters first and is greeted warmly while I’m largely ignored. The ceiling is much higher than seemed possible from the sight of the outside roof; it easily accommodates a bunk bed dressed in flannel and a swarm of men, red plastic cups in hand, standing and conversing on the top bunk as if this is normal. While Sam makes her rounds I try engaging in small talk, but become increasingly uncomfortable as each conversant aims unsolicited advice at me.
“If you’re trying to get into a girl’s pants…”
“You’re going to want to get into a “green based” career. Anything “green” is going to be a real hot money maker…”
“Trust me, if you want to lose weight lay off the jogging and the cardio and the aerobic exercise and go with high intensity anaerobic spurt-like exercises such as sprints and shadowboxing interspersed with high-rep, low weight lifting. Just sit back and watch the fat melt away…”
“When you’re at the pump stay away from the Regular or the Premium. Regular and Premium are lower grade gasoline, hence they don’t work as well. Don’t be an idiot; go with the Super. It increases both longevity of the car as well as gas mileage. I believe they call this “common sense”, but I don’t know how common it is…”
Social tuning cannot pretend to connect between a schism this grand. I excuse myself and head outside for a cigarette. Before I take a hit I swallow half of a beer. Cigarettes satisfy more deeply when relieving tension of the stomach from food, alcohol, or sickness. The first drag I appreciate fully, but before I know it I’m extinguishing the lit filter beneath my foot. I contemplate lighting another, but Sam’s in there and I doubt she’s enjoying herself.
In the shack, again, all the occupants are partying as if there aren’t three people engaged in a sexual act on the bunk bed in the middle of the room. Sam is on top of one of the guys and it’s unclear what the other guy is attempting. All of it is unclear, really. The action on the top of the bunk bed is like a porno shot where two bodies are, at least, simulating sex, but no definite penetration can be seen. I suppose I should feel angry, upset, jealous, appalled, something, but nothing is coming through. Just vague shadows of emotion. I cast them aside as worthless.
I don’t know how I got here: the shack didn’t fade away and I didn’t leave it on my own accord, but a basement has taken its place. It is damp and dark; a breeding ground for mold, which permeates the air. The set in which we are cast has the feeling of a high school party, but there are only four of us: Sam, Ricky, Megan, and I. They give off no nonverbal cues, but I am aware of the fact that Sam and Ricky are dating, possibly in love. Actually, they have been for a long time. How much time has passed since Sam and I were at the shack? Ricky is my best friend, but I’m not at all worried about his girlfriend’s possible infidelity or my possible feelings towards her. It all makes sense as if I’m tripping on acid: everything is understandable, because nothing is understandable.
Megan seems to be single, though, so naturally I gravitate towards her. Our relationship consists of her serving me, as she works at the local bar, but we adapt nicely to these unfamiliar settings. I don’t even find it strange that she has no pants or underwear on. I feel the urge to have sex with her, like it is the right thing to do, despite feeling far from aroused, but something is ringing, calling me from another world and I know I have to be at work in half an hour.
(Drugs and Culture)