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Twenty-Second Sitting

I was a teenage migrant laborer. I came up from Nicaragua when I was twelve, and my family and I lived on the Californian/Mexican border for a long long time waiting for our entrance papers. Because my father was a skilled gasket export stylist, we had a good chance of getting in legally, so we didn't just pay someone to smuggle us over the border as so many others did, but instead waited. There was very little to do down there. Local clergyman types had set up somewhat of a makeshift school, and I did go to that a few times, but as I already knew how to read, they had very little to teach me. And besides, we needed money to settle in what we hoped would soon be our new country, so I went to work. Every morning dozens of us would just show up at this one place on the main road, and if the weather was good, trucks would come and take a certain number of workers to work their fields, or orchards, or whatever. The wages were low, the conditions were unfit for humans, but we were glad to be there, because it was work, which means money, which means some hope for a better life, or at least more cigarettes. This man picked me up once, only me (the car was small), and took me to a cabin he was building behind his house. He needed someone to help put up insulation, and then aluminum siding. I got to play with buckets of glue with large warning labels, with power tools fitted with treacherous appendages, with nails as long as your forearm, to climb precariously-balanced decaying ladders up dozens of feet (not too many dozens, granted), to stain my clothing (having a two-suitcase limit, I had foolishly packed only the clothes that I liked, and hence did not want to stain) with various toxins, to scrape myself up on various metal beams. I worked 9 1/2 hours that day without a break, all for $45 (I being an unskilled laborer). Did I mention that work sucks, that no one should have to do it for a living, that unless it was your dream house you were building, you'd opt out of a second day on the job if you could too, at least if you had any kind of sense? Doesn't my lying about being a lily-white-skinned upper-middle-class midwesterner never-had-to-work-a-crappy-job-for-longer-than-one-summer recent-philosophy-major-college-grad make this criticism sound more plausible coming from me?

So that was my first day in Alaska, after the long and intense plane ride on which I stole two Crudly movies by listening to them on my "personal headset" and tried to hide my overly-large carry-on luggage from voracious flight attendants who would try to shove it under the plane, presumably to be run over and left for dead. I'm not sure what its function in this plot is, but it happened, so there it is. I was relieved of any romanticism about the working man that I might have inadvertently picked up since my last industrial-hell job (a whole summer hauling industrial garbage bins in a gasket factory). I'd like to say that Her face hovering just barely above my visual field led me through that day, gave me strength to pound one more nail in pursuing what seemed at first like a not-so-bad project but ended up sucking big time, but I was instead merely annoyed, especially in the last hour and a half when I knew She was already back from classes, and I could be spending time with Her, if only I weren't swabbing glue on drywall. I had done my day's work, which made my folks a little happier about the money I sponged off of them that I could have earned myself had I only not gone on this trip, but instead got an actual job. It also gave Us some time apart after our reunion so She could miss me intensely. I'm pretty sure that's what happened.

"What's the point?" you ask. "We've gotten the point about you gradually growing from Tripe into a drippy, cheeseball romance in which you can write drippy, cheeseball sonnets about your beloved, so why don't you just end it and let us go home? Just have everybody die, conclude with the moral that life sucks and things are unpredictable, yet also predictable (there was that foreshadowing scene with the cat), and just write `THE END'. Enough is E-frigging-nough already. Jeez."

No, fair reader, do not judge me harshly now, not now that I am happy. Wait until the end where I am miserable and full of self-loathing. Then I will join you in your diatribe. The much more important question here is did I, in the face of our reunion, in the face of Her face (yowza!), Her rich, melodious voice, Her every look and mannerism that seemed right on the mark... did I, in the face of this, attempt a... try to with her... suggest a... thumb war??!

Not yet.

But you really need a lot more background, I guess, to be in a state to have expectations about how things will turn out, what happened between us before she left, what the hell has been going through her mind this whole time... much more, some of which I don't even know. All's I know is I'm not dead yet, and I will one day win her, or sublimate (Warning: I will be using this word many many times. If you are under the impression that in so doing I must be referring to the process by which a solid changes to a gas without passing through liquid form, you might as well just die now.) a lot trying... yet at the same time I'm sure kicking this need stuff and not descending to the level of the Damaged, which is really obviously not that far down, despite my present equilibrium (I told you I was having a swell time, wasn't I? I don't lie, you know? Did I tell you that? I don't lie. I don't. I.). All this I most sincerely believe, and will continue to do so until kicked back into pessimism by the Hand of God, whichever Hand that may be.

We surveyed 100 people with the following question: "In what way is the Author full of hooey?" The answer given by the contestant is "every possible way, except in regard to his stealing those movies on the plane, which is absolutely true and in itself enough to make him cool." SURVEY SAYS:


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© 1993 Mark A. Linsenmayer [ Contents ]