I Heard They Found Einstein Like That.
I get to work an hour before everyone else. Punch in my code for the door. Which sends an email to my boss who's still lying in her bed on the other side of town. And not even thinking about coming in yet.
Before I turn on the lights I swipe my time card. Then wander around. No idea of what I'm doing. Just once around the shop. Like I do every other fucking day. And every morning I think the same thing. That I still have time. At least an hour. I can still cut out. Go back home. Never return again.
But I don't.
After the lights are on I go to my locker. Open it. The top shelf is full of garbage. I hang my bag on the hook. Take my lunch and put it in the fridge. Eat a sandwich someone left behind yesterday. Hope they were looking forward to it this afternoon.
I sit on the break room table. Thinking to myself that next to punching out this is the best part of the day. No one here to talk at me. Ask things of me. No boss to barely pretend I like. Or pretending to like me. I watch the clock. My peace coming to an end. I get up.
'The job ain't bad.' I say out loud, 'It's just the damned people.'
I make sure there aren't any sandwich crumbs on my chest. Walk over to my station. There's a pile of orders to get done. I start assembling the first one. Everything I need is within an arms length. No reason to get up. And besides breaks I won't.
Trapped in this square meter 9 more hours. The only thing that keeps me going. Or from just getting up and walking out is that I can see out the window in the front. Into the parking lot. If I'm real lucky I might catch a glimpse of good looking woman. But more often than not its just squirrels.
So instead of paying attention. And doing good work. I look up from the order i'm completing hoping to see some fucking sign. That maybe there's something better out there for me. And yeah. I get a glimpse into my future. But it's not refreshing. It's the bald and lonely shipping clerk coming across the parking lot.
'Aw fuck,' I mutter. He's the beginning of the end. After this the rest of them will start driving up. Getting out of their cars. Coming in with stories about their boring lives. Expecting me to listen. But the shipping clerk is the worst. I might as well give up now.
The door beeps when he comes in. His head is down. It's raining out so he wipes his feet on the mat. Shakes off his umbrella. Makes no effort to look at me. But I know. When he walks by. That if I don’t make some grand acknowledgment of his existence he'll get pissy with me. Like a little girl who didn't get what she wanted for her birthday.
So I wave like I'm in a fucking parade. 'Hey Pat,' I yell at him. 'How's thing's? I ask even though inside. I've never cared less about anything. I think it'd be impossible to. And I'm terrified of the answer I'm going to get. Because this is a bitter lonely prick I'm dealing with.
'Jesus Christ,' he starts in with. And I start zoning out. I know what's coming. In the 3 years I've worked here he only ever gripes about the same shit. I can guess what he's going to say.
It's probably about the bus. He takes it into the city from the suburbs everyday. He has problems. Says the thing is full of perverts. Morons. He detests them all. There's thousands of jobs closer to his home. And I wonder why he still comes in here. What his motivation to deal with it all is.
I stand there half listening. My vision out of focus. Nodding along. I hear him say the whole city should be exterminated. And I think I agree with him. Even though the only thing that needs eradicating is him.
By the time he's done his face his red. He's breathing heavy. His tuft of white hair is pointing upwards. He looks crazed as he stomps off to his desk. I don’t make a sound. But I'm laughing harder then ever before.
I watch him from the corner of my eye. His little morning ritual. Taking off his coat. His scarf. Hanging them up with care. He changes out of his street clothes. Cheap things from cheap department stores. He folds them up. Careful about wrinkles. Pulls his socks up as far as he can. Slips on overalls. Black sneakers.
We've still got some time. At least another 15 minutes before anyone else shows up. And if the boss rolls in any less than an hour I'll imagine she shit the bed. Pat knows this. He's been here longer than anyone. So he comes over. Leans on my table. And waits.
I don’t want to give in. But this pathetic old fucker. He's just going to stand here. Humming and bobbing his head back and forth. Close enough for me to smell the cigarette smoke on him. To make me choke. Sure in his determination that I'll ask.
And I wait because I'm sure of something too. That he's just going to tell me one of the same shitty old stories. A missive about his ungrateful cats maybe. How unless he's feeding them they want nothing to do with him. Something I can relate to.
He lives alone. In the house he grew up in. Waited out his folks and got it willed to him. He doesn’t have any friends. So when he leaves here at the end of the day that's it. The last chance he gets to talk.
And he makes it my problem. Because I'm stuck here. At this table. With no reason to leave. He can blather on all day. My chest gets tight. I have trouble breathing. So I give in. Sick of his stench. And like the rest of the day I just want to get it over with. I ask him what he got up to last night. I don’t look at him. But I know he's smiling. Because this is his chance to let it all out.
And when he says, 'you know Stan, I went to the grocery store,' he stumbles on his words. Probably the first full sentence of the day. I think to myself fuck and roll my eyes. The grocery store. The kid probably cut his goddamned lunch meat too thick again.
He tells me he was out of food. And he couldn’t let the cats starve. That the little fuckers eat better than he does. I think about the lunches I've seen him with. And I believe him.
'So I'm wandering around in there, ' he tells me. And his words are like weights. Listening to this old fool. Talking about how he wants to mix things up. Change barbeque sauce brands. Adding some zip to his burgers.
I almost laugh. Instead I say 'Living life dangerously eh, Pat?' And he ignores me. Or doesn’t get it. Because he keeps rambling on. About how he just stood there. In the barbeque sauce section. Staring up at the shelves. His mind a blank. No idea what choice to make.
'You know Pat,' I tell him, 'I heard they found Einstein once. He was on the supermarket floor. Drooling and shivering. Barbeque sauce all over the place. And he won a fucking Nobel Prize.'
Pat just stands there. Looking at me. His forehead all crinkled down. Like he's stern or cross or something. When he tells me I'm not funny I'm surprised he's not wagging his finger.
I smirk. Put my head down and look at what I'm doing. I don’t even know anymore. Pat's off on a god damned tangent. Because if he bought the wrong sauce. And didn't like the burger. Well. Then he'd have to feed them to the cats.
'Those cats do eat better than you, eh?' I laugh out.
He acts like I'm serious. Explains to me how if his cat Bobby eats something like a burger. Fuck. He's liable to take a big wet shit all over his couch. Right in front of him. 'And that's not a mess I want to be cleaning up,' he finishes with.
And I don’t want it to continue any longer. This awful nightmare. I wish I worked at some loud angry machine. Something I could stick my hand into. Something that would cause enough of a stir to shut him up. But I don't. And the only end is in asking.
'So, Pat. What did you end up buying?'
He tells me with a great big fucking grin on his face. Like it matters. Pleased as punch with himself. His decision. His life. 'I got the same one I always do Stan, and the burgers were perfect.'
Which is the answer I expected the whole time. And I should've just cut him off in the beginning. But politeness. It's a damned bitch mistress. And I know if I saved myself the time and torture. Then he'd mope all fucking day. Tell the boss I was mean to him. Which is completely unfair.
Because the boss won't understand when I go to her. Complain that this lonely fucker is killing me with stories of his rotten existence. She'll laugh at me. Tell me I'm being dramatic. That no one likes them. But the stories aren't that bad. And he doesn't have anyone else to talk to.
She'll look at me like I'm an animal when I tell her his loneliness isn't my problem. And that yes. The stories are that bad. And that I'm beginning to hope he'll pull through with one of his suicide threats. Which are becoming quite regular. Fingers crossed.
Pat's still flapping his gums. And I'm not sure about what. But I know I've been nodding along. Grunting at the right moments. I blink my eyes a couple of times. Start listening.
'Imma sneak out back.' he tells me, 'Smoke a butt. Fuckin boss. She don’t pay me enough to work this hard. I'll smoke when I want.'
I agree with him. Throw in that the boss is a lazy cunt as well. I figure its something we can bond over. But like always I'm wrong. And he takes offence. Tells me she's a good lady. That we should be thankful. This is a good place to work.
And I think about telling him to go fuck himself in the ass. The rat fuck. But then this exchange may never end. And it's easier to just let him walk away. A bounce in his step. He got it all out. Made himself feel better at my expense.
When he's behind the lockers I look up at the clock. If I'm lucky I have about 5 minutes to myself. I hear the click of a lighter. The whole place fills with the stink of Pat's cigarette. And through the window. Out in the parking lot. I see the secretary pull up.