I realized I was a disgusting person when, in the middle of the night, in the backseat of my car, I was licking nutella off of my sleeping bag. I had an inkling when at work, Danielle asked me why I was taking my food bag into the shower with me and I responded that it wasn’t just my food bag, but my toiletry bag, and dirty clothes bag. I take it in with me to wash my dirty socks and underwear while I shower. I’m efficient with one bag. A few days ago I was called into work late, and couldn’t get my overalls and jacket because the station was closed. I shrugged and since nobody was in the locker room, dug through the hamper to find used ones from a morning shift worker. Chances were about 95% that whoever’s I found would belong to a cleaner person than me. That’s when I thought, “maybe…” But when I licked nutella off of my sleeping bag, my sleeping bag that has been with me through showerless weeks on beaches and wet grass, my sleeping bag that has sand, and bread crumbs, and cigarette butts in the bottom, that I think about shaking out in the morning every night as I fall asleep, but never do, that’s when I knew for sure.
Objectively at the moment, my life sucks. I live in my car. I watch cobs of corn drift by me for eight hours a day. I go back to my car. I watch a movie. I wake up, go to the library, charge my computer, read, write, eat something. Holly, Danielle, and Jan are quitting. I will lose the parts of my day that I most looked forward to—fifteen minute breaks where I get to say hello to them, and talk about what a boring job we’re doing. And my drives with Jan, our midnight trips to the grocery store after work, our impromptu pizza binges. But it’s so temporary, and for that reason, I know I can do it. My life doesn’t suck. In some ways, I’m unhappy. And in others, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I’m lonely. Lonely isn’t always bad.
I made a friend at the library the other day. He is in his seventies, from Sarasota originally. I was watching a movie and charging my computer, and he asked me a question about my computer. Then he sat down on the couch next to me and just started telling me his life story. He is the kind of smart I most respect. Curious smart. Jan smart. He lived in Cuba in the forties, he speaks German and lived in England for a long time translating for the chief Churchill historian. He told me some travel stories, referring sometimes to his English lady friend and his german lady friend. He is the only person I’ve ever met who uses this term in all seriousness. He gave me advice about relationships and communication. How, in his experience, you don’t fully mature in dialogue until your fifties. He decided to start reading the Philadelphia Inquirer. He had questions about the United States—hostility towards police, healthcare, politics. He talked to me for about a hour and a half (in a much louder voice than is appropriate for the library, in all honesty) until I had to leave for work. We’ve decided to share the couch. I’d noticed him there for a few days, and then he saw me for a few days, but we both view it as our spot.
I developed a theory at work the other day. The soul as the unseen commodity:
Working on an assembly line undoubtedly deadens your soul. But it’s really not fair that workers have to lose all the soul to produce things that everyone consumes. I think every time you purchase something that was made in a factory, in addition to the price of the item, you also pay with your soul. Just a little bit—that bag of frozen vegetables will cost you two dollars and fifteen cents, and the line to a poem that struck you once. That shovel is five dollars and a revelation you had in the middle of the night. At some point in my life, as the worker, I will cash in. This job is a soul investment for the future. Because of this experience, I will discover beauty in the world, parts of others that are looking for a soul to call home.
Maybe that’s what happens when you die—your soul is distributed to others, still living. We absorb the dead and become dead and when we die pass on a million different pieces of other people we’ve collected over the years. We live through absorption. We lose and gain and trade pieces of soul constantly. We are pieces of so many people, some we know, and some we will never meet. We are chimeras of everyone that has ever existed.
I’ve made some vague plans. At this point, I am really focusing on Romania and trying not to be completely broke when I come home. So I’ll keep working and then right before my birthday, I’ll start traveling again. Go north, check out the Bay of Islands. Explore for ten days or so. Then, Holly and Danielle put me in touch with a family they woofed for a little bit North of Island, a lesbian couple with 2 kids. They’ve said I can woof for them, and I’ll be close enough to Auckland to try to sell my car. I’l l do that for a couple weeks and then I’m off. It’s weird—the end is in sight. I’m really glad I didn’t leave when I wanted to. I’m a different person than I was a few weeks ago.
Jan is no longer quitting, the vineyard work is dwindling. But he is moving north in a couple weeks for the kiwi harvest. Holly and Danielle left yesterday. But something exciting happened today. I got promoted! I’m extremely happy about it. It goes to show that showing up and doing what you’re supposed to do and not goofing off, actually does go a long way. I always feel like I’m observing others, and paying attention to details, and searching people for depth, and for their eccentricities. This is what I do best. I’m good at knowing people, even when they don’t know me. Sometimes, though, it’s really lonely. Sometimes, I really want someone to want to learn me the way I want to learn them. This makes me feel like finally, I’m the one being noticed. There are other people here who have been here longer than me. There’s something about me that got me this job. It’s not just people saying, “here’s a job we think you can do,” it’s “we’ve been watching you. And we noticed that there is something special about you, something that makes you different than everyone else here.” It’s a really good feeling to have not seen other people watching me, trying to learn things about me, observing me to see what I’m capable of. I am no longer an assembly line worker; I am now a data analyst. Today, I start collecting corn samples, and building spreadsheets about their components. I hope I learn more about what this means. As far as I can tell from what was explained to me last night, it involves science, math, and computers…my fortes! I haven’t even worn my glasses to work. I guess I look smart without them!