After a while, you realize some people might be made for more, but not everyone can be. To cope yourself to this fact is the first step in coming to terms with life. Because. . . what exactly is stopping you again? Mediocrity has something reassuring about it and if one can be content with little, one will always live a good life.
Buddhism preached that and this means nothing; It is nothing new to know that no religion wants you to be your best, just the best for you according to their teachings. Your real worth is as a follower; and only as a missionary disciple when you accept foreign values as your own and sell them in your distorted image of it. If Buddha could see what we have done with yoga, he would throw a round of asceticism for us. However, even PETA killed dogs in an act of mercy in their shelters. So it wasn’t my fault, that I wasn’t fine with what I had. Over-saturated with hypocrisy, I wanted to consider myself real. I build onto the fundament of human enlightenment, and even though I tried to do it – take it as it comes – for my own sake, all despite there being no men in heaven, I wanted to be defined by something that was bigger than my character. For long as I can remember I liked the idea of being resistant, never to be broken, being able to see more in the mirror than there was, but how long is looking and laughing, and staying calm considered strong before it turns into pathetic ignorance?
I put the joint aside. It went to my head today. First time it had an effect in weeks, which was a wonder. With the exception of Sunday, I only stayed sober for the first few weeks on the job when I had to work the next day. Soon smoking weed became the first thing I did when I walked in the door and the last thing before I walked out of it.
Yes, I mostly sat around in front of the television with Ätz, and when he wasn’t home, which often happened, I sat alone in front of the magic box. The weed made the TV bearable and the TV made doing nothing bearable. At 10 pm I went to bed, pumped full of advertising slogans and sitcom tragedies. My spirit dies, I often thought, while forcing myself asleep. Today even in front of the TV. I thought about it again.
“I’m going to bed”, I said to Ätz. He nodded, took the joint out of the ashtray and lit it up. I closed the door behind me and threw myself on his bed. I fell asleep almost immediately. It was a dreamless sleep too.
At 7 in the morning I woke up. There was only Mary Jane in my head, and to think only made my head more brittle. I was lying there on the bed, sweating in my underwear. Not really asleep, but not really awake either. I felt every minute go by and every second I tasted extensively. How often do seconds pass and they feel like seconds? I was still high and in an hour the alarm went off. I would get up, take a shower and then pretend that the guy lying here is a productive member of this society. Smile and be nice, it should be so easy….but the smiles of the cashiers in the morning made me tired, the conversations with the hairdressers made me shudder…all this falsehood sold for a minimum wage. It just made me feel sick to think that I was one of them after all…a bought smile. I had promised myself that this was only the start, but even after months nothing had happened, no change in perspective and lack of real drive seemed to be my modus operandi.
I rubbed my eyes in front of the mirror in the bathroom. In my left the white was contaminated by some red threads. It looked shredded, but from experience I knew that I could just explain it away with “fatigue”. The work also robbed me of my energy. Same tasks, same challenges. It got boring, even though there were the few times when something new happened. You know you hate your job when you’re glad about the nagging idiots afterwards just to have something to tell. Though the customers were only sometimes a farce, most knew what they were looking for in here, and most of those who didn’t, simply riddled you with questions and all of them, with no exception, never had good questions…”Is there a simpler version of an explanation for quantum mechanics than the one from the series “for idiots”?”…”Can I walk out the back of the employee area to save two minutes instead of walking around the building?”…”You have a three-for-one offer, can’t I not just take two and still get both cheaper?”…;
Under the shower I stood as always 10 minutes longer than I had to. In this household nobody bothered. At this time Ätz usually slept on the couch or just got home. The TV was still running when I walked out of his room. Ätz snored louder as the breakfast presenter, who talked to an old woman in a gardener’s outfit about caring for her suburban garden. I grabbed the remote as I was passing by. When the presenter talked to the gardener about her red garden gnome, her most priceless possession, I pressed the red button.
The idiocy and the wickedness; the falsehood that permeated all strata of the population come to light best in the everyday life of a low level retail employee. Yeah, it is eye opening and teaches you how all cruelty in this world came to be. Seriously, you meet them all:
Sadists, who like to see when you have to bend down for them, they ask for exotic extravaganza, like a special cover they’ve once seen in a random picture online before, and let you search the store up to the roof until you find proof of the fact that it was never ordered. I know it’s my job, but is it their job to get on my nerves and then doubt my words when I tell them after the foreseeable fruitless search that we really don’t have it in stock?
Opportunist, yeah, the people you only see, when there are cents to save. Sometimes they come with huge jars full of change and expect you to not only let them pay 10€ in a thousand cents, but also turn red when limited offers are not longer available or sold out. They scream to the heavens about their frustration and when god doesn’t answer their request for wraith, my shift manager has to jump in and save me from doing something stupid.
Oh well, and then last and by far the least there would be the mentally disturbed, who should be forbidden to act at all without the consent of a guardian. They behave in shops as if they were travelling in another country whose culture they are not familiar with. More than once books flew as projectiles, lethal in intent, and slithered over the floor losing meaning in the process. They scream, they piss themselves and whenever they can; they hide food behind books, their garbage between shop displays, their feelings with as little affords as possible.
For such people I developed a solution inspired by the treatment of literal retards, an artificial selection about which even the boldest jokes only once about; only less humane. My approach: outsource their conscience. Thus globalization can create more domestic jobs and if castrated, chemically or with a sword, the future would not only be a bit safer for our descendants but also for everyone else. I wish they were dead, but I was always happy when something happened. One knows one hates one’s job when one is glad about the literature-seeking literature addicts in retrospect.
Yeah, working for me was like sitting next to a fat, really fat guy on a plane. You wanted to swap with everyone, you wanted to be able to sit in economy class or, if you hadn’t fully surrendered yourself to your fate, have yourself sucked through the airplane toilet. But instead you hold your mouth and breath, after all it goes by and you try to consume oxygen, whenever you could take an undisturbed breath under the midriff bulge.
The system pissed me off. The customers pissed me off. The memories of nice people were shattered by a far greater number of rude and snotty busybodies. I looked back on a year and realized that a year can do a lot to a person and at the same time change nothing. I was trapped in eternal stagnation because I didn’t want to go anywhere. I owed it to Evening Nathaniel that I was not happy anyway and that my daily lack of ambition actually destroyed me. Goddamn motherfucker. He dreams of a better life. What a joke. The one who got up in the morning resigned himself to spending most of his life here, did not whine, did what he had to do to get through the day. Why couldn’t I always be that guy?
Some days I went home with the feeling that after all this might be the right thing to do, but most of the time I wondered where I got enough gasoline from with my lousy salary to burn the bookshop down. The tolerable days were a trap so that I didn’t look around and didn’t recognize where I was trapped after all. Every Saturday evening, on my day off, I realized that again, but Saturdays only come once a week, and sometimes I had a series of good days that made me believe in my way again. For example, a good day was when I was allowed to do something in the back of the office all day. This day wasn’t a good day.
I first had a break from routine when I was allowed to rearrange cartons in the warehouse. The weed helped Monday morning. It loosened my muscles and soothed my brain. It didn’t ask for anything. Maybe after something to eat, but I had to at some point anyway. It was as if I had tied 2kg weights to my bones; as if someone had poured cement into my marrow. The THC slowed me down, but usually I was way too fast in accomplishing my tasks anyway. I was just a bit exhausted from the weekend and basically I hardly slept the last few days. If anyone asked, it could be explained with fatigue at any time.
I did it all step by step. First I unpacked the new releases that went for sale tomorrow. I put them on the shelf in the storeroom, which served as their resting place until they were exhibited. Personally, I would have left them in the boxes and unpacked them outside, but the boss had his own ideas and policies. No customer under any circumstances was allowed to see the cartons. As if the process of unpacking of more or less worthwhile works of literature were worth keeping a secret, the “Coca Cola secret recipe” of book trade. It had to be like that, a conspiracy against common sense, because my colleagues were willing to spy just to avoid being the one to be rebuked. I was in enemy territory, surrounded by spies and really under suspicion of being the double agent I had only one name, but without evidence I would have only put speculations in the room; it annoyed me a lot, but it was like that. Buddha aside, finally I knew that there was no other way, but to temporarily giving up my own comfort and doing as the boss said, even when he was not there. He was there. Not a good day.
When I was done in the back, I needed about 20 minutes, I knew it was time to face the show again. I went to the bathroom before. Checked my eyes. I looked tired. Why do they all still think it would be working to relax, it feels more like relaxing to work. I splashed water in my face. I couldn’t wash away my dark circles.
The nights before, I had spent staring at the wall and thinking about my father. How he probably sat alone in the house and wondered where I was. My thoughts also wandered to my mother and to the last time I saw her. My parents were both dead to me and I would soon be dead. Selfish as I am, all I could think of was my own death.
At 4 o’clock in the morning, after the sleeplessness and the sad veil in which the time wrapped my thoughts, I wondered if it was the same for the others. Whether they also accepted at the fourth hour that they were nothing more than rodents trapped in hamster cages which they called day. I came to the enlightenment that we, the others and I, had to be happy, for the time being we had no other choice. Now I thought about the woman with the red garden gnome and smiled. Still, I asked myself the same question every night.
I didn’t sleep much, and when I did, I didn’t sleep well. I tried to make up for the deficit with sleep units after work. Didn’t work either. The heat kept me awake. I sweated in bed and I sweated at work. No air conditioning, just a ventilation system that should be urgently inspected and repaired. The long black trousers I had to wear at 39 degrees didn’t make it any better. Celine was allowed to wear a skirt. I envied her for it. The legs of the trousers were like a second skin on the thighs while sweating. Disgusting. The pants were also black, that attracts warmth. I hate sweating.
I dried my face with a paper towel that I pulled out of the dispenser, coughed, spat the upcoming mucus into the sink and washed it down the drain with water. I felt willing to sell the goods. I threw the paper towel in the paper waste with the others.
I came out of the toilet and as if he had waited for me, Gerhard stood next to me. He wished me a “good morning”; and started talking about his weekend without myself asking. I dined Gerhard off with a short conversation, and got to work. I was undisturbed for five minutes, then the next beggar for distraction came.
“The boss is looking for you”, my coworker said to me.
“Then I’ll go to the boss”, I sighed and stopped work.
I knocked at his office. The door wasn’t open as usual. Not a good sign. I thought about turning around and coming back later, but then the door opened and Mr Konrad stood in front of me.
“Ahh Mr. Schradinski. Come in”
He held the door open for me. I went in.
“Sit down,”; he said and closed the door.
“You’re not so good with instructions, Mr. Schradinksi?”;
“I can handle instructions, I usually disappoint expectations”;
“That’s too bad, because I expect you to do better. For example, I can notice the smell of booze. You should better hide it or, like the good employees here, just don’t drink the day before”;.
“I don’t think you have any control over my personal life. My work here begins at 8 am and ends at 5 pm, you have nothing more to do with me”
“You can’t come to work hungover”
“You’re right, I should be on sick leave”
“I should stay home and you should still pay me if you don’t like how I got here”
“Are you serious?”;
“If you had some spine and not just the broomstick in your ass holding you up, you’d see it the same way”
“Pack your things and go, you lunatic!”;
When I left, I threw the door shut. I went to my locker, got my backpack, and headed for the store entrance. Gerhard came up to me, suggested that we smoke another cigarette. We stood out back at the garbage cans.
“A shame you gotta go, we just got warmed up”
“Yeah. Anyway, in here every sense is lost…if there was ever one to begin with”, I said to Gerhard and threw my cigarette on the floor. I went up the delivery exit with him, then we parted ways and I headed to the tram station. “Give me a call”, he said to me last and gave me his phone number. I saved it under “Gerhard – bookstore”, but never chose to use it.