it's 7:05 a.m. and dark on the shortest day of the year. i'm standing
at the bus stop across the street, waiting
for the northbound
bus i almost never take. i'll transfer to thewestbound
at 46th and phinney. i need
to report for work at 52nd and 15th no later than 8 a.m. i'd set the alarm
for 6:31, fell asleep around midnight,
woke up spontaneously at 5:10 and that was it--i was up. i'm standing at
the bus stop, rereading
heavy at my feet. i'm thinking, what am i doing here? it is dark, i am starting
new job. but who wants a job?
i try to keep an open mind. the work is simple but i still expect to learn
a lot from it. the bus comes, i get on,
the driver has his hand over the farebox on which a sign reads: PAY AS YOU
LEAVE. that's the way it works here
in Seattle during the busy hours--you pay your fare as you leave. i pay with
a dollar bill and two quarters, get a
pink transfer, and get off at 46th and phinney. the sky is red over the cascade
mountains. what am i doing here?
the 44 comes, i get on, just like the script says. there are other people
on the bus; each with his or her own movie
playing in his or her own head. i'm the first one at work, there's a broken
corona beer bottle in the parking lot. i
sit down and read. fast forward to the late afternoon, i'm belching a lot
after eating a little pork in hot and sour soup.
i'm ramming the heavy pry bar under floor boards in the deserted gymnasium
of a criminal rehabilitation facility. the
calendars we saw on medical office walls were 1998. in one hall there was
a map of prague and i showed my coworkers
where my apartment there is. why am i here
and not there? it might've been so easy.... i'm popping up the clear fir
floorboards, sorting them by length. joel and i start at opposite ends of
each run. ideally, we meet in the middle,
but often i am slower than he is. my left hand is cramping, i work around
it, tote a load of lumber or do it one-handed.
it's an auspicious beginning, starting work on the solstice. practical, too,
because the building has no electricity so
once it's dark we have to stop--and it won't be getting dark any earlier
than this for another year. will i still be here?