He spent 30 years working at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
He got the job when he was 21.
There were annual raises. Regular reviews for promotion.
Health insurance without copays.
When his boss retired he was promoted to supervisor.
He drove a "company car," which he gassed up right there, alongside the highway patrolmen.
Our tax dollars at work.
Now he's retiring.
He and his wife will be the taking their RV into the up country for a few weeks.
"Get away from the heat," he says.
"Must be nice," I tell him.
He's packed the fishing gear.
A cooler full of beer.
He's 52 years old.
Thirteen years younger than I.
I don't know how he did it. I couldn't have done it.
I spent my life looking for some sort of breakthrough.
Some miracle that would set me free.
Some clue to help solve the mystery.
A piece of the puzzle that, once in place, would allow me to somehow circumvent the daily, mind numbing grind of the work-a-day world.
That's all I needed.
One short story. One article. One piece of art.
Of course, I punched the clock, too.
On the side.
I mean, you've got to pay the rent.
Keep the lights on.
So I worked six months here.
Two years there. Five someplace else.
It was a struggle to show up every day to do the same things, see the same faces.
I'd do it as long as I could, and then I'd quit.
Move onto to the next pit of hell.
But I paid the rent. Kept the lights on.
if I wanted to be upbeat I could count certain aspects of my so-called career as successes.
Published works. A fairly successful art show. That kind of thing.
But in truth, it's just been one long, exhausting, and basically futile struggle.
And don't get me wrong.
We make our choices, and I wish him well.
Still, it seems ironic that the one who wanted out so badly, who struggled so hard against the current will be here, in this mundane hell, probably until he keels over, while that complacent son of bitch is fishing in the mountains of North Carolina.