workman in the light

There is nothing particularly interesting about Workman. Just in the thick of the boredom of being a single thirtysomething, just tall enough to change a smoke detector without a chair, and with less hair than before. He works 9 to 5, collects blackened coins from the ground, and is friends with all street animals (that is stray cats, rabid squirrels, schitzo mice, and dirty rats, to name a few).

He fits into the world by being a wall, holding up the house, but often pinned over with more colorful and exciting things.

Things that will eventually, fade and crumble away…

he slumped out of the small office meeting room, eyes to the floor. the interviewing team seemed uninterested and unimpressed with him. again.

we are happy having you in the basement, you’ve been doing a wonderful job there the past few years. if a position is available in the front, we will be sure to let you know

he wanted to see the light. 

walking into work everyday, the most enchanting part was seeing the stream of sunrise come through the curtains in dusty lines. it sounded a lot better than being underground in the green-yellow fluorescent lit basement.

but apparently, today was not the day.

so Workman went back to work,

taking the industrial elevator down, watching the last bit of natural light disappear with the doors.

it was late afternoon. Workman finished his shift and decided to walk home instead of taking the train.

it was a pleasant early fall day, the sun barely hanging in the sky, warming everything that stayed still in its sight.

the sidewalks were empty, which was not rare for this place.

people cared too much about staying in their tidy suburban homes than visiting the city these days. Workman crunched red and brown leaves under his feet. ahead, there was a small rustling in a twiggy bush. a pigeon with two stump feet was trying to eat a bottle cap, flipping it with each peck.

bending over to help the disabled bird, Workman rustled through his backpack and took out a sandwich bag filled with dry, brown crusts and offered some to the bird. curious, the pigeon pecked, and then grabbed the whole piece and jumped back into his bush. 

Workman dumped out the rest of his crust and continued walking.

Workman lived on the bottom floor of a short, brick-walled apartment building. inside, it was neat. a paper thin magnet of dust seasoned every belonging. that was the consequence of living in the city — constant construction means constant dust, no matter how often you try to wipe it away.

he pulled a 30 minute lasagna from the oven, and sat at the small square table in his small square kitchen and opened up the small window by his head to let the city in. cars rolling by, high heels and brogues snapping on the concrete ground, and a cat, softly peaking in.

a dirty yellow cat with a bite out its ear poked its head through the window, drawn in by the

lasagna.

Workman extended a hand. tentatively, the cat sniffed. Workman scooped up a bite of the store-made meal and offered it to the stray.

it flinched at first, then slowly, slowly tasted the offering and bit off a chunk.

the cat eased on the edge of the window, and Workman split his dinner with a new friend.

a light rain and gloom fell onto Workman the next morning. nothing too bad to walk through, so he went about on his way to work.

before he got too far, a small black circle in the center the cement caught his eye. with just an edge of copper showing, Workman bent down to pick up the dirty penny. as he crouched, a small black nose poked it’s way out from behind some trash cans.

he turned just his head to see what was attached to the nose, but it retreated.

Workman slowly rose, and walked steadily over to the cans, eyes low to avoid the rain sprinkle from falling into them. A quick rustle let him know that the little nose had scurried further away. he stayed still, patient to see if it would return. it didn’t.

Workman came back with a plate of eggs and sausage, and an umbrella. he sat next to the trash cans, nibbling and staying dry.

the nose returned, this time attached to a matted brown dog, who sat at his side, asking for a bite. Workman lowered his plate to the pup, who licked up the breakfast in a matter of seconds.

as the two sat on the curb, the drizzle turned to an even lighter mist, and the clouds cracked, sending beams of yellow light through the haze, warming Workman’s face.

Workman stood and continued on his walk to work, umbrella tucked under his arm, and a little black nose following not too far behind.

 

x

childhood cancer

There was fear, when they told her it was cancer. But also a young boldness that everything would be ok.

Lee and her two sisters sat still on the couch, sandwiched between their parents, not knowing what to say or how to react.

Then May started crying.

Mom got up to comfort May, to tell her that it was good that they caught it early, and the doctors were already working on what to do. Mom and Dad were getting second opinions, things might be OK.

Horizontal black bangs, and a shrimpy size of the second shortest in the class, the things Lee cared about when she was ten were simple. It was September, and she had just begun fifth grade. She loved playing with her dog, play dates with friends, and drawing with chalk on the front driveway.

She had an easy, sheltered life.

So when the bombshell of cancer invaded her small world, she didn’t know how to take it.

She felt like she should be more sad. Why didn’t she cry when she heard the news like May?

This was DAD after all. Mom said he was too young to have cancer. Lee didn’t really understand what that meant. She didn’t really understand cancer. No one was telling her how to feel, or what to do about it.

It seemed like Dad was becoming a superhero. He took time off of work and picked Lee and her sisters up from school more often now. He worked on things around the house on the weekends and went running in the mornings and biking in the afternoon. During the day, he didn’t stop moving. He built a new vegetable box for Grandma in the backyard and had Lee and May carry bags of dirt in with him to dump.

He didn’t seem scared.

In class one day, a girl said a joke.

What did one unemployed cancer say to the other?
…Let’s get Jobs!

Lee didn’t get it.

My dad has cancer!

She said to everyone.

The teacher pulled her aside.

Prostate cancer.

Whatever it was, it wasn’t something that Lee or her sisters had to worry about getting, according to Mom.

Dad and I were the youngest couple at the support group yesterday

Mom said over cereal the next morning.

She said it with a laugh, as if she was retelling the plot of Modern Family last night.

It was odd to hear Mom laugh about Dad’s cancer. But slightly comforting too, to see that it didn’t just have to be a sad thing.

 

The day Dad had his operation, Lee and her sisters got to stay home from school. His surgery was early in the morning, and the girls all got up with sleepy eyes and slippered toes to hug him and wish him luck. He’d be done by noon.

Dad came home and went straight to bed, drugged and drowsy. He was home and he was OK.

A little while later, Dad got the results of his tumor. The doctors supposedly got all the cancer out, and he wouldn’t have to do chemo. He would,

…Keep whatever little hair he has left!

Mom joked.

 

That was good news.

 

 

x