Admittedly, even though chemistry is challenging and exciting, when I leave, all I feel is a void. And in that void, everything starts to seep back in and they start to change from carboxyls and redox reactions to some long overdue navel-gazing because the bus that I was going to take was quickly receding into the distance without me.
I have twenty minutes to do nothing but sort out why people think I’m a bitch.
There is the easy answer, and then there’s the long and involved answer that requires a willingness to listen and withhold judgement.
Before I have the opportunity to figure out exactly what I want to say, two guys walk up with the dirtiest dog imaginable, trying to find out where their friend is.
The dog is named Artemus. Like the hunter. I would like to think that he was named after Artemis Fowl, for all his badassery, but his owner has never read the series before.
He takes a liking to me, and since the dog approves, James and Paige (Page? It’s a nickname for Brendan. Brandon.) take a liking to me, too. Their dog is small, quiet, and apparently likes women and cat-people. He just turned six.
From their conversation, I learned that the two guys work minimum wage jobs and have just gotten off work. They sometimes work eighty-hour weeks because their places of employment are short-staffed and they are the most reliable of all the employees. They smoke, but run, and James loves his dog very much.
They also think that there’s an asshole bus driver for every transit center. I don’t blame them. I just missed another bus because the driver didn’t bother to slow down to see if one of the four people waiting wanted to up his paycheck a little. (Shit!) We’re joined by another guy, younger than James and Brendan, but older than me, who asks if I’m going to BC. At first, I’m bewildered, head already hurting from two hours of straightening out all the things that I missed during my first crash course through AP Chemistry and a little high from the nicotine I can smell coming off the dog and the two guys.
But then I tell him no, but it’s probably the same bus. I think I just confused him. It doesn’t occur to me until later that I could have helped the kid out and showed him how to get there.
As James and Brendan continue to talk about work and smoke their cigarettes, and the other guy watches worriedly for a bus that will eventually take him to BC, I think about the ways the two smokers could make their lives easier. Quit smoking, save the dog’s lungs, your lungs, let the nicotine stains fade, save a little more money for whatever you want to do in the future.
I hold my tongue, though, because Artemus, while adorable, is not my responsibility, and two twenty-something guys who work for minimum wage appear to be comfortable enough in their jobs to be able to refuse shifts.
They’ve been smoking for thirteen years apiece, and they’ve known each other for nine years. They didn’t have to tell me that they were long time smokers. I can smell it in the air, on the dog, see it on their teeth and fingers and the dog’s coat, hear it in their throats.
Brendan has a funny story about a guy who ordered a hamburger patty for his dog.
It makes me realize then, that they’re happy. They have friends, companionship, their own lives. They have control over their own choices. Why would they want to change? Who am I to want to tell them how to change their lives, lives that they’ve lived for so long solely on their own feet?
Why do I want to tell them how to change?
I don’t really know. But, for the first time in my life, I wonder if it would be worth devoting my life to complacent wage slavery. Perhaps I won’t be happy, but at least I’ll be content.
But I know it’s not possible because that’s not me. I cannot tolerate routine. I cannot tolerate drudgery. I need challenges, and I need to understand.
I’m not really better off than most people, and the happiest people, I think, are often times the people who have very little.
I don’t even know what genuine joy is.
Later, I’m going to look back and think about how I could have memorized James’ phone number off of Artemus’ tag. But I didn’t because even when I want someone to help me figure out what the fuck I’m doing to myself, I still push people away.