Happiness. Everyone worked, for most it was required to go out into the real world and pretend that the hard labors of one's chosen profession could be used to buy that pinnacle of desire: happiness. It rarely did. We all did things to obliterate the visions of our labors so we could pretend to enjoy our pathetic lives. And be happy. It was the same with everyone: men, women, rich, poor, hardworking, beautiful, ugly and just the plain. I've been around the rich, they were the same, that happy face hid the reality of their despair. The happiest people I've ever been near and could palpably feel their happiness, were the bums on Van Buren. They had no cares, no worries. They begged for money and drank themselves silly. And were happy about it all.
I liked them; that real happiness invigorated and recharged my belief in reality. It made me feel happy as well. How could they not. They were truly happy. Their facade was anger at the world. The only thing about them that was fake.
"Marshall, we're all heading to the Cupcake Paradise after work. It's Lincoln's birthday." Was that a command? Perhaps it was the way it was said to me, it sounded like a command. What if I refused?
"Steve, I don't eat sweets. Ever."
"Christ Roy, it's a strip club."
I never went to strip clubs. Only been to one once. Didn't need to go back.
"Why do I need to be there?" I leaned closer to Steve and lowered my voice, "I don't really like the guy."
"No one does Marshall, that's why we need to be there." the ambiguity of his statement as he closed his locker and walked off left me wondering if I should stay at work today or not. But Steve was off to start the shift. Well, presumably to get in line to get decent gloves for the night. We worked greasy dirty jobs, gloves were important
Lincoln's locker was next to mine. He was married, two kids, and his locker is filled with nude photos from various magazines. Pretty graphic, spread eagle type of photos. Just a weird guy. Just the other day at lunch break a few of us were sitting and eating. Lincoln was at our table. Some of the guys were talking about a strip club they had gone to the week before. I barely remember the conversation, other things occupy my mind, anything other than his pronouncements. I do remember Lincoln told us he liked looking at women's breasts. A weird announcement.
Not wanting to go wasn't because of Lincoln. I have a difficult enough time dealing with other people. It's just not something that I have ever fully been able to cope with. Emotions. I don't deal with it at all. When people that I'm with are happy -- hey it's all good. But people are rarely happy. Mostly people are dealing with the world we live in. That makes them mad, sad, angry, or terrified. And not without a lot of lust and desire in their hearts thrown in to complicate matters. I don't like to be around anyone when those other emotions dominate their collective or individual psyches. I like happy.
But then, even happy was generally little more than a facade used to hide their true feelings. Happy is what everyone wants to be. Happy is the reason why everyone works, why we are here killing ourselves in this backbreaking work that is quite literally, a sweatshop.
That part couldn't be helped, it was over a hundred degrees on the lines. We all sweated.
Happiness. Steve was digging in the glove barrel trying to find gloves that hadn't shrunk too much from the repeated washings. Big hands were a blessing in this job, but protecting them was hard when the company washed the oily gloves each week and gave us barrels of unsorted unmatched grey and now shrunken gloves. It was a living.
Laughing at the ribbing he always took from everyone, Duane stood next to Steve. Sadly, everyone thought it was good natured. Duane never broke down and shot anyone. His dwarfism manifested itself as a normal body but with very short stout legs. He drove a forklift as he was unable to work the lines like us. His hatred of everyone about him was carefully concealed with his jolly banter and retorts to the jokes that were daily thrown at him. Everyone seems happy. None are.
As Duane pulled himself up onto his forklift he saw me and smiled. A genuine smile. He knew I understood. I never kidded him about his stature. I was the only one. They were all big guys. I wasn't. I was tall, but not big. I mean I wasn't BIG. To make up for that, I worked twenty-six gauge DUCT. None of the others like it. It was really hard work. At over a hundred and five pounds for each reel. The heaviest product the company made. At a hundred and twenty thousand feet, it ran a long time, but I had twenty-eight machines to keep running for an eight hour shift. A tall skinny guy that could do that commanded respect from all the big guys. Probably why they wanted me to accompany them and watch topless women gyrate to the sound of dollar bills being liberated from those that worked hard to earn them.
My shift began as it always has. Writing down the footage on all the machines. I then load the ones that had finished running. Open the door, cut the wire, remove the empty reel and heave in a full one. They weighed a hundred and five pounds. Tie the ends of the wire, repeat for the second spool. Then turn it on and wait for the knots to come through. When they did, I turn off the machine, cut the wire, and kicked out the big spool from the bottom of the machine. It contains a twisted pair of wires, over a hundred and twenty thousand feet long. The big ones weighed over two hundred pounds. We rolled them around. This was the first step in making telephone cable. My job -- run the twisting machines. I was called a twister. It was the worst job in the factory. There was oil everywhere, it was hot, stinky and we sweated all night. The job broke the backs of those that chose to work there. It paid more money than just about any other job in the plant. More twisters were out on disability than any other department.
For eight hours each day I walked my line, loaded when I needed, and had virtually no contact with anyone else. Except lunch, and start of shift. Tonight, I was to go to a strip club. To celebrate the birth of a man I didn't care to be around. But then realistically, I tried not to be around most people. I knew they were unhappy. I knew what lurked behind the pretense of happiness that they all bravely showed to their peers. It was a curse to be that aware and to know, really know, the world around me.
Eleven pm. Realistically I enjoyed looking at the breasts of women. I like my wife's breasts. When I see them, I get to do things with them. They are magical. They feed my son, excite not just me, but most men. They are round, and firm, smallish and quite delicate. Touching the nipple, I could watch as it hardens and enlarges. When I do that, I harden and enlarge as well. Tonight, when I see women's breasts, I got to look, get horny, and go home and wake up my wife.
Julie loved me. Real love. When I would come home, after I shower, she then relates how the day at classes have gone. Graduate school. She has a brilliant mind. Once finished with the recitation of perceived troubles and annoyances, she will smile and be happy. Rarely a disguise, she loves me and is happy. When we kiss, and as our lips touch, our spirits meld together as one being, our life forces entwine.. And I get to play with her nipples.
At break I called her from the one phone in the break room. "JD, I'm going to a strip club after work. It's a guy's birthday, we're all going."
"What, YOU! A strip club?"
She knew. "Yeah, I don't know why. They want me."
"I love you Roy, wake me when you come home."
It was a caravan. Trucks, Jeeps and my '59 Chevy Pickup. Ten of us in all. We drove the six miles there, parked around back and went in the front. I wasn't sure why. I was tired. I paid the five dollars to get in. Sat at a table off to one side, away from the stages. Away from the outpouring of emotional detritus about me. The strippers hated what they did. That hatred was like a flaming sword stabbing each of the sweaty men staring at them. The men, nine of them my friends, hated the women bouncing and gyrating in an imitation of dancing. Their hatred was less palpable. They hated the women for not loving them. Their lust however, was very real. It filled the room and caused a deepening pressure in my chest, my heart had to beat ever harder to countermand the oppressive emotions near the stages.
I drank a beer. The guys dragged me over to sit stage-side. To get an up close and way too personal of a view of what a tiny bit of thong was supposed to hide. I shivered as the guys stood and cheered at some movement of the dancer. Or perhaps it was primarily a jiggling maneuver that caused such reactions. I had my eyes closed. I was deep in thought, attempting to find my happy place where there were no emotions, no hatred, no fear, no lust.
I downed a second beer. That didn't help stop the flow of hatred funneling into the vision of reality that at times I felt I was the only one in the world that was this cursed. I excused myself, and left. It was more than I could handle.
Happiness. Home. Gentle kisses, and powerful lovemaking. I had the lust in me of a hundred souls.
The following afternoon, I was changing my shoes and putting on my oil-soaked work boots. Steve came in and sat down next to me. "Why'd ya leave last night man?"
I looked up at him, it was curiosity, and it was something else. "Steve, you know it's not my kinda thing. I got a wife at home that does things to me that I know for a fact, none of those women will ever do to me. I went home and let her."
He smiled at me. "Yeah, well, you're married. Most of us aren't. Hey, look. Lincoln won't be in for a long time. Do you know his locker combination?"
"Yeah, sure. I've watched him. What happened?"
"Let's just say that Lincoln met with a bit of reality in his little pervert world. Jaw is broken, ribs. Maybe some other bones too. We want to clean out his locker of all that shit."
"What? What did you guys do?"
"Look Marshall, we did what needed to be done. Remember last week at lunch and he told us that he liked giving his daughter a bath whenever he was home. It was the chance to watch her breasts develop as she grew. His daughter is thirteen."
And for the first time Steve gave off an aura of satisfaction. Happiness.