Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hi. I used to be Ernie.

By Ernesto.

Well, I guess I wasn't paying attention. I just showed up for work every day, did what I was supposed to, had lunch, and went home. It was like that for 18 years.

Then one day my boss came over and asked me who I was and what I was doing there.

"Hal," I said, "Quit the joking." But he didn't seem to recognize me. It was like he'd been replaced by a robot. A Hal-bot.

He didn't really say anything else, just reached over with a pair of scissors and cut off my tie. His eyes were all glassy and empty, and it seemed like I heard some clicking noises inside him. That was about it.

The security team came and escorted me out of the building. They were actually pretty nice about it. They gave me a roll of toilet paper as a thank-you gift for my years of service to the company and then shut the door. A couple of weeks later I heard that they had all been taken out back and executed, so overall I guess I got off pretty well.

So after that there wasn't much going on in my life.

I couldn't find another job because I didn't have any marketable skills. That's what you get from being employed for a long time. I guess it's true because I can't remember anything I did at work. I have a box full of pay stubs, but no memory of what I might have been doing there for two decades.

Then my wife left me and my dog died.

For a few months it was just me and the TV. I spent my evenings drinking beer, eating potato chips, and watching reruns of Mary Tyler Moore. I remember when the show first aired. Things were different then. For me it was the golden age of television. Mash, All in the Family, Mary Tyler Moore, and The Bob Newhart Show ran back to back on the same evening. Those were my glory days.

That, and having a job, and being married.

I missed my wife. And my dog. And an income.

After a few months of this I got pretty tired of it. I had enough money to live on but every day was the same.

I put an ad on Craigslist. I offered myself as a dog walker. At least it would be something to do.

I got a call from Joan.

Joan didn't have a dog but she knew me. She met me once. At work. She recognized my name on Craigslist. She was looking for a friend. Just companionship. We started seeing movies together. Sometimes we had coffee or went on walks. That was in the fall. Fall is a good time for walks. I like walking.

One day Joan asked how I felt about Surlandia. I'd never heard of it. I had no idea. Then Joan started talking. Surlandia is a country. Who knew?

She was thinking of moving there, and asked if I'd want to come too. I didn't really know what to say.

That was eight months ago. If I remember right. Remembering isn't my best quality. It can be a blessing, not remembering. You can see it that way. I kind of like not remembering too much.

What I do know is that now I'm in Surlandia, actually. With Joan. We're renting a small house and I'm learning Spanish. I never expected that. Things happen, you know?

Life is good. The days are warm but not hot and the people are nice.

They don't do things the way people do back home, wherever that is. But they seem to get by. I'm not sure how they manage but they manage. Maybe I'll learn from them. Knowing the language should help. I'm working on that.

Some others, I'm not so sure about.

Last week I was at the bank. It's different here. It takes about half a day. Which is strange if you're expecting something, but not so strange if you just go there and wait to see what happens.

There was a guy in the next line. He wasn't from here either. He looked a lot like the people I used to work with. After standing in line a half hour or so without moving, he just started yelling.

"Let's move this line right now," is what he said. What he yelled. Several times.

All right. We'll see.

No one much paid attention to him but I noticed a lot of people looking at their shoes. If shoes were lethal weapons then a lot of shoes got cocked, and had their safeties flicked to off. Or not. I'm not too sure how they really think around here.

I hope I don't do that, what the guy did. I've thought a couple of times. About doing something like that. But then I stop. I think again. Maybe look at the ceiling. Wait. See what happens. After a while, something does. Somehow it works.

So far, not that bad.

I'm learning. I feel like I might belong here some day.

I'll have to wait and see.


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