So I haven’t seen this guy for a long time and he drops into my place of work and he gives me that look that says, God, you’re still here, why am I even surprised?
Now, maybe I’m reading too much into that look because I’m doing something menial like stacking chairs after a public event and this guy is swanking about in his big leather jacket and his new spotlessly clean spectacles (while mine are grimy with sweat within days) and he’s talking to colleagues about his current place of employment where he’s pretty much his own boss.
Yeah, he’s come a long way since we all used to muck-it together. He’s climbed the ladder. He’s greased the pole. He’s signed in blood for The Man.
And on the surface I think, yeah, good for you, if you’re doing what you want to do but it leaves me cold, mate. But still I get that look. That smug look. And he’s leaning on a pile of chairs that I need to stack and put away and he condescends to move only slightly to the side so I can do this and his look becomes – if possible – even smugger.
Still humping stuff about. That’s me. All the dirty jobs. All the fetching and carrying. All the backroom stuff. I’m just a grunt (no offense; none taken) – sorry, watched Aliens again yesterday – and he gives me that look... that look that contains so much more in it than just smugness or self assured superiority. It contains pity and disappointment (like he has a right to be disappointed in me!); it contains confusion and genuine puzzlement that someone, anyone, me specifically could settle for what I’m doing right now when there are lofty heights to be climbed like the miserable pedestal down from which he’s currently god-gazing from.
And I grit my teeth and I get on with the job. Because to me it is just a job. It puts bread on the table. I do not view it as a career. I don’t want it to be my pedestal. I’m still building that. I want my pedestal to be built out of the words that I write. The poetry, the novels, the articles and, yes, goddamit, the blogs. And I think screw you, hotshot, you know nothing about me; you don’t know that I write or that I’ve been doing so – pushing myself at it – for the last 30 years with varying degrees of success, refusing to give up the dream.
And it occurs to me that there are some people in this life who knock you over, who pull the rug out from beneath you, who break your confidence into little-bitty pieces just to watch you run around like a chicken trying to peck them all back up again. They are scum. They slow you down; they distract you and cause you to lose focus.
But then there are people like this guy. People, who despite the bile they might provoke, are to be welcomed. Because when I meet people like this I feel my focus – which I like to imagine as a blowtorch – become hotter, sharper, more accurate. The flame becomes blue, blue-white and then so hot that you can’t bear to look at it. And it makes me want to write more. It makes me want to write better. It makes me want to chase that dream down and make it mine. And when that day comes I swear to God that I will also hunt down people like this and I will laser-beam their smarmy little eyes out.