by Tania Moreno
Society left him with no other choice.
| My name is Ezekiel Lincoln. It is the first name my parents gave me and the last name given to my family. No- lets start over. My name is **-***-****. The stars that you see represent the numbers of my social security number. They are the numbers that tell the world who I am. They are numbers made to be my name at birth by the government regardless of what my parents had written on my certificate. They are, what my real name is. At least that’s what it feels like whenever I clock in to work, or when ever I try to buy a car, or rent a place. No one actually gives a crap what my birth given name is or who my family might‘ve been or even what they‘ve done for the world. In the river of life, you are a set of numbers. These set of numbers prohibit you. They limit you to a class of human or a type of animal. Kind of like what kind of fish you are in the endless deep seas of life. Yeah. How’s that for a good comparison? I myself would be a tuna fish, a sardine. Id be some kind of fish that you would stuff in a can for consuming purposes because I know as well as anyone I am only living until I’m caught dead. Not to look pretty. My purpose is simply to be alive, until I’m put to simple use. I live to be eaten, spit up or shat out. I'm not at all like a shark that goes after its prey, or the things it wants. Even though most times, I wish that I could be a shark, I know I am not. Sometimes I wish that I could just be me, not a fish or a shark, or a set of numbers, but who I am. I guess though that’s just how I am. A wisher, a dreamer.
There are times I dream of a better person that I could’ve been. This dream actually occurs in the morning when I wake up. I think about it as I move from the bed and mosey my way through my lonely apartment to get ready for work. The ripped wall paper of my small studio apartment placed charmingly in the middle of the city smacks me out of dream world and reminds me of who I am if I let it. I remember I am not much but a poor man struggling in the poverty of my dull surroundings. Though when I’m standing in the bathroom, no bigger than a corner, brushing my teeth and looking in the mirror I see my face. My tired ugly mug. The bags under my eyes created by long nights of work, stress and insomnia showing the world I’m 24 going on about 35.
As I looked in the mirror I noticed my hair chopped short with my own razors was beginning to grow in long and the hair on my face that I’d rather not bother to shave was growing thick. Today of all days I decided to let it stay there in its natural place on my face for a bit longer. I mean why not, its impossible to keep away anyway. I don’t feel the need to be clean shaven. I would rather not waste the time. The last time my face was truly smooth was when I was a boy. The only reason I ever even shave now is so that I don’t have to hear any bullshit reprimanding crap from my manager at work. Today though, I spit the tooth paste from my mouth and teeth for the last time that morning, and instead of shaving I took a look at my adult self longer than I ever have. This scruffy guy in the mirror was me.
In my day dreaming mind as I stood there, thinking my time away, I asked myself, “Is stocking item after item, boxes after endless amounts of boxes in a grocery store really what I should be doing?” This worker ant’s work that I’m setting out to do every morning sometimes through out the evening. This worker bee’s routine that puts honey on my table. I can only think of insects to compare myself to, in this corporate jungle of a world. No matter how badly I wanted to be a lion, far above the work of an ant or a bee, in a regal leader’s position, I didn’t have much but the futon/bed and the tv in my living room. Both of which, I used much less than I worked. Trust me, after laying awake at night counting the numbers trying to get to sleep I’ve calculated exactly how many hours I worked and would be working to get to where I need to be and the outlook was not good.
I made my way from the floor of my apartment down to parking lot of the complex, started my car and drove off on my merry way to the hell of a workplace that consumers call a “super market.” And when I say hell, I don’t mean it in the positive term. I mean everything that hell is. Pain, suffering, discomfort, punishment. I cant help but think sometimes, If only I had done better in school. If I had been able to show up everyday, or if I had been able to score higher on a few tests…maybe I could’ve gotten a scholarship, and had gone to school. The question always stumped me right there in my tracks though. Whenever I began to beat myself up for ending up working this dead end job to keep up with my own survival, I though gone to school, and done what?
I drove slow, in the middle lane. I was staying reasonably far from the car ahead of me, but moving just fast enough not to piss off the cars behind me while I distracted as always I was entertaining the thoughts of all of the things I could’ve grown to be. A doctor maybe, they make a lot of money. Yet I don’t think I have the patience to deal with any….patients. At least not in a bed side mannerly, comforting type of way. Ironic as the two words were, they were everything wrong with that profession. I grouped teaching, and engineering in with the both of those jobs. One involved teaching things, and teaching numbers while the other involved knowing them. There was no way I had the patience for that either. I did not want to be in front of a class full of misfits rambling about words or numbers. Neither did I want to waste countless hours engineering things or configuring numbers that didn’t really matter shit to me.
In fact, the more I thought about it the more I realized I barely had the patience for this job that I was working at now. If it was not paying for the place that I took shelter from the cold every night, or giving me a meal to eat, I would have quit a long time ago. It was not me. It was only supporting me….like life support. That’s it.
I got to work and 5 minutes through the door the GM passed by me. He stops in his tracks, takes a quick look at my face and bats at my right arm making the jab I knew he would saying,
“What happened Lincoln, no time to shave the rat off your face today? You’re gonna scare away the customers.” He gave me half a second to answer, in which I forced the words out to lie and say,
“Yep. Late start.” His shit eating lion’s grin was spread across his face before he pointed at me and said,
“Well make sure you make time for it tomorrow. Wake up earlier. Something. ” He said that to me, pretty much ordered me something to do off of the clock, and then just like that he walked away. I was off the clock right now as he spoke to me, could’ve been ill this morning, or had a tragedy in the family, but that empathy doesn’t matter when you work for a place. When you work for a place you are the last four digits of your social security number 24 hours a day and what ever the days out of the week you are scheduled. In the working class you are not a human being. I was not a human being. I was a worker ant.
This goes back to my long nights I’ve spent calculating time. How many painstaking hours that I spent of my life owned just to live. If I am to always return to this place, and perform the same routine every time, doesn’t that mean my time already belongs here, to this place? Infinitely?
I was a slave to this company like anybody else was to theirs. I belonged to this red collared shirt, these khaki pants, these non-slip shoes. My face was to be shaved smooth, my hair to be cut all presentably short, and my speech to be kind and polite, at all times. This was by job description, by the store’s decree. I was a representative of the company, by a non-personalized order. I was a robot. I was their property and I felt this feeling of being owned the most as I clocked in my numbers. I was robot # **-***-*** reporting for duty.
I headed for my first pull-cart of boxes, an employee to the company doing important things for society yet gaining back the minimal amount of appreciation. A cave man was what he called me when clearly fully clothed in uniform and here I was to do work. I really couldn’t have been further from it. I could only dream of being alive, being me, during the caveman era. I was sure I would absolutely love the simplicity of the caveman lifestyle. For those free, unshaven beasts of humanity, all you had to do was hunt your food and go home. Simple, meaningful, self serving work. There were no long hours hauling boxes around a store. You didn’t have to “dress” appropriately in ridiculous threads, or be nice and take political crap from anybody. You were a caveman. You kill your food, fight any disrespecting foes, and go home.
The more I thought about it now, as a possible lifetime career, the more that I wanted it. It was a crazy thought. I opened my first box in aisle 8 where all the snacks were. I stacked Oreos on top of Oreos, replaced Chocolate chip cookie package after cookie package and pondered whether or not I’d miss any of this.
I thought about the taste, the smell of sweets. I did not so much as crave the food in front of me, neither did I enjoy working with them. The thought of indulgence actually made me want to vomit. It literally made my stomach drop. As I worked efficiently as ever today, refilling all in the snack aisle that needed to be replaced in a record breaking time, I dreamed of what it would be like to never have to do this again. Then as I finished I stepped back to go grab the next cart. Sodas. Without looking I stepped back a bit, a little tiny bit and felt my back hit a cart behind me. At the steer, the oldest, ugliest face I’ve ever seen stared condescendingly at me. Instantly I knew. This lady had been hounding been.
“Are you done yet?” She said pronouncing every word with the gums of her jaw, her skin sagging wrinkled while her eyes kept widened. It was obvious she was displaying attitude that I did not understand. How long had she been standing there while I was working my ass off. I got angry. Angrier than ever. What made her be so ignorant to the fact that she could’ve just walked away and came back, or waited “kindly” and patiently? I was required to be polite to people all day long just to be looked at and talked to like a dog. Bullshit. This was almost an every day occurrence, but this was the last time I’d put up with it.
I stood there and had nothing yet to say, just glared at her while she reached beside me to grab 3 boxes of the last thing I had to stock. Wheat thins. Then I grabbed the last box from her old, greedy, wrinkly hand and threw it on the floor. Well, it was more like a smack, either way, she was no longer going to be indulging on anything without facing a consequence.
“Yeah I’m done. Done with this job, and done wasting time working for rude, impatient, inconsiderate people like you. So go ahead, you greedy, impatient little bitch. Grab everything off the shelves…” I growled my every word to her as I spoke, not at all feeling any remorse for snapping on a rude old lady. I felt she of all aged groups of all people should know better and I was at my finest hour, pulling boxes of wheat thins and crackers from their places and dropping them into her cart.
“Take it home, and enjoy what ever time you have of the rest of your life! ‘Cause you know what? That’s what Im going to do.” I said this, then I captured the horrified expression on her face and I walked away. My heart was beating fast at the plate of my chest. That was a rush, and since I had lived out what I wanted to do every time someone reached over me, got in my way, or ever stepped on me like the worker ant that I was, I knew exactly where I was going: Far away from here.
Not a damn was given that day. I had formulated a plan that was becoming much more than a dream. I grabbed a cart from a customer and loaded it as my own cart with charcoal, lighter fluid, knives, anything I could find that I might need and walked out of the front door. As I was going to leave I found that Mr. Manager had caught up with me. I nearly hit him with my cart, but the main goal was to punch him in the face and you better believe, I hit him square in the bridge of his nose. I was not going to jail. Neither was I going to pay another dollar for any of it. I let no one stop me. I left for the woods and I never looked back. Nope, only except to laugh at the sheep that I once was. Now a bear, a caveman. I was a king of my own jungle. Or, forest rather. Bearded, long haired, but well-fed, simple, and above all, happy to be Ezekiel Lincoln. A “Missing“? Or “Wanted Man”? No, that was by numbers. I was now a free man of the woods. A man of nature. A “caveman.”