Well. Spring again. Soon I'll be griping about the heat and humidity, the sweat running like warm grease down every itchy crevice in my corpulent being. But for now, it's just Spring. I slept with my window open for the first time last night, in my new bed, after a ten hour shift of working in my new nurses shoes. Yes, I spent my tax return and my stimulus money on those most frivolous of extravagances: a bed to sleep in, shoes that will bear up my rotting spine. The rest went to bills and credit card debt. What a lazy, mooching liberal I am.
Oh, I turned 51 this month. I was supposed to have the week off work, but the company announced that our store would be the flagship in administering Covid vaccinations. This was announced four days before we went live. We had no nurses, no extra staff, no hours with which to schedule. It was just me and the pharmacist. So I stayed, and swabbed forearms with alcohol, fleshy and bony, hairy and smooth, black, white, yellow and brown. I stuck needles into them all and bandaged them afterwards. One ancient lady had the most beautiful porcelain skin I'd ever seen, and I told her so. She smiled like a sunbeam. Another man, burly and tattooed, cringed and winced when I stuck him. I gave him a lollipop when it was over. It was strangely fun, but also exhausting. You wouldn't think that ten hours sitting on your butt, stabbing people in the arm could be so wearying, but it is. I worked 10 hour shifts, 14 days in a row, until we were finally able to bring some extras on board: pharmacists, nurses, techs and interns. I still work 10 hour shifts, but now only six days a week. The overtime has been great, as are the new shoes I splurged on.
Every day that I have worked, I have thought about moments from my life, wondering what I may have forgotten to record here on this stupid little blog, wondering how much longer I have as the years slip by and pandemics spread and my own body betrays me with its aches, pains and maladies. Sometimes I wonder why I bother at all, when there is no conclusion, and certainly no happy ending. It's not like a Lifetime movie, where family members reunite, past sins are forgiven and closure is actually a thing. It isn't.
I interviewed at the brand new Borders Books & Music Superstore in the autumn of 1997. I was twenty seven years old. I had been back in California for two years. I was cruising through life, uninterested in education or careers. My older sister spent her mornings playing teacher to a bunch of nursery school kids, shudder the thought. Her afternoons and evenings were stuffed full of classes, working towards whatever degree she'd decided would qualify her as better than everyone else. Her weekends were for hiking in the foothills, or marching in protests, trying to make the world a better place for everyone when all she'd ever done for my life was make it a living hell. Her nights were spent online in invite-only chat rooms, where she hob nobbed with the doctors and lawyers and cyber CEO's that she wanted to be associated with. After years of identifying as a lesbian, she nabbed herself a boyfriend, some 15 years younger than herself. Online, of course. He was a morbidly obese, balding, depressed young man who's father had made big bank in pharmaceuticals. He lived in Ohio, was a staunch Republican and was the absolute antithesis of everything my sister purported to uphold. But he was loaded, and he'd agreed to take care of her when she got old. She hauled him out to the west coast, told him what to do, how to think and where to work, pushed him into a six figure salary job and made him buy her a house where they live to this day. His mother doesn't like my sister. Shit, I don't even think HE likes my sister. But I'm sure she'd convinced him that she was the best he could do, so deal with it.
Meanwhile, I'd gotten my foot in the door at Borders, working in their cafe at the back of the store, serving shitty coffee drinks to entitled rich people who sat all day in the cafe, reading our magazines for free, breaking the spines of books they hadn't paid for and leaving coffee rings on the covers of $75 art books and the like. When my sister's cyber BF made the move from Cow Country to Plasticville, he asked if there were job openings at my store. My sister, though she had not been asked, brayed that if I could get a job there, anyone could. She looked at me with utter disdain, an almost thirty year old with no boyfriend, no degree and no future, living at home with mommy. I guess her own hypocrisy never occurred to her: forty something, living in a house she'd made her 20 year old rich boyfriend buy for her, working 20 hours a week. I didn't really care what she thought. I didn't want to emulate her. She had nothing I wanted. She was generic, superficial, impressed by things that had already gone stale and thinking she was cutting edge. She had no personality to speak of, just a big dollar sign where her imagination should have been. She used too much vanilla perfume and her house reeked of its heavy, abandoned bakery stink mixed with musky sweat. She never cracked a window, preferring to shut out the sun and air with heavy blue curtains, making the atmosphere inside all the more pungent and oppressive. She used dark blue sheets on her bed because she refused to wear sanitary napkins of any kind when menstruating. She believed she was cool. I thought she was disgusting.
But I had other things on my mind at that time. I finally had attained my goal, my dream job, surrounded by books and coffee and blessed with a 30% discount and $30 spending money from the company every month. My book collection tripled. My bedroom became a massive library. The store also sold CDs and VHS films - DVDs were still in the future. I had a great boss and cool coworkers who were also living their dreams, free to make colorful displays and host evening events of poetry recitals, book discussions and live music. I quickly worked my way up to cafe manager, and when a slot opened up in the store proper for music department supervisor, I applied for and won it. I now had my own office in the stock room and a desk in the back office. I had a key and an alarm code. I made schedules and counted drawers and placed special orders for all media. The year 2000 was fast approaching and I finally felt like I was squared away and where I ought to be in life. It was a good feeling for a long time.
Oh, and now that we were living high on the hog, with fat paychecks and cheap rent (for the times) we finally invested in a brand new computer, allowing me access to the internet, a mystical place of wonder and enchantment. But what could I use it for? Where was my niche in this new, techno world?