"When I started working as a cashier through a rental firm, I felt like a nonperson", said a woman in her fourties or fifties while she was helping me out with filling out a plastic bag with the coins I had amassed during the day. This was my fourth shift and fourth supermarket, and the first time someone noted my presence with anything else than annoyance. Before that I hadn't even realised it was true, all I had been doing was apologising for being a nuisance, helped by whoever happened to be nearest. Apologising to my colleagues and to the bewildered customers, so used to being served efficiently without even having to notice the person behind the conveyor belt.
And shame on those who have to do this menial job, it seems. Shame on those who with their arms and legs sore and ears ringing from the incessant beeping, fall down on the bed to roll around and around with insomnia and worries of how making ends meet is now harder than letting the government pay for sustenance. Shame on those who started too late and need more than pocket money.
And a black bag to cover one's face ought to be compulsory for the likes of me who worked their ass off on comparing the nuances of spirit in different cultures. "Comparing nothing to nothing?" the boss could ask, raising his coffee mug with a grin.
And there I stand, with the ball and chain of my student loan, remembering how people would imply doing what you love would lead you to money. Maybe some part of me is allergic to wealth so it slips through my hands like sands of gold.
If even while working we could sing blues or tap on the table, or have time to greet all those beautiful people passing through like the dead over the border. Hello, thank you, good bye. Until noses become one big changing nose and wrinkly grandmothers all become that one hunched ur-mother and children's little fists all become that one clenching wonder grasping fish fingers, made unique in all suburbs separated by fences.
All those Minnie the Mouse-chocolate eggs melt into one big blob of adoration! You would have to be there to see the transmutation of faces into the Thing, Leviathan snaking past, still smiling and waving and gesturing like drowning seamen. Sewing jackets together, cheek to cheek in the same picture, then multiplying like ingenious amoebas.
But it is not the people, it is me. I scan people with my red Robocop eye, I read their food and bodies, pieces of meat in labeled packages. Wait, I had better not wax this poetic in the coffee room or I will stop getting gigs, and I'm not skilled enough to be a real artist. For now I could just do the motions, if I even knew how.
____________________________________________________________________________________Journal Skin by: Zaellrin