Tom Campos came today
He saw me on the highway yesterday and stopped to tell me how things went with him.
It’s hard for a man like him to be caught up in position of labor. Tom is used to an easier life, but tells me how easy I have it.
“37 ½ pounds of yeast? That’s nothing,” he says with envy in his voice.
He has spent the last three and half months learning how to be a slave again.
It’s hard going from being a boss to being bossed.
I told him how well I understood how he felt, and I felt a bit of shame for feeling so satisfied by his fall from grace.
I’m tired as hell when I come home from work, too, and when he was on top I had to take guff each time a new owner took over and installed his own management.
I thought about him a lot after I left him, wondering if his showing up again meant trouble.
After all, he might find a way to slip back into the mix and create havoc now that things have settled down for me again.
He assured me this morning when he came to work that he doesn’t want my job.
This is somewhat startling since I never mentioned my being afraid of that when I saw him yesterday.
It is possible that he does, and has some way of getting me fired.
I hear the siren call of the unemployment line even as I jot this down. The last few days have made me ache for freedom again, the way a whiff of salt air makes me wish for the sea.
Tom misses the mall.
He also still resents his mistreatment by Phil, his own cousin who edged him out of the store and cast him out to find his way in the world of labor after giving him a taste of management.
But Tom should have known better than to get between Phil and money.
Phil will sell his soul for a quick buck, sell this store for an exaggerated price to buy two elsewhere. This time he bought one in Hackettstown, out in the world beyond me, beyond reason.
Tom seems almost to be feeling me out, to see if I will go with him to this new paradise – rather than he trying to worm his way back into mine.
Still, he wanders through our empty kitchen, sighing with nostalgia for the time when he was master here.
It amazes me how things have turned: once with me on the outside, walking around the kitchen, taking in its scent and sights, bring back a whole different life to me. Now it’s him.
How it hurts to lose part of one’s life to memory, to realize until too late how good those times really were.
But you can never go back – at least not to what it was.
I wanted to tell him that. But I sensed he already knew it. He had that tone in his voice which gave him away.
This isn’t Phil’s place any more, and won’t likely ever be again,
And without Phil – his cousin – to give Tom status, the place isn’t the same, and Tom isn’t important.
For me it’s different.
I’ve been through other owners. I’ve seen the change before. My coming back in time for another change was fate, but not something beyond my imagination.
The night is always the night.
It was me and these four walls. The smells and the silence are the same now as they were then, even three owners later.
Sometimes, I feel like a slave that gets sold with the land.
Other times, I feel beyond these people, above them, like a tall pine looking down not with contempt, but with pity. These petty humans trying to make their fortunes on schemes like these. Fools, whose schemes always come to naught.
I think Tom understood this as well.
It is only the desire for it that remains, not the possibility.