Halation Intermissions 1 – Riding Between the Shadows

I came back to my desk.

It was one of those old elementary school computer rooms, with a horizontal plane jutting out from every wall to serve as an elongated table and a wide open space in the center. Except there were no computers, and no walls to separate between desks. I recognized the barriers I had set up for myself though: BlackWidow up the center, pink Polar bottle to the left, Lachesis to the right on a Steelseries pad. I was about to sit down and get back to work when I noticed my phone was missing. My 2/3″x7/2″x3/2″ generic pay-per-minute phone, with generic call functions on top and a small keyboard when slid open, was missing. It was a rare instance in this world of the omnipresent smartphone. Its only function, outside of calling and being a rather large watch, was the ability to take notes. And take notes with it I did, all the time. But surely smartphones have this ability as well? Why would anyone take this phone in particular?

On attempting to scan the room I immediately saw it, being fiddled with. The room did not feel empty, but I only saw the relevant person. The thief was something I’d like to call a kid, but I am unsure if that is a correct designation. Its face was gender neutral, neutral even by child standards. Posture and involuntary movements reflected an inclination toward neither sex role, all it indicated was that it was from the slums and from a more recent period in time than I am familiar with. Facial structure was clearly Asian, but the long messily braided hair spelled nothing other than African. Is this a kid? Do not kids have to be born from a man and a woman? To whom does this kid belong? Who claims ownership of this? Perhaps I am simply not accustomed with this era yet.

Walking over the closer the distance the more malice exuded from this thing. When I stood right above him, my 20 year old self had not the nerves to comprehend the aura. Hand it over, What. You know exactly what I’m talking about, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Interestingly enough I keep talking at this point, My god damn phone, give it or I will take it, It’s in there. It points to an open backpack under it’s desk. It was certainly reachable without any extra movement except on my part, as it was sitting in a slightly ajar position. It had one hand behind its back, the hand I had saw holding the phone when I came over.

It was also sitting in an open position.

Pause.

I make a grab for where I know the phone is. But for some reason, I don’t get it. It’s still there, the case is not that the phone had moved to another location. I simply failed to understand reality. I saw myself towering over this snivelling midget, then bending down so my arms can reach behind him, and then, nothing. Spatial data was simply no longer available, like a screen going black in a movie. Except unlike a movie not only did the audio keep playing, all other inputs kept running – namely, pressure inputs. In attempting to retrieve my phone I met a blank resistance, like constantly running into a wall, eternally bellyflopping into a pool, or perpetually falling into the ground. The moment of impact, paused, yet continuing. Not active. Flat. Indeed I had no sense of my body, I only knew I was trying to take initiative in getting what I want and this forward force was met with a backward force. I registered a conflict, and I registered that I was not winning. No one around noticed anything wrong. No amount of movement, displacement, or noise I tried to make changed anyone’s state to cause so much as a craning of the neck or a rotation of an eyeball. And then it registered: “Everyone saw this [______] take my phone off my desk”.

Spatial data returned the moment I declared forfeit, everything was as it was before. Before not the fight, but before I came over. Before I discovered the scene, before the scene came into existence. Nothing was out of place, no evidence of noise or struggle was in sight. It was fucking with my phone.

Or perhaps it wasn’t before. Perhaps it was after. It was sitting back in a proper position now, facing the wall. In a closed position.

__________________

You have to be persistent.

One of my dream companies had come to give an information meeting, and that was their message. Outside of telling us to apply online and giving general corporate overview, they gave a little perspective, the method behind the process. How many of you want to become an engineer, How many of you want to become an engineer at X, How many of you want to become a A B C  engineer of D at X? Now how many of you would think becoming a A B C engineer of D at X would look good on your Resume? Many, one, none. Many. If there’s an application that wants a certain list of skills, you tailor your resume to fit the system’s keyword searches. How many resumes should you have if there are 73 job openings? 73.

A good friend asked, How did you keep yourself from going insane while attempting to get into X? Focus, they said. Balance in life, they said. The talkative one said that though at times it is difficult, he simply walks down from the office and sees this giant machine being constructed and can say, “Hey, I worked on B A C part of that! And that one over there, the C of D was done by me! I was on the team that built all of the ones in that warehouse!” And know all that, he said, makes it worth it in the end. He said, no regrets none at all. Several hours later at midnight there were fifteen new openings that matched my preset search criteria, and I applied to four.

Next morning was the career fair, and all the big companies said the same thing. Apply online. Be persistent. Check back every week, though we can’t tell you what day it updates so I guess it’s better if you have the time to check every day. How much do you really want to work for us? What skills would you bring to us, What have you done in your spare time? We hire people like this. My friend who last time got dropped after the interview came in his normal clothes with his one and a half foot backpack, didn’t bother checking it. I’m just here for that thing we had to do for class, Oh whoops I forgot to print it out, thanks for reminding me. I’m just going to write down the names they have on their tags and eavesdrop for their position names, it’s not like they know what the job openings are or what the requirements are anyways, they’re all online. If they start talking to me I’m going to tell them, I’m not actually interested, but could you fill this out for me?

The friend who had asked about the sanity question a while back talked with me aside while I was in line, After hearing their spiel last night you still want to be here? I just talked to Z Sanitary District and they know me by name now, if I simply asked for it they’d give me a position on the spot. Because no one goes there. He’s a top student, straight A’s every quarter, has done undergrad research while the rest of us were figuring out how to sign up for classes, and works various other positions. But this X company? Here, go to this number application, and become another number in the system. He walked off, I stayed in line.

I got a number.

__________________

Two years.

Two years I have spent at this “engineering” “club”. First year I showed up early every time and did everything they asked me to, improving with every moment, and… nothing. Second year I returned, did everything they asked me to, and… nothing. First year the captain was a guy who knew what he was doing, but was very “relaxed” about the doing. I would not have come back, but being attracted by the simplest of desires I came first for the free pizza, and then for the gorgeous girl who I found out was the new captain. She had all the pleasantries and kept us working, while she went and spent her time flirting with another high-ranking team member. A “team environment”. Better than that other club on campus, which has too many captains and too much bureaucracy, here we get things done. They asked us to do one thing, the same thing, every time, four hours every Saturday I went,

Here, sand this wood.

Still no one knows my name. But perhaps that’s to be expected. When it’s upperclassmen frolicking with each other while the underclassmen did physical labor not even manipulable into any kind of personal strength or endurance training, who has time to learn names. One year passed. Another year passed. Same message. Same work. Same thing to put on the Resume, “assisted in construction of a [_____________]”. Not “designed”. Nor “lead”. Perhaps “worked independently to achieve goals” should be in there?

This year the captain split us up and assigned us additionally weekday evenings to come in and work. Gave a speech one night about how the deadline is coming, motivation to work, we all need you to show up and do your best. No accountability through any timesheets, no rewards not even trinkets or souvenirs. Sorry, I’m bad at names, what’s your name again? On these weekdays there was no “leader” around; just a new sheet of paper with vague directions. Today one of us who’s also been here this whole time, one of us who also has no designation, thought it was rather difficult to cut a yard’s straight line of mahogany plywood via handsaw. We had cut out a rectangle manually and by using an electric saw with a circular blade less than two inches in diameter, and thought it would be a bad idea to do the final isosceles cut. I accompanied him to the machine shop to ask if anything there could be used for this task. The staff we happened to talk to pointed us to the back, where apparently, a wood workshop existed. A bandsaw was discovered, and,

an automatic wood sander.

__________________

“You know, now that I think about it, I’ve heard this kind of thing before. This whole thing about being persistent and trying?”

“Well, they’re right you know. You never know. It really could be that the person you talk to here is going to give your resume to someone else who might have the job you want. That’s why you make connections. The more people you know, the more likely you are to get in the know about things and be a part of the loop. Like they said at the meeting, nepotism works.”

“Every time someone hands me a stack of business cards and says Please give these to your manager, I say yeah, we’ll “distribute” them”. (makes motion of dropping into a garbage bin in a messy manner)

“HAHA back to what I was saying though. Sure, it’s true. But there’s plenty of things that are true and everyone could give less of a shit about.”

“So what’s it similar to?”

“Gambling. YoUneVeRkNoWwWwW, this next ticket might be the winning one! Yeah, and while you spend all that time buying and playing, millions of other opportunities pass you because You Never Know.”

“Hahaha”

“Hahaha”

“That’s what it is. Hey, try again tomorrow. You might get it then. Maybe you will. Maybe you won’t. But if you really want it, that’s what you’ll do. And it’ll be worth it.”

__________________

I saw one of the upperclassmen from last year, going down the aisle from booth to booth. His hair was gelled, a clearly steam-cleaned suit, and holding more than a couple of binders. Seeing him again later it appeared he was showing the contents of one of his binders to a company representative, his paper organized in a manner unfamiliar and using words I could not comprehend. This continued on for several minutes and several word-filled pages, with pictures inside colorful boxes. This was the son of the advising professor for the club.

He graduated last year.

__________________

“Say ____, off the Skyrim talk for a little bit… how much time do you spend looking for work?”

“Maybe an hour or so every other day. Sometimes I go out and it takes a little longer.”

“Why don’t you spend more time looking for work? It’s just filling out forms and talking to people, right? Or sending emails. It’s not that hard doing it more of the time, right?”

“Because it turns you into a little bitch.”

__________________

My roommate has a pet chinchilla, and it runs on a pan/wheel at night. It makes a lot of noise, and the doors aren’t the densest wood you’ve ever seen. After twenty two hours of nothing but moving (my feet, my mouth, my hands), I squatted by the chinchilla and did some rough mental modelling to figure out what exactly made the noise. It was the cage itself, the frame was rattling, and the mounting position dictated that the highest moment would be produced… there. It was a loose connection, designed that way for simple toolless construction. I looked around, and used an old grocery twist tie to keep the two extrusions closer together.

There were several others like it to keep the tall cage together, but I only had one twist tie.

A silent night.

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