It isn’t the first day

It isn’t the one day or even the first day you walk into the plant. The towering building walls with enormous windows, let in only hints of light framing the inner space of noise and heat and smell. To have a job, that was the prize, a union job. Decent pay, good benefits, a pension at the end of it all. Who knew that first day, walking in and taking that thin Manila card and pushing it down the slot in the time clock would be repeated again and again and again; how many times did you do that? The dip in the center of the stairs where thousands of feet, steel-toed in resignation climbed up to the factory floor and at days end, covered in fatigue shuffled down. The concrete floor below rubberized from years of worn-off particles of all the tires made, black and slick. The walk down the canyons of tires stacked higher than you’d ever think you’d be able to bounce a tire onto. But you did. And from one end to the other you went from a new kid, wet behind the ears to an old man, crippled knees and final rest the only promise ahead.

But every day, that same card, that same clock measured your life in and out as if what happened in between meant nothing, nothing. Just the coming in and out seemed to matter, was counted. And even you counted your life by those clicks… how many more before you would be free, away from the clock, from the noise and the smell of rubber. How many before you could begin to live? It isn’t the one day or even the first day you walk into the plant…it is all the days, all the days.

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