A conflict of emotions,
I’ve been gone from home so long.
I was that guy, that single and ugly guy at work
who covered the Holidays for the family man.
My job as the per diem part-time worker
was to work all the sick days,
all the Fridays and Mondays
that stretched the fun filled weekends
for their cherished full time staffers.
When late November, early December
rolled around, I stocked up on my hours
and the holiday pay. I did not even bother
decorating my apartment with a Yuletide tree.
And the year I lost my job
because the staff positions being let go
were retrained as the new per diems
in the same positions doing the same jobs
(thereby replacing my fragile function,
a middle management accountant’s trick)
and those lucky enough to be retained
as full time, so lucky, they
would still not be paid any overtime,
I still could not go home.
I did not have the money to go home.
I drank a toast to my industry one early December
and slipped a video of a crackling fireplace
into my player since I could not afford cable.
I could not afford decorations, stockings stuffers,
or even turning on the heat. I could afford eggnog.
I could afford sitting in my cold apartment
wearing long johns and sweat suits under blankets,
drinking eggnog all alone,
and waiting for one of my résumés to bite
after the protracted and sustained Christmas hiatus
listening to carols. I could afford to listen to those
cheerful Christmas carols the whole night sung,
a night that lasted the month of late November,
early December and beyond, hopeful, cheerful,
those never-ending Nöels the way they were sung.
This year I am back picking up the slack,
working weekends, holidays, random rainy sick days.
I am thankful for the hours, the dozen monthly days.
We are all mostly daily hires now,
part of the daily expense allowance
allowed to work.
The unions have died the slow political death.
Vacations are unpaid.
Early December and I see the conflict in their eyes.
My co-workers with children, I feel the choices
they must make this year after everything has changed.
Must they work the Holidays to afford a lifestyle stolen
or should they spend that precious time with family
and friends? I have never had much of an option, only
to work every day I can and scrape on living day to day.
I walked by a nursery on December 4th, a Thursday.
I saw a greenish-grey potted cactus with long spines,
which I found out later was called a blue Myrtle cactus.
And I thought to myself I could hang ornaments, tinsel
from the finger long spines, I could spike a star on top.
And when wrapping lights carefully around the prickles
and the thorns, the festive lights, to make my life happier
and bright, I would have to be very cautious and conscious
that I don’t draw blood.