‘Yo newbie’ I yelled loud in an arrogant displeasure. ‘Over here’ , I signalled her to come closer to where I was standing.
The day was gloomy and the clouds had claimed the sun as their precious hostage. The rays did struggle to escape from the thick density of the cover that the clouds provided. A chill wind swept through the city. The air that I exhaled, condensed into a smoke. Perfect. This was the perfect kind of a day to test the magnitude of my gracious tolerance towards newbies.
New guys, they are usually the worst. The come armed with ignorance and feel enlightened by years and years of mental conditioning that nonsensical notions provide. It’s one thing to deal with a clean slate, it’s another battle to work through concrete opinions. It was still part of the package that I call my job. The glitz and glamorous life of a babysitter, I wondered sarcastically. If only the world knew this, my job wouldn’t be a one that inspired a jealousy in many. Perfect.
The new one , with an air of indifference, shrugged her shoulders and walked towards me. For a given Friday, she was dressed in her best formals. Neat, clean and lavishly pressed to a wrinkleless perfection. I hated that too. Who in their right mind would work dressed like that, especially on a Friday. Years on the job had rendered me immune to such thoughts of compliance. I couldn’t care less. It was not like I put on one of the grandest show for the world to watch. The job required almost zero social skills. The job required almost near zero interaction. The job also mandated that the meetings with the boss was as sparse as godly possible. I didn’t like to dress up and pony up for no bloody reason. In time, I came to believe that a conviction towards such an obedience to a pointless dress code was a reflection of a feeble mind, a kind of mind that lacked ambition , drive and sensibilities to understand the grand picture of the work. Bluntly put, dorks dressed and I didn’t tolerate dorks.
I tried to ignore the young bundle of enthusiasm. I relented eventually. Boredom is a big part of the work. I was actually glad that I had company.
‘So, new around here? First day at work?’ I enquired. I guess I did manage to sound a little rough. Solitude does that to one.
She replied a polite , meek yes. There was a tinge of nervousness to her voice. It was normal. The first few weeks are meant to be that way. In fact, for many, the first few years are like that. I wasn’t the one to judge. I opted to tone down my hostilities and decided to be a better babysitter.
We both sat in silence for a while. We both were monitoring. New batch, waiting to run its course. I knew that it wouldn’t be long now. The Friday was not packed. Most Fridays are not packed. It’s funny that way. When I was younger, I had suspected a conspiracy. As I grew older, I was grateful. I stopped trying to poke around things. I had also learnt to appreciate the simple blessings. A relaxed day at work was a blessing.
She sat still for a while and then began to grow fidgety. She was struggling to find that courage to make a conversation. The monitoring aside, there was nothing but time and a lot of it to kill. She searched deep within her soul to muster that courage. She cleared her voice. The silence finally shattered through the hypnotizing rhythemic drone.
‘Do you?’, she asked
‘Do I what?’ I replied.
‘Do you, like remember. I tried to, but nothing. It’s kind of weird, but the more I tried to remember, I realized that I knew nothing’.
I paused for a second. I haven’t had this conversation in years. Maybe even decades. The dumb perks of doing the same job for a very long time!
‘It’s like this sweetheart. The universe is vast. Both on the outside and on the inside. It’s so vast that you’d go blank and numb trying to understand it all’
She took a moment to process the things I had said. ‘ Doesn’t made any sense. I’m sorry, I don’t quite understand’
I liked that. Meek and yet outspoken. She showed potential. She showed integrity and a spine.
‘What that means is that when you sign up, they wipe your slate clean. I’m afraid that’s how it is. You start new and I mean completely new’.
She shrugged her shoulders again. We both let the droning noise take over. I pretended to check the time on a watch that wasn’t there on my wrist. Habitual residue , is what I called it. I knew it that it was going to be a wrap soon. I didn’t realize that she had observed the nuance.
‘If they wipe it clean, it doesn’t explain why you did that. Why did you stare at your wrist? What does it mean? It feels like a memory to me’.
She was right though. The process, as dictated and mandated by the company, did wipe things clean in the ‘proverbial’ head. While it works for most. There are a few who do manage to retain bits and pieces. That doesn’t make us special, it just makes us miserable. There are things that I see. There are things that I feel. It always haunts me like an ugly ghost. It reminds me of what a pain is. It reminds me of what an experience used to be. Misplaced functions. Much like a glitch in the system. Nobody does anything about it though. There is nothing much to do anyways. No matter where you are, when you are a freak, you aren’t taken seriously. Make enough noise and you are silenced. Those among us, who are such anomalies, we do tend to shut up.
The incessant rising beeping sound yanked me away from my thoughts.
‘It’s time’ I signalled her. ‘What to do the honours?’, I asked.
Her nervousness was visible now. It was the moment of truth. What does one tell ? How does one handle such responsibility? Why is it so much pressure? The whole deal of playing out a role was an accepted norm, but no one spoke of the effect that job had. It was , both, the most important role and at the same time, the most pointless thankless job.
She walked away from me. She walked closer to the bed.
Friday, 11:11 am, October 2017. The date was scribed somewhere. Automation had it’s perks.
‘Don’t be scared’ her soft tender voice carried. ‘You are no longer going to be in pain. Here, hold my hand’ . The rest was a practiced script executed to flawless perfection.
I sat by the terrace , looking at the sun peering through the clouds. She was back after a while. She sat beside me. We both sat in silence for a while.
‘Is it true?’ she broke the silence.
I said nothing. I was waiting for her to quench her curiosity.
‘That , an angel gets its wings , each time a bell chimes?’
I laughed out loud. ‘Is that what the others say these days’ I teased her.
‘Angels, us, we don’t have wings darling. We observe people. When it’s time for them to be born into this land, we ferry them from up there’, I said pointing towards the sky. ‘When it’s time for them to depart, we ferry them back. That’s all there is to it. We are monkeys with a torch light. We are glorified ushers. We watch humans, we watch their spirits soar high, we watch them get crushed. We work with their souls, and oddly we don’t have one ourselves. Maybe we are souls, maybe we are just empty vessels. We don’t have a conscience of our own and not having one makes it easy for us.’
‘You asked me about memories. I had one , a long time ago. I thought it made me special. I thought it bestowed me with a purpose. There came a day and I had to usher an old one back to the gate. The face was familiar, the soul felt known. I was miserable for a while. I didn’t know how the judgement went. I don’t know if she’s in heaven or condemned to hell or worst, left again on earth. These questions make me miserable. I’m scared of the answers too. I’d rather not ask them, I’d rather not have a memory of the existence of such questions. Empty vessels. Remember that. It is the grandest comfort that you’ll ever get here.’
She rested her head on my shoulder and said nothing. If we could cry, she might have shed a few tears that fine sunny afternoon. We cant. She couldn’t. We watched the sun set a few hours later.
Angels!!!! Our job is so overrated.