April 30th, 2019
“I’m looking for an interruption
Do you believe?
You looking to dig my dreams
Be prepared for anything
You come into my little scene
Hooray, hooray, hip hip hooray
There’s one thing I can guarantee
You won’t have to dig, dig too deep
Said leave me to lay, but touch me deep
I don’t sleep, I dream
I’ll settle for a cup of coffee
But you know what I really need.”
From “I Don’t Sleep, I Dream” by R.E.M.
I was lying on the couch in Hans’ living room. I had been startled from a dream by a noise in his apartment at about 1:45 AM. It was now about 2:30, and I was hovering in that grey space between sleep and wakefulness. I couldn’t let myself drift completely away, because I knew that Hans needed to start work at 3:00 AM, and he needed me to drive him to the concrete company’s yard.
Hans’ VW Passat is at the dealership for repair. That’s why he needed me to give him a ride to work. The Passat is a black car with a black interior. The air conditioning doesn’t work, and Hans lives in Texas. This means that within a month or two, the car will be unbearably hot to drive. Hans could probably put up with that kind of misery, but his baby boy, Weston, cannot. Getting the A.C. fixed is not optional. It has to be done. We figured that he might as well get it fixed while Karin and I are visiting. That way, Hans and Gabi and Weston have our car available while the VW is in the shop.
I used to work third shift at a trucking company. I did that for almost twenty years. I never got used to it. I always felt a little incoherent, both at work and at home. All those years of living like a vampire ruined my ability to get any good sleep. Even now, after have been retired for over three years, I still wake up in the wee hours of the morning, and restlessly wait for the sunrise to come.
It’s not a long drive to Hans’ workplace. It takes maybe fifteen minutes to get there. This is a good thing, because my reaction time sucks at this time of the day/night.
I heard Hans getting up at around 2:15. Gabi was up too. Fortunately, Weston, the four month old, was still dozing. Hans took a piss, got dressed, and gathered up his belongings. Once he put on his work boots and his Capitol Concrete cap, we went out to my car. Neither of us spoke. There was nothing to say.
Hans was tired when he got up. He’s always tired, just like I was always tired. He had worked eighteen hours the previous day pumping concrete. He had started his shift on Monday at 1:00 AM, and he didn’t get done until 7:00 PM. Karin picked him up at the end of his shift and brought him home. He looked rough when he got back. He was totally covered with dirt, and completely worn out. He had bought himself a couple Lime-ritas, and he cracked one open as soon as he walked in the door. He warmed up some chicken that he had brought home from Sodolak’s restaurant on Saturday. He ate the food listlessly, more from a sense of duty than from appetite.
Weston was in his swing when Hans came home. Hans looked closely at his little boy, and told him,
“Don’t ever pump concrete.”
As we drove down US 190 this morning, Hans asked me,
“Can we stop at the store?”
The store is in a gas station on the way to his work. Hans goes there to buy Red Bull, bottled water, and smokes. I waited in the the car as Hans purchased the things that would help him to survive today.
When we got to the concrete company, Hans had to get out of the car to unlock and open the gate to the yard. Oh, Sweet Jesus, that brought back ugly memories for me. I used to unlock the gate at my workplace every Sunday night for years and years. I hated that. I suspect that Hans hates it too. So, why did this action carry over to another generation? I worked hard because I thought that my kids would not need to go through the same bullshit. Yet they do.
I dropped off Hans next to his pump truck. It is an impressive vehicle. It has twelve wheels and a 58 meter boom on it. Hans is proud to operate something so large and so complex. He should be proud of his work. He has a very responsible job. It’s not really a bad job. It’s just the hours that are slowly killing him.
We will pick up Hans from work some time this evening. He will be at the ragged end of exhaustion, like he is nearly every day. He works in order to care for Gabi and Weston, but he has nothing left to give them when he gets home. I know how that feels.