It seems so sad.
The way the hard lines of the outside come together.
The place lives its life under the shadow of the clean, slick, massive chemical plant across the street.
The print factory seems out of touch with modern times.
The city is better off without it.
But this part of town cradles the left overs, streets lined with small houses veterans bought after returning from Europe or the Pacific – driveways stuffed with pick up trucks and Cadillacs, a camp ground for rednecks whose lives get lived out in factories like this.
I see the place a graveyard each time I walk through the door to work here, too.
It takes me two buses one way – and still I have to walk down a back road, over a hell and a railroad track, to find the front door.
Each morning I think I have traveled back in time to 1930, a black and white film clip in which I am trapped instead of 1969.
I get dirty looks for the peace sign sewed on my jacket’s sleeve.
Inside the building feels like the inside of a jail, the windows so dark with soot even light cannot not escape. On breaks, I go outside to the vast parking lot and sit on a stoop to watch the other guys play touch football, their shirts stained thick with sweat even their paid labor can not inspire.
I’m seventeen and feel like a character in a Charles Dickens novel, so hungry at lunch time I want to hold a bowl out to my boss and beg for more.
In my head I hear the words of warning teachers used to give about the fate dropouts suffer, doomed to become subhuman, hopelessly lost to alcohol and despair.
This is the eighth circle of hell, the place where all failures come, lacking only the sign above the door for us to abandon hope.
Yet something about the place touches me, tenderness under the hard surface I sense rather than see. Sometimes, I watch the older workers shift paper, their wrinkled hands man manipulating materials with skill I cannot get.
I feel as clumsy as I do out of place, trapped in a world with a history that is not mine with people to whom I cannot relate.
I feel incredibly guilty each time I come through the door marked “employees only,” as if it means someone other than me.