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December 2nd, 2018
Lucilius was in line waiting to get a cup of coffee when he witnessed a truly unfortunate person. At the front of a line was a beautiful woman, dressed in fine clothes, sporting an impeccable face of paint and cursed for the moment with the most disgusted of facial expressions.
“This is bullshit,” the woman said. “I come everyday, how do you not keep it in stock? You know I’m going to be here. Why can’t you think of these things in advance?”
The woman was clearly upset and making the girl behind the cash register very nervous.
In that moment, Lucilius remembered an instance from a time long ago. Many centuries prior, Lucilius was bending over, water above his ankles, sticking small grassy seedlings of rice down into the water and ground below. Sweat gathered and soaked where his hat sat on his head and when a moment of tedious exhaustion overcame him, he stood up straight to help his aching back.
As he did he saw a fellow worker, a friend who was not supposed to work that day, trudging towards him, basket in hand.
Lucilius watched as the friend threw down the basket and clearly disgruntled, began to work, bending over with the seedlings, sticking them down into the paddy.
Lucilius looked back down to his own spot where the work remained to be continued. He finally noticed just how sour all his thoughts had gone that day. Not only was he exhausted by the course of his day but he felt exhausted and wasted at that point in his life. Aimless and as fruitless as a stone lodged in the branches of a coconut tree. He looked back at his friend and realized that they were both having a miserable day.
“What,” he wondered, “could he do to lift them both up?”
He thought of another worker who was often with them who was always having a bad day and never ceased to let everyone know. That worker Annaj, Lucilius knew, was simply always looking for sympathy, feeding on it like some ravenous parasite, always failing to see just how miserable it made everyone else.
“There must be a way,” Lucilius said out loud to himself, “for both of us to feel better.” And then an idea bounced into his head.
“Worth a try,” Lucilius said to himself, and then he turned and slogged off towards his friend.
“Lebca!” he called out when he was close enough. Lucilius’ friend Lebca looked up momentarily but kept at the work, angrily sticking the rice seedlings into the ground.
“Can see you’re doing about as well as me today. You ok?”
“I’m not having a good day,” Lebca said, not looking Lucilius in the face.
“Well, we’ve got the whole day to be here and do this work, and we’ve managed to do it while laughing and smiling before, so why not today?” Lucilius asked.
“Not a good day.”
“Ok,” Lucilius said, “Well, I got a game for you. It’s lame, but I want to see if it’ll work. You help me out?”
Lebca did not look up, just kept at it. “Yea, sure whatever you want.”
“Ok, here it is: I’m going to yell out something that I’m grateful for, and we will take turns, and the first person who can’t think of one loses.”
Lebca huffed a sarcastic breath, “hu, yea… ok.”
Lucilius turned and slogged back to his spot. Before starting he watched Lebca for another moment. “Best to let it marinate for a minute or two, I think,” he said to himself and then got back to work, sticking the green seedlings down into the water. After a few minutes he stood up again and looked over, seeing Lebca’s anger has mellowed with the work, the dreariness of it setting in, turning his movements to a slower, somber rhythm.
“I’m grateful you had to come to work Lebca. I was having just a miserable time here, much like you seem to be having a bad day, and when I looked up and saw you, I instantly felt just a little better. And so, thank you.”
Lebca halted in his work and looked at Lucilius. Lebca was struggling to maintain some kind of angry confusion, but his brow was softened. Lucilius went back to work, and waited. The minutes passed but finally it came.
“Grateful for you too Lucy,” Lebca grudgingly sighed.
Lucilius was not going to let the start, however small, go.
“I’m grateful that it’s not pissing cold rain, like it was last week when we were working.”
He saw the slightest nod of Lebca’s hat as the memory sank into them both. Lucilius kept at the planting, and waited.
“I’m grateful Annaj isn’t here.” They both laughed. It wasn’t the best, Lucilius figured, but it was better than nothing.
“Grateful I’m healthy, not sick and fat like our boss.” He saw Lebca nod slightly once more, and Lucilius knew then that he had momentum.
They kept at it, even once they were both feeling quite a bit better. Throughout the whole day they laughed and chatted, stumbling across new parts of their lives from the stories they told that added to the game.
Lucilius smiled, remembering that day long ago with Lebca. It was a game that could not sound more lame if you were in the headspace that needed it most. Lucilius knew this. But it had worked so smoothly, so effortlessly. He remembered as they finished the day trying to simply imagine what it had been like to feel so miserable before his friend had come to work. All of it was so vague and distant. So strange that it had felt so all encompassing.
The woman in the line for coffee was now waiting for some other beverage at the other end of the small counter. She was reading something on her phone, paused to look away as she rolled her eyes.
This episode is dedicated to a Monsieur Lopez. Cheers Brother.
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