There are nights when I don’t sleep at all. Not because I worry about things; I generally do not. Those nights when I don’t sleep, I work. Tonight is one of those nights.
I’m tired, but I’m alright.
It would be easier to always work nights and sleep during the day but that’s not an option, or something I would want. I work nights when the work required can only be done at night, or when someone needs a night off, like tonight.
I’m drinking coffee at 2 in the morning, but I’m alright.
There is a 1.3 mile tunnel that runs under the length of Seattle. During the day it is filled with buses and trains and people going to work or the airport or shopping or sightseeing. At night the gates are shut. Guards walk the empty shaft, pressure washers clean filth, light bulbs are changed. My job tonight is to watch over electricians installing air monitors used to detect chemical weapons like nerve gas, sarin, and mustard gas.
It’s cold in here, but I’m alright.
Outside the gate is Pioneer Square. Cold wind relentlessly blows through the metal fortress, down and over the now motionless escalators. It smells like urine and vomit. Beyond the gates sirens wail and drunks fall down and people scream at each other. A few feet away a group of toothless addicts in tank tops smoke crack in the rain. They look at me with dull eyes and dance and seize.
I see anger and pain, but I’m alright.
I periodically unlock the gate and slip into the chaos. I feel an underlying panic until I reach my car, and lock the doors, and drive away. I drive to my office in an old warehouse where the ceiling leaks, and the heat rarely works, and I never remove my coat except in summer. Within a block there is a parole office, a methadone clinic, and a liquor store. There are lines of people at each; if you look close you see the same faces. A year ago I came to work and saw a man sitting against the outside wall near the door to my office. Later that day I saw the coroner’s van driving away.
I didn’t know he was dead, but I’m alright.
Ten blocks from here, in a new, “green” building; engineers and project managers show up in the morning. Many feel entitled and always victimized. Some send passive-aggressive emails filled with condescension. I got one tonight. I felt the pull of those words. I could have slashed him with mine. But I didn’t; I win.
I’m a little pissed, but I’m alright.
Four in the morning. I drive to the tunnel with the windows down to feel the cool air and hear the zombie voices. The streets are still empty and the sky promises light. I’m out of coffee. A guy yells something at me. He’s wearing only shorts and one shoe. I turn up the heat and roll up the windows.
I should in bed with my wife, but I’m alright.