Thursday, April 13, 2006

Better

Mike (walking very gingerly, looking tired and pale but determined): "Hey, sunny day. I got those cartridges for the OKI; see if they go."

A (cringing when I think of him coming up the stairs, of the pain and other side effects of chemo for his bladder cancer, although he still has a thick head of wiry, silvery hair): "Great! It's in here. How you doin'?"

Mike: "Oh... okay."

A: "I'd like it if you were better than okay."

He smiles and tugs my ponytail, but the drawn look returns. He remarks as I move around the control room with the ease of long familiarity that I seem to really fit in at the plant, and I think of the day over a year ago- before everything!- when I sat down with Mike and Jim (in Jim's kitschy souvenir-cluttered office) and told them I was leaving. How I cried! Jim feigned exasperation but promised that if it didn't work out there would always be a place for me at City Hall. Mike patted my knee until I stopped sniveling (he said, "I knew you wouldn't stick around long. You've got too much potential"). I think of all the bid openings and hours of shared paperwork and all the mornings his computer didn't recognize his mouse- his despairing cry for me to come and fix it! I look at Mikey now, with the tracklights flashing off the lenses of his glasses as he enthusiastically explores the room despite his weariness and discomfort, and I think I see the sparkle that means he is okay, after all. But I would still like it if he were better than okay.

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