Down at the Docks

I’d like to work down at the docks where the air is thick with salt and the men are massive and real. No more dry cleaning, no more credit card points for business trips to Hartford. I’ll turn in my laptop and throw out my shirt and take one last elevator ride, strut across the street into that seafoam spray and slap the boys on their big backs, tell them I’m here to do some honest work for the first time in my soft life. I’ll pull a heavy rope and they’ll drop their crab crates to yell at me to stop, to ask what the hell I think I’m doing. Some good labor, I’ll say, eager to sleep deeply tonight, exhausted and accomplished, and I’ll mimic a stocky docksman, pulling on slimy levers, and they’ll surround me and pick me up, saying I could get someone killed. Train me, I’ll say, but they’ll know by my shoes and slacks where I came from and they’ll fold me over a shoulder and march me into the office and tell me the company switched to a convoluted new database system the men do not understand. The schedule’s scrambled, they’ll say, and it’s creating dangerous chaos, three ships arriving for one space. And they’ll lock me inside the little office and I’ll take a look at the software and I’ll know it well, but I’ll peek through the blinds at those raw and callused men down at the docks and I’ll pry the window open, slip out and jog down, slap three huge dockers on their backs and tell them I’m here for some genuine work and I’ll struggle to lift a heavy pallet of tuna and they’ll yell at me to put it down then confirm I am the guy everyone’s talking about, and they’ll lock me in a portable toilet with a laptop, begging me to help them coordinate their logistics before these vessels collide. I’ll survey the data on the screen, and I will see the solution, but I’ll hear the burly mariners mocking my inability to lift the tuna with a gruff humanity — brotherly tough-love — and I’ll stand on the toilet seat and push open the top, crawling out reborn into the glaring seaside sunshine and cruise down the docks towards three hulking men, all of them holding pipes now, all of them aware of who I am and what needs to be done, but I’ll get to work slapping green and red buttons on a metal control panel from a different era, a time when computers didn’t have screens and men were men. Horns and sirens will blare and the men will panic, shouting at me, “What have you done?” and the three cargo ships waiting their turn will accelerate and pierce one another, peeling holes in their steel sides with a painful roar, spilling thousands of shipping containers full of grain and toys and automobiles into the sea. A wave will rise. Sudden and furious, it will stretch so high for a moment it blots out the sun, and me and my fellow docksmen — my family — will share the terror. All we have in our final moment, before the sea swallows us for good, is each other, brothers bound by the sincere comradery you just won’t find in an office environment.