I didn’t work on a Friday morning and so I sent off a few emails, first getting Christine’s contact details then asking her if I could bring Jay in the next day to the laundry, see if they were suitably qualified for the work, though my understanding was it didn’t amount to much more than separating items out, putting them into the appropriate machines then folding and bagging everything for it to be returned to the hospital. A three month trial period and then subject to a vote and the agreement of the other members that person became a member of the co-operative themselves. Christine was happy for me to bring Jay in, asking me if I “vouched” for them?
Vouch for them? I don’t even know them would have been the truest report on the situation. The previous three days Jay had spent the time either sitting at the kitchen table silently accepting occasional offers of cups of tea or poking around among the boxes of plants that had been left in the small backyard. I had tried to engage them in conversation but they had not been very forthcoming and so, after a few faltering attempts I stopped; perhaps they were just happier quietly left alone.
Still, I said I vouched for them. Someone I knew from London.
I called up the stairs assuming Jay were still on the floor up there in the sleeping bag among Chris’s piles of unsorted books to tell them that we could go in the next day but they were already sitting back at the kitchen table, staring out of the open door into the backyard.
Ah, there you are. O.k. I have got you a job if you want one, I said. I felt a sudden burst of satisfaction and relief and my voice trembled slightly.
Their eyes began to move around the room, face still in profile, not looking at me, chest rising and falling more quickly, nostrils flared.
I expected them to ask what it was and was preparing myself to say something along the lines of, it’s not a great job, just working in a laundry, only part time, but…
Yeah, they said. Then, more softly, again; yeah. Is there an interview? Ah, this was the cause of the faint panic. The idea that they would have to sit in front of a number of watchful eyes and present themselves.
I am not good at interviews, Jay said. I can’t do interviews.
No I don’t think so. I was about to say, it’s completely unskilled but caught myself in time. Well, you have to go in and meet them but I think, there’s a trial period of three months and then… I wondered if I should explain the co-operative principles they were working under. If you do the job o.k. they’ll keep you on.
Faint nodding of the head, eyes narrowed, jaw clenched. I won’t let you down they said in a sudden burst, then the jaws clenched tight again.
Jesus, no I said, it’s not like that, you don’t need to worry about letting me down, I am no-one I said, I’m not important, and I wanted to go on, I am nothing, nothing to anyone, a person of no consequence.
Jay started tracing circles on the table, something in my manner had made them withdraw, my own agitation, the desire to efface myself that had risen up in me. Stubborn, nagging trace of myself that I could never shed. My self, lifelong thorn in my own flesh.
Listen, I said more softly, you have to go and meet the people who run the place, that’s all. Do you want me to come with you?
It’s no problem if you do. I don’t have work on a Saturday.