We have this guy named Albert who cleans our writing center late every afternoon. Not long after he started coming around with his brooms and things, I found out, sort of through the grapevine, that his janitorial colleagues call him “Blanco” because that’s Spanish for “white.” As it turns out, because of his age, Albert has a full head of silver locks which he loads up with something sort of oily and then combs back away from his face.
By the way, I’ve mentioned this before, but it never hurts to remind people that I live in San Antonio, Texas, a place some sometimes call “The Alamo City.” In this part of Texas, Spanish (or Spanglish) is the language of choice. So it probably won’t surprise you to hear that Español permeates every aspect of life here, including the way people conceive of things, such as the color of Albert’s hair.
I like Albert a lot. We always sing the Working Man’s Blues when he comes around. Obviously, he’s slightly lower than I am on the hierarchy totem pole, so his blues are especially heartfelt. And I always lend a very caring ear. I try to put myself in his place, but it’s hard to imagine what it must be like to try to live on what they pay him. I sort of get it because I once worked many menial jobs, but that was way back when I was a hungry student. Today, by Albert’s standards, I’m what you might call a Fat Cat.
It’s hard to think of myself as a Fat Cat when I have such shallow pockets. But I guess I sort of am one when I compare myself to some of those around me. In the overall scheme of things, though, I’m about the skinniest feline you can imagine. As a matter of fact, without even sucking my stomach in, I’m able to slip throw the narrowest of crevasses.
Often, when Albert’s around and we’re not talking the way two working men talk, I like to just sit and sort of allow myself to Zen out. By that I mean I like to watch him, out of the corner of my eye, move around the center. I know this might sound weird, but ever since I was a child, I’ve had this odd ability. If I watch someone—it doesn’t have to be directly watching but sort of obliquely watching—moving about or engaging in some kind of repetitive action, it sort of calms me down and I become nearly Buddha-like. I am able to slow my heart, silence the chatter of my mind, end the death of my cells, and fall down into a deep hole of profound self-awareness that I find to be blissful.
So I sometimes find myself able to achieve this odd tranquility when Albert is around. I wouldn’t even try to explain this phenomenon to him for fear that he’d report me to whomever he’d need to report me to so that the men in white coats would show up, straitjacket in hand.