October 1994 was a sensitive time for me. Losing my long-time girlfriend to skin cancer had left me with a feeling of urgency; it was time to do something, anything. I needed to advance into the next stage of life, and Rhianna's death allowed for that, as did the job offer. I was alone now, and scared. I went to the interview on a Tuesday morning, ready.
Training was provided, they were clear of that. Weeks upon weeks of training. Travel expenses for out-of-town workshops were covered in full by the company, with extra spending allowances added in. We were to train in groups, we were to train individually, at home and on the job site. We needed to practice production. We would be tested.
We were encouraged to work as a team, especially during training. Staff social functions were orchastrated monthly, and schedules were adjusted to allow for the greatest in flexibility for attending them. We drank together. We sang songs. We quizzed each other and helped each other. We loved each other as brothers. I found myself both attractive and attracted to others. I wasn't alone or scared. We were a team, after all, competing against all other companies for superiority.
Years passed, as they do. Skies turned from bright blue to dotted white, from dark to light to dark again. Training continued, even though most of the senior staff reached a level of proficiency that some would say rivalled simple perfection. Occasionally a new member was hired in a fit of expansion; they were soon accepted into the circle of brothers: trained, helped, loved. Only one employee ever decided to leave during that early time. We did not hear from him after the day of his resignation, but we did not miss him. There was no need to leave. We were trained. We were loved. I saw less and less of my family. Work was important. I needed to be trained for my promotion. My mother called the office and left voice messages four times in one hour when my father had a mild stroke. He lost all feeling in his fingertips. My mother was alone and scared.
I found a note later that day stating that my phone extension had now been changed by one digit.
I received my promotion and moved into a new office. The window opened into the corporate park, where I could see my fellow workers laughing and practicing. They all wanted promotions. I wanted another promotion. I soon found that I could work faster in this solitary environment than I ever could on the communal floor. I had more room, less distraction. My hands reached out and manipulated space more efficiently. I reached quota hours ahead of schedule. I was applauded at that month's social function, as well as the next two. I received a certificate. They sang a song to me, for me.
I started to see less of my workmates now, as I fought to achieve my own personal production goals. My hands worked the edges and the folds and the creases with a dexterity not known to all mortals. My thumbs gave orders to my index fingers, while my smallest fingers chimed in with helpful gestures and guidance. Soon I was doubling quota each day; not long after that I reached one thousand units an hour. Soon I was training the new staff exclusively and the company found no need for the weekly testing. I missed a social function that occurred near Christmas because I was trying to meet the monthly quota in one week.
My father died on a Thursday. I cleared one thousand, five hundred units an hour that same day.
I moved to a bigger office on the twenty-second floor. The window faced the front of the building this time, but I had long since invested in a thick set of curtains; sunlight hampered my efforts. The company was in direct competition with only one other major producer at that time. Production was at an 8-year high. I alone was producing almost two thousand units an hour. Almost. I was sleeping in my office. I was sleeping no more than 4 hours at a time. I missed three staff socials in a row. They stopped asking me to train new employees. My mother stopped trying to find out my new extension.
That winter I cleared two thousand units an hour. A staff social was planned for the sole purpose of congratulating me, but I did not attend. I stopped sleeping altogether in favour of short, twenty minute naps. There were employees which I did not recognize working in my old office. Production that month had broken all previous records. The rival company was also breaking records. I stopped listening to the singing, the brothers, my phone. My fingertips were raw, but loyal.
I was aware of the grumbling days before they came. On the day they came I had not yet taken a nap. The hour before they came in to my office, I had produced twenty-three hundred units, each perfect and each a brother to the other. They carried me away, my fingertips still expertly dabbling away at the empty air, unable to cease activity. The new trainees watched for only a moment before continuing to practice for their next test.
I was alone. I was scared. And as much as I was an asset
, I was also a risk
now. I was no longer a brother, so they fired me. But before I left, they made sure I would never be an asset to their rival's team. My certificates were burned, my office was cleared out, and my perfection was stolen. My fingertips finally stopped. Training was made payable the only way they knew how.