One night I work with an employee named Doug. Another of my coworkers, Nicholas, calls him Big Dong Doug. Nicholas has never seen Doug’s dong, but it is general consensus that he has a big one.

Doug tells me that he is super tired, that his body is wearing down. I ask him how long he plans on working for the bookstore. And he responds by telling me, as long as he can.

“Do you plan on working here until you are old enough to retire?” I ask.

“No.” he says. “One day my alarm will malfunction or I will miss a train, and that will be the end of it. I mean, being on the union allows you a certain number of mistakes, but mistakes and I go hand and hand, so, no, I don’t think I’ll be working here until I’m old enough to retire.”

I tell him that I can relate on both accounts.

“I don’t know what it is, my body just feels like it’s giving out on me. My knees ache every time I bend to stock a book. Carrying a ladder sometimes feels like carrying the weight of the world…”

He nods and smiles. Back during one of my very first days working here, he had come up to me while stocking fiction and told me how I remind him a lot of himself.

We walk to the subway together. “You’re going to be okay, man. Or maybe you won’t. Get some sleep. Maybe go for a run. Drink water. This is all good advice which I will never myself take because I’m a lazy fuck. But I hope it helps you.”

“I’m not going to take your advice.” I say. “But thanks anyways.”

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