Memories of a Former Life

A conversation at work reminded me of something. I post memories of my life with Jen periodically and usually it is followed by a somber or melancholy mood. Not today, today I remember one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me.

I was working at a gas station an absolutely miserable. It was crap work but the only job I could find, right after I lost my job following the crash in '08. The owner was this guy with a very thick Indian accent and I had trouble understanding his instructions. He got so frustrated with me too, telling me over and over again that American’s don’t know how to work properly and threatening to replace me with a “proper worker”. The whole experience was demeaning and one of the few times in my life I’ve experienced even a shadow of what life was / is like for many minorities.

So, one day I go to leave for work and Jen hands me my lunch saying she made it for me. She did that every so often, so I didn’t really think about it much and just said a thank you before I went to work. It was only when my lunch break came, which since the owner didn’t believe in breaks (he thought that Americans were too weak and lazy and often told us that “proper workers” would refuse to take a break), I had to sit on the curb by a lonely and very ill tree to eat that I realized what Jen had done.

She had stayed up after I went to bed for a few hours and quietly made tacos. She knew I had to be up at 4:30am to get to work and carefully made tacos from scratch (except the tortillas) and packed my lunch with them. All the fixings were there, she even used a pair of hand warmers to keep the taco meat warm since I wasn’t allowed to use the microwave in the gas station.

I’m not going to say that I’ve never felt that loved, as that would be a lie. In that moment though … exhausted, belittled, harried, and feeling every bit a failure … the simple lunch made by someone who struggled so hard to have any empathy at all, meant and still means the world to me. Kindness was not one of Jen’s strengths, she was rarely truly kind and did not believe in altruism or fairness. She was harsh, demanding, and abusive… Sitting on a dirty curb next to a sickly looking tree in a small little patch of the only grass I could find, eating what I thought was going to be some leftovers or maybe a PB&J sandwich, those tacos were ambrosia and rejuvenated me in ways that simple food cannot do.

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