The Line

I barely had one foot in this world when they handed me a face and a name and a number and said, “get in that line over there.” So I did. I don’t know much else. I don’t know where the line goes. The lady ahead of me doesn’t know either, or the guy behind—you’d think someone would know. And don’t think I haven’t asked around. Everyone has. Around here it’s like talking about the weather. Anybody find out where the line goes? Nah. Think it will rain tomorrow? Maybe.

So I’ve been in line the whole time. They’ll hold your place if you have to go do something so I tried that. I got a job and I met this girl and it’s kind of a long story. You can stay gone for a while, but not too long. I always come back to my place in the line. The way things are set up it’s always the most attractive option. I don’t want to screw it all up.

It’s pretty orderly, no one tries to butt ahead or anything. One guy left to use the bathroom and never came back. He’s the only one we’ve ever heard of never came back. Eventually everyone retires but this was different. He just split. His name was Bobby Sevens. They talk about Bobby Sevens like he’d made the worst mistake ever. Where could he be? Wherever it was it couldn’t be good that was for sure.

We called him Sevens because his number had lots of sevens in it. Everybody shortens their number because they’re like twenty digits long. Lady ahead of me is Nancy No-Nines. Her number doesn’t have any nines in it, and it has a nice ring to it. I’m Martin Eight. There’s no other Martins around here so I just use eight. The sanctions don’t address nick-names so we can have a little fun with it. Cool, huh?

The line moves pretty slow but it does move, thank goodness. The scenes change, though very gradually. Sometimes the cross-street gives a distant view of the ocean, or maybe a hill with some trees. I saw cows one time. Mostly it’s more of the same, just streets and buildings and walls. You get a sense something bigger than all this might be going on. There are conspiracy theories. People get all worked up like it’s bad or something. They say there’s this other side where nobody has to stand in line and they just do what they like. I figure why bother with that stuff. It’s a way of life here in the line and it’s really not so bad. I don’t listen to them. The line is home to me. You bring me to a better place I’ll have a look. But keep your daydreams to yourself.

There was one time I came back from work and couldn’t find my place and I kind of freaked out about that. Security guys came and gave me quite a bit of grief about it. Why are you out of line? Like I was lying about it and had done it deliberately. I had searched up and down for hours looking at everyone’s face and didn’t recognize anyone. I told them about a dozen times. They photographed my mug and plugged my givens into the computer and a map pin popped up on the display. Then a drone collared me and I got lifted to that intersection and I got back to my place. Everyone was like what were you thinking? I don’t ever want to lose my place in line again. It’s unnerving and everyone acts like you’re a troublemaker.

Oh, look. The line’s moving again! I love this part. Every time it moves we get a little closer to wherever it is it’s taking us. We’re all pretty curious, you know?

Image by Richard Mcall via Pixabay