Posted 6 days ago
Sayrafiezadeh's story is an excellent one; it's a simple story in the way it reads and flows, but it has a lot of observations on typical jobs that we find hard to find meaning in. Not only that, the narrator has this cynacism that really doesn't make much sense. He works in a nice, easy job and clearly has a boss and coworkers that are relaxed, but he holds a sort of grudge against it (while also scared to lose the job). He barely has oversight, as he takes out $15 dollars for himself to pay for "overtime" that he's not compensated for.
Fitting with the theme of art, his mind seems to be fitting itself to that world:
Not mountain but un-mountain. Not mountain but essence of mountain. Suddenly I’m seeing everything through the prism of the Abstract Expressionist’s paintbrush—the stores, the streets, the signs, each object disassembled to its component parts of color and form, even the smiling faces of the strangers who pass by me, white, white, white, and underneath it all is the soundtrack of the continuous clacking of the typewriter keys. This is what I mean when I say that I’m beginning to wonder if working in an art gallery is taking some sort of toll on my psyche.
He crosses paths with a young woman, who, clearly, will appear later in the story. He rumbles through a bookstore in the middle of the workday, contemplating various thoughts that pass through his mind as he looks at the shelves. He is shaken out of it after some time when a worker in the store calls out:
This is when the cashier calls out, “Closing time,” in a voice so mellifluous, so Aspen apologetic, and for a moment I’m able to glimpse an Abstract Expressionist view of myself, where I’ve been reduced to my own component parts, standing bleary-eyed in a bookstore, a long way from home, fifteen dollars of ill-gotten gains crumpled in my pocket.
Sayrafiezadeh's writing from these two passages really showcases his mastery of language. These are elegent passages, and even though he's not saying much throughout the story, we feel pulled into the mind of the narrator and his bizarre thoughts. It's always enjoyable to read a story like that, where it's nearly impossible to not connect with the narrator because the story is told so well.
A curious thing that crops up in the story, certainly under-the-hood, is an apparent abuse of the narrator when he was a child. There are two indications of this that cannot be coincidental. The first is the book he picks out at the bookstore: "boys. abused. sexually." The second is a memory that comes to his mind:
I don’t remember the specifics of that summer afternoon in Denver when my mother left me with a neighbor to go to work. No name, no face, no address. In other words, nothing actionable. I was four or five, maybe I was six, maybe it wasn’t summer, maybe it wasn’t work she’d gone to. I assume the doctor would say that the memory has intentionally been buried.
The woman that he met in the doorway of the bookstore comes back into play later as a romantic encounter. It reminds me of "Checkov's gun," just less sinister. A fun story overall, though.