Working From Home
By Gabriel J. Kruis
Since moving to New York I’ve cycled through a few jobs, but now I work from home. I’m surfing in on the wave of the future: Internet employment. I haven’t met either of my bosses and I discovered them both via the NYC craigslist. And no, this isn’t a scam; I’ve been paid. Which was what it was all about at first. But now it’s about freedom.
For the first few weeks, I woke up early – before 7 – and worked. Worked until lunch, went to the grocery store down the block, worked for an hour or two more, then went to the gym, not but six or seven blocks away. I was in a tight orbit. Slowly spinning outward from my home. Of course, the Internet is boundless, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t slouched in a La-Z-Boy with my laptop where it belongs and dressed in my flannel bathrobe until noon. Day in and day out.
I don’t know what unstuck me. The Internet went down at home? And all of a sudden I was like a kite given slack; I took off. In the beginning I started going to a coffee shop close by. I plugged in and worked.
But the longer my tether got, the more possibilities seemed to open up to me. I would go across the city and sit in a library, smelling all the old books. For a break, wander off down an aisle and pick up a volume of poetry: Kay Ryan, James Tate, Gregory Orr, L.S. Klatt. I’d read for twenty minutes and then dive back into the web. The city was my office.
My line just kept unspooling until one day the tether broke. Next thing I knew I was on a bus headed for Pennsylvania, working as I cruised in the double-decker down the highway. WiFi reeling in the bits as we chugged along, Joanna Newsom strumming in my earbuds.
Unlike most itinerates, I sail in an ether, a bubble of HTML – unlike the guy sitting next to me who crosses the country to gun-lay concrete in a Nuclear Power Plant in Virginia, or work a dam in Jersey – I am an insular spirit, snail-like, and at my own whim to move and travel where I please.
One night in Pennsylvania at the parents’ of my traveling companion, Patrick, Mr. Gaughan keeps pouring Black and Tans and the third member of our traveling party joins us after the fourth drink while Mrs. Gaughan dances to Stevie Ray Vaughan blaring in the corner. After midnight, after the family is in bed, after a moonlit walk around the suburbs, the Guinness puts me down easy and before I know it, it’s the next day and I’m on my way to North Carolina.
By three p.m. we’re crossing the bridge to the barrier islands, a spit of land where all the houses are on stilts – 20 feet up – so that when the ocean gets angry and comes washing in, they’ll survive.
At night we go down to the beach and look at the crumbling remains of beach houses, abandoned by the seaside. Nearly identical to the one we’re staying in, the owners could’ve marked the decline in property value with each wave lapping at their door like the tongue of a hungry dog.
My companions and I climb past ‘No Trespassing’ signs, up the lopped-off staircases, across crumbling decks, and into the darkness of the house. Cave-like, the house is dank and the remnants of another eon litter the floors and shelves. The board games the family used to play, cookware where fish sizzled and popped, puzzles, crayons, and a closet of old recordable VHS tapes with handwritten words on the side: Problem Child 2, Children of the Corn, Clear and Present Danger. You can date the era of abandonment by the reels of film, the damp cardboard cases. Movies that were on TV when I was a kid.
The moon cuts in on broken glass, on the graffiti in the living room: ‘Life is Beautiful’ on the window, ‘F___ the World’ on the wall. In the bedrooms, coloring book pages are scotch-taped above twin beds. Red dinosaurs, blue trucks, a princess in a pink dress. The near history of a childhood past.
Next day, I roll out of bed and wake up and work. Same flannel robe, same bed-head as before, like I’d been washed out to sea in New York and come ashore further down the Eastern Seaboard. Woke up in Kittyhawk, on Kill Devil Hill, where the Wright Brothers first took flight, God bless them. I’ll take a plane to Colorado in March, a car to Gallup, train to Albuquerque, and then it’s back to New York. Maybe I’ll end up in Seattle later in the summer, Portland, California – who knows? I work from home. No crumbling walls. No tattered papers hanging on the walls.