Building the Tunnel
How long has it been? I stopped counting after what… What I think would have been a year or so. Then the team heard that we would be working on the tunnel at least double the predicted time. Two more years.
I turn around to see Tom behind the stall ahead of me. He looks as good as he’s ever looked working for his dad’s pharmacy booth at the career fair.
“Hi Tom” I mumble staring at the ground.
I walk on. I had other plans for that day. Being a senior I had still had to choose what I wanted to do after graduation. Looking over my shoulder I see him giving me a confused look after continuing to sort bottles as he was doing before.
I look back up at the world and finally take in how many people there actually are. Bumping in to an annoyed middle aged man with a red shirt and a coke I managed to make it to the section of technology. After scanning one of the fair maps that was covered in green slushy, or that was what I hoped it was I learned that the architecture booth was at the opposite end of the fair from where I now was. ‘Great’ I thought. Making my way back into the swarm of moving beings I planned my route. After being elbowed, kicked and had at least seven people stepping on my toes I finally made it. I had always wanted to be an architect and this was my chance. The construction of the Euro-American Tunnel was the biggest project, well since the Euro Tunnel. I signed my name on the list while listening to the protests of the man that was working there that I was too young, and I shouldn’t be wasting my life…
“Wake up Sammy!”
‘Oof…’ This isn’t my idea of a good morning. Slowly opening one eye and shifting my weight to prevent the bedsprings attempt to attach themselves into my back I see the grimy ceiling of the barracks that still smelled like beer after last St. Patricks.
“Mike, unless you want me to use the new drills in your head, get the hell out of my bed!” I yelled angrily.
Turing around and trying to force my head inside my pillow can still hear him laughing.
“Get up or I’ll get the watering can. Just like last time do you remember?”
Attempting to shout one more threat at him that unfortunately come out as a series of pathetic sounds I hear him chuckling to himself as he walks away. Fully awake within a second as I remember the watering can incident I jump up and manage to tangle myself in the linen. Blowing a stray piece of blond hair away from my face I glare at him. Brown hair, brown eyes, the and the same male- arrogance he had when we started working on this project.
“Why Sam how nice to see you this morning.” He gloats.
‘That’s it’ I think to myself.
I lunge myself at him but he steps away. I land face-down on the floor just as my supervisor comes in.
“Jones, Parker. In my office. Now.” He manages to sputter with a red face.
Gathering the broken pieces of my dignity I allow Mike to help me up.
“Sorry ‘bout that.”
“Yeah right” I grumble.
After pulling on my dirty jeans and equally dirty muddy sweatshirt I file out of the barracks after Mike. The happy and disgruntled yelling of co-workers and the clattering of plates greets me as I arrive in the mess hall. I take in the smell of food along with the damp, musky smell of the tunnel that never seems to go away.
“Eh? Yeah sure.”
I follow him to the office while keeping in mind that not all of the puddles from last week’s leak have been mopped up. They’re still littered across the greasy cement floor.
Mike’s fist collides with wood as he knows on the door. I can hear the buzzing of a generator before I hear a muffled voice telling us to come in. I step into the broom closet-like room that can hardly be called an office after tom. I was barely inside before he started.
“What the hell do you think you were doing back there? You are not in kindergarten and this is not a playground…”
I stared at the back of Mike’s head as my mind started to wonder to the day we first met, my first day…
“Alright midgets! Let’s see what we’ve got!” A burly looking man with a beard bellowed near my right ear.
He paused for a moment before continuing.
“Everyone in the bus!”
I scrambled to find a seat before they were all taken. The shouts and obscenities from the rest of the crew could be heard along with the noisy stomping of boots as I threw my bag down and sat on the chair behind it. The complaints of the people who couldn’t get a good seat grew louder and I wondered if they would hijack the bus and drive it back to Madrid. I was driven out of my thoughts by someone nearly jumping on the seat next to me and an arm coming into my view.
“Hi! My name is Mike!” He said while holding his hand out for me to shake.
I looked at him. Brown hair, brown eyes, and an aura of confidence. I suddenly remembered that he had said something.
“Uhh... hi. I’m Sam.”
“Nice to meet you Sam”
He shook my hand, something I had apparently forgotten. The man with the beard had also stepped on the bus and now cleared his throat.
“Listen up and take a good look at the person sitting next to you. He or she will be sleeping in the same bunk as you for the next three years. Unless one of you is either dead or dying.”
He chuckled to himself but crossed his arms and sat down when he realized no one was laughing.
“Looks like we’re going to be roommates. Wicked.”
“…Jones? Jones! Are you even listening?
“Huh, what?” I answered quickly, embarrassed to be caught daydreaming.
“Don’t do it again. And that counts for the both of you.”
“Yes sir.” Tom replied amused while trying not to run out of the office.
“Jones, you ok? You seem a little distracted.”
“Umm... well sir that’s what I wanted to talk to you about. I’ve been thinking… I want to go back sir, to America. I don’t know how long I can still stand it down here…”
I returned to the barracks feeling more relieved than I have ever felt in my life. Mike? Yes I would miss him. But hey, I finally had the chance you get on with my life. And there was nothing that would stop me from taking that.