I went to work at the insurance agency. It was a nice office, but very small. Just two private spaces, three desks, back to front like school desks. Behind them was the bank of black file cabinets.
There were two ways to enter the office, from the side entrance after descending a long stairway, or the lower bank reception which oversaw the bookkeeping department and the vault.
It did not take long before the dark windowless place took a toll on me. No happy chatting people, no good cooking smells, no weather changes through the windows, just endless drudgery, cigarette smoke clinging to yellow beige walls. I began to file things under whatever I was thinking, I could not keep my mind focused. Much worse than that even, my own body fought me. I began to throw up as soon as I descended the stairs into the crypt, the clever placement of the restrooms at the bottom of the stairs made them my first stop everyday.
At lunchtime, I crossed the street to the diner that had really great burgers and fresh sandwiches and asked for a job. I got it. I went back to inform the agency, they were secretly glad to be rid of me, I had screwed up the files. When I went to pick up my last paycheck, I saw my poor replacement crawling on the floor. She was an island in a sea of files.
I told my friend Sheila that I found a job in the diner across the street. She was the only one I told in the office. Sheila was larger than life. Literally. She was six feet tall, with curly red hair and lots of makeup. She had that husky, breathy, gravely voice from chain smoking. Her skirts were always super short and she had a blocky rather than curvy body. She loved joking around and laughing, most of her jokes were dirty ones. ￼She was the only aspect of that agency I would miss.
Meanwhile back at “Mr. B’s “, someone was missing me, looks for me at the agency. Sheila, the only one who knew where I went was on holiday.
Ken was 19, I was 15
So time goes by.
In the fall, I went to high school during the day and worked the 4-midnight shift. It was grueling, and by Fridays I was beyond tired. My teachers sent me to the nurse after I’d fall asleep at my desk. Blessedly, they let me sleep there. I saved enough to buy a used car and saved time by not having to ride the school bus, or put up with idiots lighting and throwing matches inside. Or walk home, or catch shady rides after shift.
Junior and senior years go by. I would drive with my brother to the diner, buy us breakfast then get to school everyday.
I graduated June 1973
Ken was 22, I was 18
First nice clothes I bought for myself when I started working. Yellow pantsuit with a bolero jacket and silky floral halter top. Also a classic navy blazer. Finally things fit and felt good. I didn’t dress like the hippie teens of the day. Although I wanted to be one with all my heat and soul. To be free and traveling.
This is the one song I would turn up when I first bought my 1968 Oldsmobile cutlass. When I hear this, it always takes me back to the feeling of freedom and accomplishment I felt in that car.