The night before last, around midnight, I walked into the kitchen and found Mason cooking a pound of bacon on a cast iron skillet. “Oh, hey,” he said, waving a spatula. There were rings under his eyes and his stubble had somehow become an impressive beard over the course of 48 hours.
He looked at me for a moment, then down at the stove, then back at me. “Is the sizzling keeping you up?”
“No,” I said and sat down at our dirty, kitchen table. It was actually a card table that I think I found in my parents’ basement once upon a time. Maybe a garage sale. Either way, someone was glad to give it to me.
“How’s the job search going?” he asked, dishing out the bacon onto a plate and using a paper towel to soak up excess grease.
I looked at the clock again and decided sleep was a lost cause. All week I’ve been having the same dream. It starts with the world splitting in half and then everyone realizes that they can’t talk anymore, going mute. Paper shortages follow. Eventually, no one can read anymore. I usually wake up in a cold sweat realizing that the one skill I’d cultivated over my lifetime has been rendered useless.
Mason sat down across from me. “Bacon?” he asked, gesturing at the pile.
“No,” I said, “I don’t eat pork.”
“Are you Jewish?”
“No, just morally opposed. Pigs are too smart.”
“Oh,” he said, looking down at his food guiltily.
“You can eat. It’s cool. My morals aren’t yours.”
He shook his head, “Moral relativism is a slippery path, my friend.” But he started eating anyway, saying between bites, “So, you didn’t answer my question.”
“I’m up to seventy applications. Statistically speaking, I should get an offer any day now.”
“I see. Are they all in the nonprofit sector?”
“Have you considered applying in the for-profit arena? Target and United Health are big employers here.”
“Nah. I’ve heard both of those chew tweens into hamburger. And I’m only interested in working for a nonprofit.”
“The nonprofit sector is growing and needs young talent to take over service delivery as the baby boomers retire. I want my work and efforts to go toward a cause that improves people’s lives. Most of my friends are involved with nonprofts. And so on.”
“Do you have a specific area of interest? Like criminal justice or voluntarism?”
Since it was midnight and he brought it up, I considered just flat out asking him if his nightly excursions and obsession with justice were meaningful. But he asked a good question.
“Well, no, I’m applying across the board.”
“So, you could just as easily work for a free clinic as a animal shelter?”
“I guess so, yes. As long as I was doing communications.”
“So, why not work for Target? They do a lot of volunteerism and the Daytons make huge contributions to the arts and civic projects.”
“Good point,” I said. And it was. The machinery of my brain was working a little slow and eventually I slouched over the table, feeling it nearly give beneath the insubstantial weight of my exhaustion. “I guess I just need a mission.”
“I knew we’d get along.” Mason smiled. He cleaned his plate and leaned back in his chair. “Pigs are really smart?”
“Oh yeah. My aunt and cousins have a farm. They calls them ‘devious,’ actually. That’s good enough for me.”