I’d had people standing in my closet ever since I was 8 years old. When they first started showing up, I was scared of them, and figured they were the proverbial monsters in the closet that the other kids talked about. I had heard stories, and I figured one of them was going to eat me or something.
But by the time I turned 11, I was completely used to them. They never bothered me and I didn’t bother them. I used to say “hello” when I had to go get a shirt or something. Other than that, we just didn’t talk.
When I became a teenager, I started wondering why they even bothered. As a child, the weird things that adults often had to do to make money was just par for the course, so I hadn’t worried much about it. If they were getting paid to stand around in my closet all day, did it actually matter to me? I just went about my day, and they’d never given me any problem.
But I had gotten to an age where it had actually started mattering what adults did, since I’d have to be one soon. So, I started thinking about it. No matter how hard I thought, though, I still couldn’t see any reason behind it. We barely talked, and it just seemed like a huge waste of time.
Eventually, I decided that I had been right from the start. It was just more of the standard pointlessness that adults seemed to take for granted. Doing useless stuff for your work seemed like it was just an inevitable part of maturity. The closet people were just another example of the tragedy of adulthood.
A new guy had started, and he was all right for a while, but it was pretty clear he had a drinking problem. When I went to get stuff out of the closet, there was often a pungent smell of booze. He started showing up really late for his shifts, and eventually, he wasn’t showing up at all anymore. It only took a few days to replace him completely with a nice older lady who might have a sherry now and then, but that’s it.
However, the gap was long enough that I noticed it, and I also noticed that it had absolutely no effect on me. I was just able to get to my shirt and pants without a quick “hello,” but other than that, there was no difference. I was convinced that I had always been right about them and their lack of purpose.
When I was 18, however, I went to a bush party in my small town. To prove that I liked to party, I’d guzzled a bottle of rum. I hadn’t drunk much before, and as a result, I was completely blasted. When I got home, I fell into bed on my back.
When I woke up the next morning, I was lying on my stomach with my face over the side of the bed. Below me, there was a puddle of vomit. If I’d still been lying on my back, I would have choked to death.
No one ever said anything about it, but I assumed that the nice lady in the closet must have come out and rolled me over. I wanted to thank her, but when I groggily got up and opened the closet, I couldn’t think of words. We hadn’t spoken much before, and I wasn’t sure what to say. So we just stared at each other for a while. I said the usual “hello,” and then I threw in a quick “thanks,” as well. It hardly seemed adequate, but it was something, at least.