used to be, when he’d talk,
people’d listen with their whole bodies
used to be, when he’d look at a painting,
he’d see anything but brush strokes
when he’d wake,
the sun’d still be the sun
then he’d stop and think: maybe not;
maybe it’s someone else
It was a big room, mostly empty, with windows lining one wall and waxed wood floors. Luis sat with his back to the vast open space. He was facing a young man, probably half his age, who was seated opposite him. The window wall stood beyond the young man. They had just shaken hands, but Luis had already forgotten the boy’s name. He adjusted his posture and focused on maintaining eye contact.
“My father worked nights as a janitor, you see. I used to go with him, at nights, and clean office buildings in the city. I am from this place. I have lived here all my life.”
The young man nodded twice, slowly. “On your resume here, it looks like there’s a gap in your work experience.”
“Oh, yes. Two years. I was a college student.”
“You didn’t finish? No degree?”
Luis positioned his hands atop his knees. “I didn’t finish. My funds ran out.”
The young man’s face contorted. He made some notes. His pen moved quickly across the paper in front of him. He looked up and caught Luis off-guard. “What were you studying?”
The question seemed to have little bearing on the position to which he had applied. “Well, I was a liberal arts student. Eventually I became interested in computer science.” Luis straightened. He recalled the name of the interviewer, Jared. Jared had begun smoothing his hair. He was leaning back in his chair.
“Well, Luis, I have to say, you’re overqualified. What are you doing here? This is a job for people with criminal records, no work history, little education. Sure, English isn’t your first language, but we’re doing fine. Don’t get me wrong, I worked as a janitor myself for a long time. I understand about your father too.”
Luis withheld from blinking his eyes, and he noticed them starting to sting. “I want to go back to school. I want to finish my degree. Look at my experience. I have cleaned the laboratories of chemists. I clean everything. I can learn fast, and I will work hard. You should not worry about my qualifications-” His stinging eyes widened.
“Not worry about your qualifications? It is my job to note qualifications.” Jared righted his own posture. “Sometimes the best candidate is not the most qualified. And some jobs are better left to the under-qualified.”
Luis looked to his left, his right, the empty room waiting at his back. His feet were already on the floor. “When I would go to the offices with my father, I would watch him all night. I was young, eight years of age, nine perhaps. And I watched him.” Luis stared at Jared. The boy’s head bobbed along with his story.
He knew he liked tall buildings before he had seen one with his own two eyes. In his dreams, there were stories of glass and steel piled high above, around him. These towers reflected the city while simultaneously contributing to its might. He wanted to be a tall building, noticed not just seen. He wanted to be the glass elevator, moving up and down, in a constant effort to maintain a relevant point of view. He knew the city would be there long after the tall buildings weren’t tall anymore. ‘Tall’ seemed both historically relative and timeless. He was short.
We shouldn’t stop to smell the empty spaces that fill our hearts will apprehension. We ought not.* Some places are perfect unoccupied.
As we flesh out east coast rippers here at Like a Wave, it becomes increasingly difficult to separate the past from the present. The nineties, in space not time, took skateboarding’s obsession with street cred, not surprisingly, to the streets. Jump-ramps were shed in favor of curb cuts. There was some thug logic behind the advantage of big pants and small wheels. If the seventies and eighties are to blame for skateboarding’s punk ethos, the nineties are surely accountable for putting the ‘G’ in skateboarding.
Joey Pepper has been called everything, underrated and OG included.
BG: You seem like you are the type of guy that would pick up a shovel in a snow storm. That accurate?
JP: Excuse me?
BG: I mumble. Anyway, congrats on the shoe. Long time coming.
JP: That’s what I keep hearing.
BG: Well, it’s been a long road, I’m sure. Say, one of my favorite features you had was in Skateboarder a couple years ago. Some motorcycle trip in Vietnam. All the photos made the trip look more like an adventure.
JP: Oh, definitely. Mehring puts together solid crews. Jerry Hsu was there; Keegan too. So many good memories from that trip.
BG: Didn’t you also take a skate-centric trip down the Amazon?
JP: Ha. I know. Skateboarding has taken me all over the world. I’m grateful.
BG: Say, what’s with all the lamps?
JP: Yeah. Well, it’s just a hobby of mine. Woodworking.
BG: These don’t look like maple. What wood did you use?
JP: I think that one is elm.
BG: Woah. So you’re multi-talented?
JP: Just trying something new. But thanks.
BG: Can I get a photo of you for the blog?
JP: Sure, no problem. How do you want me to stand?
BG: I guess by a lamp… So anywhere is fine.
JP: Still not sure how I should stand.
BG: Oh. Umm. Look natural.
JP: Ha. How’s this?
BG: Not bad (snaps photo).
JP: That a winner?
BG: That’ll do. Anyway, thanks for the time. Again, congrats.
JP: Yeah, thanks.
Joey, the internet is abundant with sick photos of your raw skateboarding. Welcome to Like a Wave.