Professional Help

He pins me with a hard stare and continues.  “All’s I’m saying is –” jes’ folks, here, friendly-like “– all’s it is is that we’re all professionals here and we work as long as we need to work to get the work done.”  I squirm.  How can I not?  Isn’t it clearly directed at me?  Demons of the past float up to haunt me:  parents telling me to stop hitting younger children, teachers admonishing me for not writing proper farewell greetings, faculty asking me how serious I am about staying here.

His eyes, roving again briefly, catch mine and hold them, flashing.  “What we’re missing, maybe, is respect.  Respect for the work.  Respect for your, uh, elders.”  That last, thrown in for me; any high school graduate knows the tenets of Confucian thought are based on filial piety and respect for elders.  Violating that is tantamount to Christians wearing a pentagram and throwing up devil horns.  At Christmas services. Did I just physically flinch?

I’m not going to fry an egg on my increasingly hot scalp, but I’m getting close, I think.  Memories, having flown by in a hot rush, are soon replaced by rage and shame; shame that I should have known better — didn’t I brag in my interview that if I needed to stay, then stay I would?  Rage, though, displacing it; rage at my silence, rage that I’ve managed to drag the whole group in for my sins.

And then, to my horror, my mind dredges up that overwrought moment in Star Trek II where Spock, having gone in to manually activate the warp drive, explains to captain and friend, “The good of the many outweighs the good of the few … or the one.”  I renounced Spock in grade school and yet here he is, chiming in like my conscience’s own Jiminy Cricket, echoing the words beating down around me — no, us.  It’s conscience, then, dogging your footsteps, slipping into your shadow.  It’s conscience that gives these voices weight, even as my head jerks numbly into a nod as prompted.

— Lumic Lutcher


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