“You know those patches on the shoulder of every astronaut’s uniform that signify the great mission they are about to embark on? I designed them.
“Every time NASA was about to send another group of souls into the depths of space, they came to me first. They came to me wanting something to commemorate the journey. Basically, what they wanted was a logo. But not on of those dipshit, dainty-ass check mark logos that they brand on the sides of sneakers in bum-fuck-nowhere. No – they wanted a logo of hope, courage, freedom. They wanted something that screamed to the world, ‘America is going into space, mother fuckers!’ Again and again, they came to me for that sense of pride that America thrived on.
“Yup. I was part of all the greats. Some of the disasters, too, but let’s not cross hairs. Everyone knew my work. The patriotic symbolism my patches conveyed were praised. My patches were worn with pride and created a sense of brotherhood between all those wearing them. I, however, was left out of any such bonding. I had never worn one of those majestic patches. I only made them. Everyone knew my work but nobody knew me.”
The old man speaking had a virile mind but a body so frail that if you let out a sigh of disinterest during his rant he’d probably fall over. He took another drink. It was early morning and he wasn’t even drinking from the glass anymore. The bartender had left the bottle in front of the man as he went off and started stacking chairs. The old man sucked at the bottle as if every sip was the finest thing he’d ever tasted. He liked to think of himself as a connoisseur of alcohol even though, now, he was drinking the cheap stuff. The young man next to him , barely out of college and at the bar trying to escape and deal with his own problems, couldn’t care less about what this drunk old man was saying. But he did not have the heart to tell the old-timer. Maybe he just feared a confrontation. The old man, feeling as if his audience was captivated by his every word, pressed on.
“Yup – my work was impressive. But I wasn’t, apparently. Maybe if I had invented cellular phones or the myspace, people would recognize me. But no one was ever interested in me as a person. The patches only spoke for themselves. I can’t tell you how many times I’d been in an establishment, such as this, and have people ask me, ‘so what is it that you do?’ I’d tell them my story and they’d groan, unimpressed. ‘Well that’s not very interesting at all, is it?’ one asshole had said to me. Can you believe that? ‘Not very interesting’! Disrespectful bastards. My work has only been to space hundreds of times! How many of your spreadsheets have orbited the fucking planet? Rockstars and movie gods get all the ass. Patch designers; not so much.
“Even my wife left me. She found my work uninteresting. She had nothing to brag about to her friends at the salon. Her husband was an unrecognized nothing. Sure, she claims to have left because of the drinking, but I know what was really up. Never get married kid. All women eventually just shove a knife up your ass and pull your heart out through your intestines.
“The company Christmas parties were no better. Yes – believe it or not, NASA makes attempts at getting all of those calculus virgins and unibrowed women together for some holiday cheer – knowing full-well there ain’t no baby Jesus up in the sky! There was always something unsettling about being the only one there who hadn’t gone up into space or at least guided someone through the process. In fact, I think only two or three people on staff knew what I did. And that was only because I would get drunk and insist on telling them. Then I’d be accused of crashing the party! I had to get my boss to clarify that I was, in fact, an employee of NASA. I just wanted to be noticed, dammit.
The young man listening watched the old man polish off another bottle and place it carefully beside the others that lined the bar. He was starting to feel uncomfortable being around this patch designer. He wanted to leave but felt some sense of obligation to stay. He figured the man was just lonely – needed someone to vent to. Besides, the young man hadn’t anything else all that important to tend to and was feeling quite down on himself as well. Part of him could relate to the old man. Troubles at work? We’ve all got those. The young man caught the attention of the bartender and ordered another drink. Fuck it, he thought. I’ll gulp away my sorrows with this old man. The young man knew what it felt like to be unappreciated at work – and in love. He felt that way every day. He started to believe that he could learn from this old man and even bond with him. He started to feel closer to him with each word that he spoke and finally opened his mouth to indicate to the old man that he was not alone; that others out there understood his pain. It would help the old man, he thought. No one wants to feel alone. All this man needs is a brother. This old man wasn’t an asshole. He was frustrated. Weak and alone! With the best of intentions, the young man gathered enough courage to finally open up to somebody about himself and his troubles and started to speak…
“I know how you feel.”
“Oh, do you?” asked the old man.
“I don’t get any respect at my job. Or any respect for the work that I do. Women don’t flock to me based on my job title. I’m basically invisible.”
“And was is it that you do?” the patch man asked.
“I write travel brochures.”
“Oh. Well that’s not very interesting at all, is it?”