Audio: Read by the author.
MAKING A TRUCK, making thousands of trucks, means standing on your feet and bending and contorting your body, your only body, to do the same highly particularized job for hours each day in order to fashion the plastic molding inside a vehicle, or install its motor controls, or perform any of the hundreds of other tasks needed for a steel product that weighs nearly one ton and could crush you should it fall—tasks like fabricating glass and mirror components and parts, running presses, pinching and securing wires for routing, testing engines for leaks, visually inspecting parts for defects, operating torque guns, programming and operating ergonomic arms, lifting forty-pound machinery, lifting and hoisting engines into a frame, operating a rivet gun or cordless drill, reaching over your head with your neck craned back as you screw a bolt into the dark underbelly of a suspended truck, attaching door handles, loading packaging machines, unloading packaging machines, making gauge needles for instrument panels, building sub-assemblies, bolting, cutting, stamping, sewing, clipping, cementing or otherwise fastening parts together each day, and doing this job repeatedly until it thins your ligaments, swells your joints and feet, until you have vertigo, headaches, tinnitus, hearing loss, a torn ACL, weak knees, lung cancer, drug addictions, until your arm hurts and your spine stiffens, then refuses to rotate, which means your back won’t work, and the policy is you can’t sit down because collectively as a union worker you gave up the six-minute break time in 2009, and beyond physical stamina this job requires—no, demands—that you commit some part of your mind and heart to an unshakeable belief in the logic of global capital, which means that on a smaller scale you commit some part of your mind and heart to an unshakeable belief in the necessity of placing a two-inch needle into an instrument panel over and over and over again, the repetition itself a type of holiness, as if these daily acts which destroy you ounce by ounce and breath by breath are your destiny, as if your highly particularized repetitive acts are the inevitable calling of your life, your destiny owned by men with untold power so long as you both may live.
Renee Simms’s debut story collection Meet Behind Mars (Wayne State) was a Foreword Indies Finalist and listed by The Root as one of twenty-eight brilliant books by black authors in 2018. She has received fellowships from the NEA and Bread Loaf and teaches at the University of Puget Sound and in the Rainier Writing Workshop.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.