Double Professionals

“Welcome to the house,” Bobby said to the new couple. “Where have you just come from?”

“We were in the New City before this,” said the lady. “We needed to…” She looked at the gent as if to seek permission; he gave her a grave look.  She added, “We decided to move.”

They didn’t look like other people here; they were altogether more polished. He wore a button-down white shirt with handcrafted brown leather belt, and well-pressed blue trousers. She wore a white dress with blue embroidery, and high-quality, stitched brown leather sandals. They matched each other, which set them apart from everybody else in the halfway house, who were misfits.

“Do you know what happened to Nancy and Steve?” asked Bobby. The previous couple in their double bedroom – the house was mostly dorms – had disappeared overnight. Maybe they had got jobs somewhere. He hoped that was true.

“No, we never met them,” said the lady. “We just took the empty room.”

Bobby learnt that the lady was a cultural producer and the gent a project manager. Both were jobs that could mean anything at all. Then it hit him.

Though they were not traditional vocations involving expert and specialized knowledge, these were indeed professional jobs. This couple were from the social strata of well-educated, salaried workers who engaged in intellectually challenging tasks, and enjoyed working autonomy. They were most likely from a superior class background, and had been indoctrinated subtly to seek out others like themselves.

What were they doing here? This was a place for unprofessional people hoping to hold their lives together.

Over tea the lady said, “We are not moving here officially until next month. The Authority incentivised us to come to Lucerne, and offered us a choice of jobs. There’s so much on offer, we don’t want to rush, so we’re staying here till we’ve decided.”

The man said, “What is your job here?”

Bobby didn’t know what to say. He worked whenever somebody paid him, whatever the job. He mumbled, “Project worker. I am working on various projects here.”

He thought, I wonder if they know where they are. “How did you find this place?”

“We looked for short-term accommodation and this place was available.”

Bobby thought, I wonder why it was available? Maybe because it is a dive.

The lady continued, “To be honest, it’s not what we expected, but we’ve paid the deposit and we are here now, so we may as well stay.”

They used their mattress to make love that night. Others, using theirs for sipping whisky, eating fast food, injecting heroin, masturbation, weeping alone, and closing their eyes hoping that everything would go away, listened in awe.

People wanted to hate these bright, young people with university degrees, who had professional training and experience, and were makers of award winning work. But they couldn’t hate them. They were both so nice. They seemed to have morale and motivation, strong morals, and a high standard of manners.

The halfway house’s residents knew this was what separated professional people from them. And that’s why the piles of cash under the new couple’s mattress grew many times faster than theirs.

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