In the morning Sebastian hears an older man talking on the radio about his job.
“The best thing about being the curator of the national museum” he says, “is that sometimes I can take the items we put on show out of their glass cases and hold them.”
“That’s a bit pretentious,” Sebastian thinks to himself. Though the truth is that Sebastian does envy being able to touch the museum’s artefacts. Sebastian likes old things because they provide him with a sense of belonging. His upbringing was not very stable you see, and old things have history, a depth of attraction, something to hold onto. Security.
The same day, coming back from work he overhears a conversation on the tube. There are these two builders, obviously on their way home from a job just before the rush hour. They’re standing near the doors. Sebastian has the sense that they are talking to each other about the day. He is interested in them more than other passengers. Builders are unusual on the tube, but then he is coming home early. Each one has paint stains on his cloths and they have some in the hair, but they aren’t painters. Their hands are dry and chalky but strong, the nails are short. They obviously hold things often. Unlike the Museum curator theirs is a work that requires holding onto things rather than occasionally taking them out of the protective case. Despite their cloths and hands the builders are smiling. They radiate joviality and a little impishness. One’s smaller than the other, but both are equal.
Sebastian is drawn to that; he would like to be impish and relationally secure. He would always like to be in-on-the-joke. One of them chuckles at somebody who got off at the last stop. A knowing grin and wink from the other. Sebastian doesn’t get the joke, but he didn’t see the person leaving the train, so he feels ok. He grins a bit, as if he understood, curling a façade around his body, stiffening and drawing his book closer to this face. The builders don’t notice. They have not even looked at Sebastian.
Sebastian starts reading again, but his mind wanders as he catches the tail end of the conversation: “… know what he does?”
They are talking about the man whose house they’re currently working on. The other shrugs but is attentive.
“You know, digging up skulls and that, I saw some in the attic. What do you call them…”
The other: “An archaeologist, yeah?”
Even as the taller builder articulates the name of the profession, the shorter one starts to grin. They both burst out in mirthful laughter at the concept of archaeology. Sebastian thinks of the museum curator, about his pretensions. Then about his own insecurities.