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Two opposites

This was hard homework, but here's my take on the "opposites" meme started by mccorpsecorpse. Negate these portraits, and you get me:

My first opposite arrives fifteen minutes early for work every day -- freshly shaven, in a pressed shirt and sharp tie, serving up big smiles and warm greetings to his coworkers as they get in for the day.

Ask him ten years ago and he never would have guessed that he would be working for a collections agency. Every so often somebody would arch their eyebrows when he told them what he was, but what did they know? The money was good, the work kept him busy, and he liked the adventure: getting out and meeting his quotas every day. Sure, the women cried a lot, and a lot of the men got angry and gave him shit. Every once in a while someone would wave around a baseball bat or throw a punch. It didn't bother him. He had a job to do, he knew how to handle himself, and if they wanted their stuff so much they should have made their payments on time.

Hell. He had debts too -- the mortgage and payments on his 4x4, plus the wife and kids. Then there were the toys: the plasma TV, the stereo system, the boat. Yeah, the bills added up, but unlike his "clients" he kept on top of his payments. If he lost his job he would get another. It wasn't as if he planned to work for a collections agency for the rest of his life. Maybe in a few years he would get something with better pay, more travel... there were always lots of opportunities for people willing to work hard.

Don't get the wrong idea. My opposite is not one of those robots who lived for his work. Life was too short for that. He worked hard and played hard, and when work was over he would be out enjoying his life. Some days he went out to the gym, other evenings out to the bar with the guys, and once in a while "working late". He didn't overdo it. He knew his limits. Then it was home to his beautiful wife and the kids: his little trooper and his little princess. Weekends brought a few rounds on the links, Sunday football, or maybe a trip to the cottage -- usually with the wife, and sometimes with a girlfriend.

Oh, come on. Nothing ventured nothing gained, and what the wife didn't know wouldn't hurt her. Besides, it was just for fun -- he loves his wife more than anything. Those other girls never meant anything to him. They were just a way for him to relieve his natural biological urges. It's evolution, right? Women evolved to raise the brood, and men to sow the fields and hunt for meat. It wasn't cheating. It was polyamory.

Life was good. He didn't see much point in letting the world get him down. He took care of himself, and the rest is neither his business nor his problem. He didn't care much for politics. He watched the news once in a while, but didn't bother much about it. When he voted he tended to go Conservative, because they were for cutting taxes, and he was all for that -- taxes were so damn high in this country. Why should the government take his hard-earned money so that welfare moms and Indian drunks could sit on their asses all day? People needed to take responsibility for themselves. Plus the Conservatives were tough on terrorism. Terrorism did scare him a bit. The last thing he needed was to get bombed by a bunch of goddamned towelheads like they bombed the World Trade Center. Not that he was racist or bigoted -- he knew lots of Moslem people. Hell, he went to the bar with Mo all the time, and he had even invited Farzan and his family to the cottage one weekend. But somebody needed to put the crazies in their place and keep the country safe, and he thought the Conservatives were best suited for that job.

See? That's why he didn't bother too much with the news. A guy could spend his whole life worrying, you know? And what for? What's the point of living if you don't enjoy yourself?

My second opposite arrives at work at dawn every day, because she is a farmer working her land and raising her family in rural Western Africa. Work includes fetching water from the local village well, then working the fields with hand tools, preparing maize meal for dinner, attending to three children, and other tasks as dictated by daily life. Being a widow does not help.

When her vegetables grow well she sells the excess at the village market. Of course, when her crops do well her neighbours' do so too, so prices are lower. When her husband was alive he worked and they brought in more money. Now she is well within the lowest 10% income bracket worldwide. That makes life hard. Making life harder is the weather: the rains were sporadic this year, and much of the crop she sowed dried up. When the time comes, who will go without -- her or the children? She has the same sickness that took her husband; if she does not keep her strength up she will sicken faster and die sooner -- maybe in a year, instead of two or three. If she starves the children what is she living for? She already has buried one child -- her youngest, born shortly after her husband died. The child was HIV positive, of course, and she could hardly feed a fifth mouth. So she didn't, and her baby -- a son! -- quietly starved.

She has another son, her second child. The eldest is a daughter. The third child is her brother-in-law's daughter, whom her family took into their home when the child's parents died. All are negative for now. When she dies she is not sure where the children will go -- maybe to her mother, maybe with one of her remaining siblings, maybe with a cousin. If she lives long enough her daughter might be old enough to take care of the household alone.

My opposite does not know how to read or write. She never went to school; she was only a girl, and her parents were not rich. They sent her brothers through primary school instead -- just as she wanted to send her son through school. She wanted her son to finish high school. After that he might have gone to the city to get a white-collar job. Now that her husband is dead, that's no longer a possibility. She doesn't have enough money to meet the household's food needs! Where would she find the money for uniforms and school fees?

Hope and faith in God keep her strong. Those neighbours who accept her give her strength. The dirt and sunshine and rain give her strength. Her many relatives give her strength. The songs the women sing while working their fields give her strength. Her children give her strength. Every day she prays thanks to God for these things, and for her continued strength. She is tired, but you will often hear her laugh and see her smile. She has no hopes for miracle cures -- her government denies any relationship between HIV and AIDS -- but she lives life just the same.

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