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“Spaceship” • Kanye West (by Julián Martinez)

In college, I briefly worked in the back of a pita restaurant. They gave me these blue swimming goggles—which I could never figure out how to loosen—to mitigate eye-stinging while chopping onions, but the goggles didn’t really do anything. Once, I peeled them off my sore-ass face and all I felt was slightly greater pain and tears and dread at the fucking onions left to chop. The only saving grace was that I could play music on my phone. This one day, I put on College Dropout—I really wanted to drop out at the time, plus I was the kind of 18-year-old in the 2010’s who thought only Kanye understood them— and when it got to “Spaceship,” I had to stop and remove my juiced-up glove and put that song on repeat. Not that I hadn’t heard it before, but it’d never felt like a magic spell until that moment, fluorescent lamps winking over me. The tink of the keys, the warm loop of coos, over five minutes of dudes sharing memories of working grinds. Kanye’s opening line—it still makes my eyes go onion-misty. ‘Cause he means it, you know? He’s dreaming of beating his manager up and walking out with cash in his hands. A spaceship has to be bought, after all. After you buy it, you’ll never have to worry about money for the rest of your life. And I ain’t made shit. I made pitas, but I got stuck in the back ‘cause I sucked at making pitas. They never trained me! I walked in on my very first day and this guy was like, you got orders! The touchscreen is pinging for the UberEats pick-up, you gonna get that? D’you hit accept, already? When I told him I hadn’t been trained, he rolled his eyes and said, my stupid brother’s fault, and then threw me in front of customers. The next day, that guy’s brother said I’d wash and chop and grind in the back, which I did, until my last shift, when they needed me at the register ‘cause someone called off that night. I think I did alright until I had a panic attack and left and never came back. No, actually, the panic attack was the following day, and I did come back—to pick up my last check a few weeks later, neither brother looking up at me. They hated me, dude. I hated me. Only Kanye loved me, and I hate him now ‘cause he sucks. He got everything he wanted. I only wanted to be done with the table of onions, and he helped me through it—him and GLC and Consequence telling me, a depressed loser, that I was worth so much more, the “Spaceship” beat starting over, a couple bucks closer to a future I had won, a future where all that sadness and sweat and stinging was just a twinkle in my eye.

Julián Martinez (he/him) is the son of Mexican and Cuban immigrants. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in HAD, Hooligan Mag, Little Engines, The Sonora Review and elsewhere. His micro-chapbook, This Place Is Covered Head to Toe In Shit, is out Summer 2024 with Ghost City Press. Find him online @martinezfjulian or, or IRL in Chicago.


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