Monday, June 11, 2012

Unemployment, third month

You are so broke that you're bumming gas money from your parents. Whose house you are living in again at 30. The last time your mother did the family's laundry, she came into your room with a pair of your socks she'd neatly rolled into a little ball. There'd been a twenty-dollar bill tucked inside. She had winked at you as she'd laid the sock roll on your bed.

You put a few dollars of gas in at a time so you can still afford a daily mocha frappuccino from Starbucks. It's a luxury, and buying one is living beyond your means. Buying one is the high point of your day.

You psych yourself up. You go to bed each night and set the clock for eight, but you just lie there. You worry and bite your cuticles in the dark. So you get up and join your mom, who is downstairs watching episodes of "Bridezillas" and "Extreme Makeover." You both eat coconut cake, Doritos, olives, string cheese. Sometimes you eat Pillsbury cream-cheese cake icing straight out of the tub, with a spoon.

You fall asleep around dawn.

You wake up when the 9-to-5 people who still have jobs are eating lunch.

No one has e-mailed or called you, not from any of the countless faceless companies you feigned such interest in when sending out cover letters. Not even the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association that needed an e-newsletter editor.

That's not true -- someone did contact you about a job, as a secretary for a construction company. And always there is spam from the insurance companies looking for sales reps. And many other jobs that you would be terrible at. The subject lines read things like "[Insert name], we want to interview you!" With the economy like it is, it seems cruel, this preying on the desperate.

You tweak your online resumes and professional profiles. You apply for jobs online. You maintain good relations with your references. You play online Scrabble.

You get in your car in the afternoon, to get the frappuccino and get home before rush hour begins. You drive to the Barnes & Noble. The Starbucks cafe area is abandoned except for you. You know the baristas who see you every day probably realize you are unemployed. You always pay in cash, never the debit card, because you live on cash now -- cash handouts (from your parents), like the guys who stand at the long stoplight across the street from the shelter. You used to always give them a dollar, but now you can't, and it kills you, being one of those jerks who avoid making eye contact with them.

At Barnes & Noble, you sit and drink and read something highbrow. You read something snotty and a bit above you, to convince yourself that you are intellectual, you are an artist, you have a bright, lively mind.

You dream of having your own apartment again, how you will decorate it. You are thinking of painting the walls warm colors: ochre, mango, sangria.

At home, bored, you sometimes IM friends who are busy working. "Just one quick funny thing to share with you!"

You eat dinner with your parents and sometimes your sister, who is in her seventh year of a two-year degree, and living at home, too. (Your brother, the engineer, is the good kid, with a Christian wife and a condo and two cats.) Your parents bow their heads and close their eyes as someone says grace, and you do it, too, because you are living under their roof. You bow your head down low in supplication, in humility, in something that feels like defeat, mostly because you don't believe in what you are doing. You close your eyes.

You go into the basement to do a work-out tape. In the concrete dust, among old Easter baskets and albums of baby photos, you watch a Teutonic supermodel as she exercises in front of the shimmering aqua water of St. Barts. You mimic her wishfully.

The sun sets so early in January, and after evening rush hour you have to get out again. Your gas tank is almost empty, but you are restless.

So you drive. You drive along the parkway by the river. There's no one else on the road, and the moon is a thin C lying on its back. Vestigial snow is glassy under moonlight. You drive through the dark tunnel of trees, miles and miles of trees on both sides with sporadic flashes of river to the east. A passionate rock song comes on the radio, and you turn it up so loud that it could damage your car stereo, or your ears. You turn it up so loud that it could obliterate everything, a sort of aural suicide.

You feel your soul -- yes, your soul -- fuse with the music as you stomp the shoe that is not on the accelerator. You dance as much as one can dance in one's seat. Your hair thrashes around you. You sing, and it feels like the most soulful sound to come from a human ever. You beat your wrist and the heel of your hand against the steering wheel, and you do this so hard that it hurts. You speed a little. Then you speed a lot. You feel a stirring inside you, like a swirl of sand brought to life in the desert by a sudden wind.

The "low fuel" light is not glowing just yet. It will soon, but you have a little time.

Tomorrow you will get up early. Tomorrow you will remember all the famous and wise quotations about success being 90 percent perspiration. You will hustle; you have hustled before. You just need to wake the fuck up.

You are still singing the song, watching for the deer that sometimes dart in front of cars. Near the end of the parkway, the city lights sparkle on the surface of the river, and it looks like watery underground fireworks. You are sobbing when you think to yourself, "I cannot live like this," again, again, again.

1 comment:

  1. Holy shit, I am sitting here with the hairs on my arm standing straight up. I got chills at that last sentence. How many times have I said those words to myself? WOW. Your writing packs such a punch, my god. Thank you. Thank you for this.

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