It has only been two days since I was met with unemployment yet the depression looms everywhere in the room, crushing any attempt by my spirit to lurch toward the land of hope. I fulfilled every requirement, ticked every box as the bureaucracy laid them out for me. Everything was done. I was the best for that position and for the three others around me. Each day I took on more and more work off my colleagues, politely begging for their tasks so that I can stand out as a real achiever in my field. I did everything but it didn’t stop the time coming. The dates on the calendar don’t cease to be crossed off, they will always pass, kicking me out into the void again.
That image of unemployment bears down on me. It never rests, always knowing I’m two feet and one mistake away from being a permanent resident. I shrug it off my shoulders with as much strength as I could find and focus on what I need to do. The next in the list of application spreads before me on the computer screen. My toes cross as I fill in this application. My eyes study every character entered into the system, wanting them to be in perfect for before clicking it into the slush piles. The shadows around me vibrate excitedly, they sense my doubt.
The dark desolate world takes me in, embracing me through all my grimaces and feigned attempts of refusal. I know this fate. I have been here before. Sometimes it’s easier not to struggle. The drawn out battle is too exhausting. I don’t have the strength any more. In the distance the three month contracts bait me. They dangle, mocking my dry mouth and scratching away at the side of my stomach alongside the enduring hunger I live with daily. I shut my eyes, blocking all the pain with the image of the quarter pack of pasta waiting for me for dinner presenting a mask my current hunger can’t see through. I avoid the contracts for now, hoping the permanent work will hear my call and take me in.
I can last, I know this now as I boil the vegetable ends over the stove. A warming odour fills the room, reminding me of my mother’s vegetable soup. I only wish I had some chicken I could add to this, just a little something of protein I could scrounge from around the house and sprinkle into my watery meals. My lower gut howls in complaint. The fluid already squishing about ready for expulsion. I ignore it, the desire for warmth in my chest too great to ignore. I’m getting by. That’s all that matters.
My heart skips. There’s hope on the horizon. The shadows have shrunken away again. They know I’ve have reached out for something that could never match. A true passion, blissful and complete beams before me. The screen doesn’t shine bright enough for the hope it is currently representing. I’ve found the one for me. It’s perfect. The job lists as if it were part of my being. The job personifies itself as me. Everything I have struggled through and worked for sprawls before me as a final set of boxes to tick before I reach that final goal of security. I leap for it. My hand shaking, sweat rushing down my back with each stretch of my fingers to add my name to the list of people wanting this work even though I know we are made for each other. I know we will soon be together.
I splurge on extra noodles for dinner with discounted bacon thrown in for good measure. I eat greedily, slurping loudly on my food. The image of good days ahead glow in my face. Nothing is in my way. My mind rushes with lists. Lists of everything I need to buy. Everything I want to do and own tick over before my vision, tempting me to make the purchase now to stop the catalogue pile growing beyond what the recycling bin can handle.
My quilt is my best friend. Only it knows me. I failed again. I fell victim to the cruel mistress of hope. She had me, I was hers without any protest, and she crushed me again. I lost. My perfect job partner snatched out when I was inches away from first contact. It’s gone forever. I’m a fool for thinking I was ever worthy. I’m a plaything to her. I could have done everything. I could have done nothing. I’m just one in a pool of thousands. Each possible temptation and I would have ended up back here. Snuggled tight with my best friend. The only friend who knows me. The only one that can keep me still so I can avoid having to eat. It knows the more it hugs me the longer I will last.
Hunger prods me awake again. I can’t resist it any longer. The cramps fire through my chest. My breaths shrink to nothing more than a whimper. Each movement in my arm aches. I cannot resist any longer. A surrender must be made, the terms to be set out for survival. I do not want this but it is needed. Without this there will be nothing in the long term. That nothingness trembles fear through me more than the image of the shadows lurking over me, prodding me in the sides, wanting me to be part of their misery binge.
I’ve found success, if you can call it that. The ink has dried. I can now eat again. The contract has what I need with extra work kicked into the load for good measure. The shadows have sunken away from the mountain of work I need to summit. Their strength fails to penetrate the walls of this deal. I try to peak over the top of my tasks for the next few weeks. There’s nothing over the top but the date. The signed moment when the image before me will evaporate and release the shadows to roam about my world.
I surrender into my first day of work. I flick my tie over to knot it awkwardly against my throat. The loops sync into my cycle, locking into the faded places they belong around my neck. I’m heading into it again. I won’t be able to apply for a way out but there will always be the date on the calendar. That one moment where everything shifts and the shadows take their rightful place in front of rays of hope that sparkle fulltime in a mythical world.