Splitting headache, both temples throb in unison. Noise of rapidly gushing water in ears. Sweat from head and torso dampens sheets. Right hand rummages bedside table. Tiger balm. 1:45AM.
Skin around eyelids burn. Throat parched. Comforter cascades down. Grasps plastic water bottle. Gulp. Water drips down chin, splashes front of nightdress, hardwood floor, slippers. Lies down. Turns to the right, fetal position. Inside of right ear throbs. Right arm massages back of neck. Forefinger pushes hard on muscle of left shoulder. Intense pain. Delicious. 2:35AM.
Drops navy throw over digital clock. Walks to living room, arms extended. Blanket with sleeves, a present from close relative, cannot re-gift. Wears blanket with sleeves, settles on couch, fumbles for TV remote. Light filters through shut eyelids.
A local college advertises. An enthusiastic student half her age. How life changed after receiving a degree in criminal justice. Now he has home, car, family - the works. You too can achieve the American dream. Enroll now. Student loans available.
A National Channel. Panel of six heavyweights discuss state of US economy. Comment: “US economy will never revive unless people start spending.” Sharp pain splits forehead in two. More Tiger balm.
3:30AM. Turns to bay window, opens eyes momentarily. Every house in neighborhood dark. Turns on computer, opens eyes. Rick from across the street shares a link on Facebook at 3:41AM. Join a workers’ rally at the state capitol day after tomorrow.
Received 52 emails in 4 hours. No reply from the recruiters. Emails to attend conferences, take courses, get another degree, apply for student loans, return to school. Email from health insurance company: $65 premium increase starting next month. Clicks on link, cancels health insurance. In spam folder: Buy Viagra, watch porn, send money to con man in Nigeria.
Prints 25 copies of resume. Tomorrow, a job fair at a local hotel. HR from companies will collect resumes. Temporary positions, low skilled, no benefits. Her resume: 23 years of managerial experience.
Two framed Master’s certificates cast shadows on wall. The second degree accomplished two years ago. Cost: $28,600, four years of night classes, promises of bright future, updated skills. Job loss: exactly 14 months ago. Jobs since then: hourly cashier at local grocery store, part-time barista at coffee shop. Volunteering activities: non-stop.
Opens online bank account. $2,028.35 left in checking, $85 in savings. New fee added yesterday to maintain checking account: $15 per month. Note to self on Post-It: Apply for Food Stamps tomorrow. 4:15PM.
Listens to TV, eyes shut. National Channel interviewing CEO. Comment: “We want to hire, but just cannot find skilled workers in this country.”
Thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump. Pulse: 107 beats per minute.
Chaitali Banerjee lives in upstate New York. She writes fiction, creative non-fiction and short poems. Her work has appeared in Orion Magazine's The Place Where You Live (Online) and in Extract(s).