Numbness has consumed her body since the primal scream that accompanied the jettison of the phone against the brick wall. The cocky young upstart on the other end of the phone had told her they would be charging her £35 to cancel her car insurance, and the withdrawal from her bank account would be immediate. She doesn’t have £35 in her account. She had tried to reason with him, asking him if the charge could be postponed until her normal debit day after payday – but he said “the computer’s already registered it now, and it’s automatic. Nothing I can do.” Alice felt the smugness in his voice as he probably leaned back and crossed his feet on the desk while he gave her the bad news, and she imagined herself reaching through the phone and ripping his face off. Instead, she hung up.
Now she has to find money to buy a new phone too…
Earlier that day, Alice had taken her “new” car to We Buy Any Car. It was a nice car; she’d only bought it six weeks ago, and she wished she didn’t have to get rid. But despite it being in very good condition for its age, even receiving the approval of her very picky pubescent son and his friends, it killed her on petrol mileage. She’d worked out that it was costing her £1 every three and a half miles, and it was bleeding her dry. Easier to get a bus pass and a railcard. She’d tried to sell the car on E-Bay, but nobody bid at the price she’d requested. Her £1000 overdraft limit was being severely tested, as her account currently stood at precisely £999.60 in the red. So she had no choice. A massive downpour as she drove to the buyer gave her some hope that the salesman might not want to go outside and look too closely at the vehicle – but even with the rain he managed to drop the offer to well below what she was hoping for. Even with a refund on the tax disc, she would still take a substantial loss on her original purchase. But desperate times … The money will be in her account in about a week.
Alice tried to catch the bus home. To her embarrassment, she realised she had brought last week’s bus pass with her, and with no cash on her, she was forced to walk two miles to the nearest bank. There, she felt further humiliation when she had to convince the banker to extend her overdraft by a massive £10 (!) in order to have enough chump change to pay for another bus to take her the other six miles home.
Alice believes in destiny. She truly does. In her view, everything happens for a reason. She is just part of a bigger plan, and so far, the puppeteer has never let her go completely under. But sitting on the bus, she reflected on her current state and felt fat, hideous, useless, broke, exhausted, alone, and completely lost. Her life was on a knife edge, and she felt like just letting go.
The boss is visiting her tomorrow with the HR manager. She’s been off work now for nearly five months, and yet again, her mood has plummetted. Is it a turn in her mood cycles or just an adverse reaction to the growing stresses that engulf her? It’s not just the money, there are other issues too … issues that, even in isolation, could easily bring a person to their knees.
But Alice knows if she is to ever come back from this, she’s going to have to return to her job soon. The thought petrifies her. It’s not easy work and involves high levels of stress at the best of times. She suspects the job was probably a major contributary factor to her breakdown in the first place, and the idea of returning to the same gladiatorial arena frightens her. The union rep is unavailable to attend the meeting, and Alice is feeling increasingly anxious at the prospect of dealing with this alone.
But that’s how it’s always been. Everything Alice has ever done in her life, she has done alone: travelled the world; obtained degrees; embarked on exciting adventures; gave birth to and raised a child; made many, many mistakes; and survived.
And here she sits once again … alone… surveying the damage.
No money. No phone. No escape.
But strangely, no tears.
© Alice through the Macro Lens