The experience of a single mom living in the aftermath of the Bush Administration, laid off and looking for work, just like millions of others in this country. I am writing toward the light at the end of this tunnel.
The first question anyone asks is, “Were you expecting it?”
Who is ever expecting it? Of course I wasn’t. Two weeks ago today, I walked into my office building, (coming from a family interview where I was trying to get a scholarship for my brilliant tween-let at a pricey all-girls school). The receptionist, looks up from her knitting when I walk in, “S- is looking for you, she told me to tell you that she needs to see you as soon as you walk in.”
I take the stairs two at a time, then head down the hallway to her office. My boss looks up.
“How did it go?”
“Well you never know with those things, I’m excited because if she gets in that means I could save some money, move out of the place I’m in now to something cheaper.”
I rent in a pricey area because the school district is one of the best in the state. I think how nice it would be for my daughter and I not to share a room.
“Well go put your stuff down, I need to talk to you.” She looks away from the computer when she says this, and I try to read her face.
As I unlock my door, her boss walks past me, doesn’t look at me but barks my name and a quick hello. I return to her office. They are both sitting there. A hollow space begins a free fall from the center of my chest, so I quickly sit in the chair they offer me.
Her boss looks at me and does not blink. His eyes are uneven, his face red, and of course it is fitting that the devil bearing the bad news wears the collar of a priest.
The deal is done quickly. He speaks. I crumble, fold, circle into myself. The words fountain from my heart and lips; single-mother, daughter, paycheck to paycheck, recession. I keep repeating. Do you understand? Do you understand? Do you understand? I am living hand to mouth now, without this job I have nothing. I don’t think you understand!
He keeps going.
“Effective immediately,” He says. Then I hear, “Pay you until the end of this month, and then there is your vacation, we don’t compensate sick time.”
I go back to my office and pack my most personal things quickly, wondering how will I tell my daughter? How will we live?
My daughter is happy to see me waiting by the gate. Her voice is still girlish, piping her day, the foibles of third grade, the recess games of hopscotch and make believe. We began our walk under the magnolia trees towards home.
I reach for her hand, shush her story and tell her, “You know how we talk about Bush, and how he never made good decisions for everybody? Well because of those decisions, I don’t have a job anymore.” I slow down and look at her. The newness of her still hasn’t worn off. I touch the top of her head, pull her close to smell the sun in her hair. I have promised her so much. We walk slower now, our steps punctuated by why and how, she asks me not to cry. I tell her this was a sucker punch, one of those things you don’t see coming, knocks you down. I tell her, “Now what happens is that Mommy just has to get back up.”
We both cry.