I turned to her, dumbstruck.
“Same for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of the following week,” she added with a bright smile, as she turned to go. “Enjoy your time off with your family.”
I sat for a moment; mouth poised for a question, a retort, or possibly a plea. I blinked quickly, one, two, three; my throat tightening, my tear ducts threatening to betray me.
I’m not going home for Christmas this year. I went home last month to see one of my best friends in the world celebrate the premiere of her short film. I visited some people who needed visits. I paid some respects. I did some things that needed to be done. It was a hard trip in a lot of ways, but it was good.
And I missed five days of work in the process.
Cross-country plane tickets are pricey and words like ‘vacation time’ and ‘paid holidays’ have been stricken from my lexicon. Twice in one month is two times more than I can afford. So I’m staying here.
It was a hard decision– my close friends and roommates will all be gone and this will be my second Christmas in a row that I couldn’t be at home. But it’s hard to justify unpaid vacation when you’re crossing your fingers that your landlord doesn’t make it to the bank this week.
I noticed yesterday that my mother transferred money into my account. It’s money she can’t afford. It’s almost funny– before I left home, I hid some cash between the pages of her mystery novel, and on the way to the airport, she tried to sneak a five into my purse. We’re passing imaginary dollars back and forth like some Gift of the Magi reenactment.
It isn’t enough anyway.
I’ve always known I was playing Russian roulette with this job. It’s impermanent. I have no benefits, no paid leave, no security. No set schedule. Depending on this paycheck as my sole source of income is ill-advised at best, and yet–
It’s a nice job. And it’s hard to leave a nice job for something that might not be so nice.
So here I am. Here I am, spending Christmas in an empty house for which I’m three months behind on rent. It’s just a day, and it’s just money. I’ve done this before and I can do it again. It’s just a day.
The worst part of all of this is that it isn’t even one-tenth of why I’m broken. This latest bombshell is merely the sorry-for-myself frosting on an already-bitter cake.
I spent the weekend cleaning, writing, playing piano. I spent it staring at the wall, twiddling my thumbs, counting the nails in the door frame. I spent it trying to breathe, trying to eat, trying in vain to find someone, anyone who would just talk and let me listen. I spent it doing anything but sleeping, or crying, or giving into whatever this is that’s hell-bent on knocking me under the bus.
I wish I could blame even a corner of this on someone else, but, as usual, all fingers point to me. C’est la vie, mes amis. Let’s pray for a new year. I hear one’s coming.