exercise: N1.10

N Exercise 1.10

The loss of the contract left Celia bent and broken, crippled with the weight of the debt she’d incurred when she was riding high. The labour had been tedious, data-entry type work, scanning charts for numbers, remembering them accurately for the few seconds it took to type them into the machine, then reading them back again in her head, confirming their fidelity, before moving onto the next row, the next column, of the endless charts. Hardly riveting, but it had been work. Now, Celia was home on a Wednesday afternoon for practically the first time since leaving her undergrad, after a short and blunt email from corporate the day before.

To All Contractors, it said, our contract with headquarters has expired. Effective immediately all work will cease on project 82A until further notice. You will be contacted at a later date to discuss severance packages.

Celia’s second glass of red wine was warming in her hand, her gaze fixed at a point in the distance only she could see, her mind wandering away, absent from the here-and-now. Her glass was already covered in greasy fingerprints. She’d already skipped her shower the day before, before receiving her terse termination, and saw no reason to take it today. Her hair fell in lank strands into her face, reached into the mouth of her glass when she took a greedy sip.

“Nothing to do, nothing to do,” she murmurred to herself. She took a sip from her now-empty glass, failing to recognize it was empty. Her car payment was due today. She’d just bought a new canvas tarpaulin for it, to keep the car from gathering concrete dust like so many of her neighbours’ while the parking structure was under perennial construction, the shouts of workmen echoing in the cavernous space under the building, though no sign of progress was ever apparent to her. Celia fought back a sob and refilled her glass.

When her phone rang, she moved about her apartment searching for it, trying to pinpoint the origin of the cheerful digital chirping. She moved slowly, fearing another blow to her life, her self-conception: Celia, your mother’s died, or Celia, you have type 1 diabetes. Instead, it was her cubicle-mate Anja.

“What the actual fuck,” Anja spat, when Celia answered the phone with a slow and slurry hello. “Those shits. What kind of fucking email is that? Just leaving us hanging like so much laundry, out to dry in a fucking blizzard or something?”

“Uh huh,” Celia said, her eyes drifting closed. Only the tension of her arm on the sofa kept her phone pinned to her head.

“It should be a fucking crime,” Anja said. “I gave my life to that company.”

“No you didn’t. We worked there like eight months.”

“Eight months of dedication and unfailing loyalty,” Anja said, breaking in before Celia had finished speaking. “And this is what we get?”

“Uh huh.”

“You started looking yet?”

“The only thing I’m looking at is the back of my eyelids,” Celia said, and yawned. “And this glass of tepid red.”

“Red before five, eh?” Anja laughed. “I’m coming over.”

At this Celia’s eyes shot open. “Here?”

“Sure, why not? What’s your address?”

“Uh, it’s just that the place is so messy, and-”

“We need to bitch and moan, girl, and get to drinking. Sounds like you’re way ahead of me and after what those corporate fuckers did to us I think we owe it to ourselves. Fuck the mess, we’ll clean that shit up when we’re good and hammered.” Anja’s voice slipped into a sing-song lilt. “It could be fun!”

“I just think I’d rather be alone right now, y’know? Anja?” Celia took a sip and again found her drink empty. “To, like, grieve.”

“I’m bringing gin, too. What’s the address?”

Celia’s eyes rolled to the sky but she rattled off the address. “And bring some tonic, too,” she added, hanging up. Seized with the urge to tidy before Anja visited Celia’s apartment for the first time, she rose, and instead, filled her glass anew.

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