Whenever I'm working at my desk at home and the cats start bothering me, a good way to distract them is by crumpling up a piece of paper and tossing it out into the hallway. Hours of fun: first batting it across the floor, skipping it over the wood like a stone hitting the surface of the water; chew on it when tired, working apart the wrinkles and digging in to the center of the ball. Left alone, the ball will slowly lose the tight shape my gripping fist forced it into, slightly springing back, at rest.
Monday the call didn't come, but I didn't expect it then. Tuesday would be the day I'd hear -- if I was going to hear, of course. Tuesday came and went, and I thought maybe Wednesday would be the day. The hiring manager I'd interviewed with had told me the decision would come mid-week, and there was Wednesday, smack dab in the middle of the week, full of possibility. Wednesday wouldn't get done quickly enough. I melted down at 8:15 in the morning, after realizing that I hadn't renewed the $60 license on the computer security software. After the sobbing on my pillow subsided and my boyfriend left for school, I dressed, ate, watched tv, and tried to motivate myself out of the house. Left the house twenty minutes late because I decided the refrigerator door had to be scrubbed clean today. Couldn't find parking downtown and was rushing up to the 28th floor where the state administers civil service tests. Held everyone up in the parking garage writing an eight dollar check; I only had two singles and eight quarters in my purse. Dropped off a resume in person, thinking that would make a better impression. The HR guy pulled a face at me. My reflection in the elevator showed a big new snag in my three dollar thrift store slacks. The cats have evidently been climbing the clothes in my closet. I cried over a part in my book in which a dog gets put to sleep, reaching over the side of my bed to pet my own dog. Imagining her old age and death, my tears turned into choking sobs.
By Thursday, I know I've been passed over. It wasn't the right job, I tell myself. It would have been miraculous, getting a job from my first interview after less than two months after the layoff. I'm going to have to keep doing this, over and over, dragging myself back and forth. Smiling and shaking hands, never letting terror or desperation show. That night, I make spinach and cheese rolls almost from scratch, marinate the steaks my mom gave me, cook corn with plenty of butter and pepper, sear the meat, wash the dishes, watch t.v. Stay up too late finishing the book with the dead dog. I'm tired, have been up since 7 am. I walked two miles, training for a fundraising walk I'm in. I've been up all day, kept busy, but haven't done a damn thing.
I was wound so tight when I was working. I would run and skitter from place to place in the store, bouncing back and forth endlessly, set in motion by the commands, list of duties, expectations, desires of others. Left alone, I was at first set free from the omnipresent tension, dropped the sense of dread I carried around. I mistook this feeling for freedom, only to come to the realization that I was still a crumpled-up ball, deformed from my original shape, retaining the marks of being in a tight vise grip for so long.