“A Timeless Tale”
The shrill blaring of my phone alarm yanked me from another restless night of sleep, thrusting me back into the monotonous regularity of adulthood. Another day, another government-issued dollar. I let out a groan of agitation as I fumbled gracelessly to silence the irksome sound. What day is it anyway? I sat up and scrubbed the harsh crust that had collected in my eyes during my slumber and willed the fog encompassing my brain to clear. My eyes scanned my discombobulated mess of a bedroom before fixating on the digital clock resting on my bedside table, tucked inconspicuously behind a week’s worth of unwashed dinner plates. Shit! It’s 1’oclock! In an instant, my general grogginess faded, and I was darting around my bedroom, sifting frantically through the various piles of laundry strewn across the carpet. My eyes eventually settled on a tan pantsuit peaking from beneath a heap of used bath towels that had begun to collect in the corner of my dwelling over the last week. This will have to do for now. I yanked the suit from beneath the mass and held it up to my nose before inhaling deeply. My face contorted slightly at the sour scent the attire emitted at having been suffocated by damp towels for God only knows how long. Nothing a little perfume won’t fix. I grabbed the nearest pair of black flats I could find amongst the clutter and hurried to my bathroom to make myself presentable.
I grimaced upon seeing the disheveled heap of coils resting in a disorderly fashion atop of my head. At least I can fix this. The prominent bags beneath my eyes, however, could not be helped. They were now a permanent fixture weighed down by the burden of her arrival. It had been a year now since She’d come and uprooted my entire life. She had managed to take away my loved ones, demolish the career I’d spent five years building, and chip away bit by bit at what little sanity I had remaining. But She won’t ruin this for me too. I winced as I hurriedly brushed my curls back into the tidiest updo I could fashion in such a short time. Once I deemed my tresses acceptable, I splashed cold water on my face, willing my worn expression to appear more alert and, with more effort than I was expecting to exert, squeezed my body into my chosen attire. I need to lay off the takeout. After dousing my clothing in the most potent perfume I could find, I took the time to scan my reflection once more. I let out a sigh of resignation at the sight before me and slipped on my homely black flats. This will have to do for now. I walked briskly back into my bedroom, pulling the comforter from my bed in pursuit of my cell phone and car keys. Got it. My eyes scanned back over to my digital clock once more. How is it already 1:45?
I jogged to my front door and swung it open unceremoniously, puncturing my drywall in the process. Damn it. I slammed the door behind me, making a mental note to examine the damage later today when I had more time. It’s only a thirty-minute drive. I’ll make it. With haste, I hopped into my sedan, fastened my seatbelt, and burned rubber as I sped off toward my destination. The high-pitched voice of a pop-singer blared from my car-speakers, grating at my already fragile nerves. I hate the radio. At the speed I was driving, the thirty-minute trip felt like twenty minutes, and I was suddenly pulling into a parking space in front of a sizeable publishing house littered with windows on every side. The building’s uniform, brick structure, and solid, brown coloring mimicked the earth and made it appear ancient and historic. I shut off my vehicle and glanced at the clock on my cell phone. It’s 2:20. I made it. I opened my glove compartment and sifted through its contents for a moment before I felt my stomach drop. I forgot to grab my mask. If I went back home now, I would never make it on time. Swallowing the lump that had newly formed in my throat, I decided to grab my wallet, lock my car doors, and go ahead and enter the building.
Here goes nothing. I pushed open two, large double doors and was immediately met with a cool gust of air that was permeated by the sweet, musky scent of new books and fresh coffee. Aside from the soft clattering of typing and the occasional whoosh of a printer, the room was mostly peaceful. I scanned the area until I saw a middle-aged woman seated behind a desk with her eyes fixated on the computer screen before her, her face partially concealed by a flimsy, black cloth. That must be the reception. I shuffled awkwardly in her direction becoming overwhelmingly more aware of the bareness of my face as the distance between us decreased.
“Excuse me?’ I rasped with a polite smile. The woman looked up at me and her eyes immediately locked onto my uncovered mouth. I wished more than ever at that moment that I had not forgotten my mask.
“My name is Nia Smith, and I have an interview today at 2:30,” I explained further.
“Just a moment, please, Ms. Smith,” she finally responded after an uncomfortable pause. The woman directed her attention back to her computer screen and began typing while I shuffled my weight between my two feet as I waited. I could see her mask sticking to the indention of her nostrils as she breathed in and out.
“Ms. Smith,” she called out to me finally breaking the silence. “Your interview was scheduled for March 6th, 2021 at 2:30 pm. The company has since interviewed other candidates and filled the position,” the woman told me in a tone that could have only been interpreted as snarky.
“I believe there has been some sort of misunderstanding,” I started as I removed my cell phone from my pocket to verify the date, “It is only 2:30 right now and I was sure tod—” I halted my sentence at seeing the date on my phone. That can’t be right. It’s April?
Even with half of the woman’s face concealed by her mask, it was impossible to miss the condemnatory look she was giving me. Or was it pity? It’s only been a week since I received the call for this interview. How could it be April? I racked my brain agitatedly searching for a possible explanation as to how I could have lost so much time outside of my awareness. How long had I been cooped up in my bedroom? Was this Her doing again?
“Ma’am?” the woman questioned me in annoyance, yanking me from my panicked trance. I stammered out an incoherent apology before scampering toward the double doors and exiting the building.
Suddenly, the bags beneath my eyes became heavier as I realized that She had stealthily managed to revoke my opportunity to start my life anew without Her dictating my every decision. Every repetitious day in my home I practically spent as a hermit. Eating and sleeping. Eating and sleeping. Eating and sleeping. Eating and sleeping. Today was supposed to be the moment that I re-wrote the plot of an unbearably predictable tale in which She’d chosen to name me the protagonist. In the span of only 365 days, She had managed to take away everything I worked for, cared for, or valued. Hell, she’d even gone as far as to revoke my outside privileges forcing me into unbearable solitude with no clear conclusion in sight. And now, here I am standing 365 days in, amongst the unemployed once again. Will this pandemic ever end?