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The blue-grey headache is starting to impose itself upon me again. Painkillers will only make me drowsier, but I’m still tempted. In front of me, on the screen, is yet another of these personality questionnaires. What happened to the good old days, where you sent in a CV and if they liked it, they called you for an interview? Now you type your details, over and over again, into little boxes. If you’re lucky, the autofill facility does some of the work for you.
Pick an option: A, B, C or D. One of them tells us you might have the right attitude for this organization. The rest direct you to the online rejection basket. It’s almost as if I’m part of some sadistic game, as if I’m trying to win my life back with chance. The possibility of success is so tiny, I can’t even see it. I’m filling out details for the sake of filling out details, almost like I’m back at work.
Of course, the big difference is that I was paid to work. It was almost as mundane as this, but at least I didn’t feel like a failure. I was supporting my family. Now, my wife picks up all the extra hours she can so we don’t have to sell the house, but we’ve had to sell the car. We didn’t have a holiday this year. “It could be worse,” Louise says to me. She says she doesn’t care, but there’s a darkness under her eyes and a sag to her smile that wasn’t there before I was made redundant.
She never yelled, or cried. She’s never said a word about missing the restaurant trips we used to take, or the holiday we had to skip. She helped me put the car up for sale. Her face is always calm and impassive when we’ve discussed our financial issues. She never complains about her extra hours, but before we hit this mess, she used to talk about how much she hated her job, and I know she’s tired.
I want to shake her and ask her how she really feels. I want her to shout at me, tell me how much I’ve let her down. I want to get down on my knees and cry, and tell her how sorry I am that this has happened. I love you, I would say, and I swear to you, I am doing my best to get things back to the way they were. I feel that her unwavering support swings the balance even closer to the tipping point, and I know she deserves better.
I try to focus on the screen, but after a couple of minutes, I absent-mindedly pick up the library book I borrowed. Its scenes remind me of things that happened in my old office, but oddly, it still acts as an escape from this reality, like all the books I read. I regretfully place the book back on my desk. I don’t have time to waste browsing someone else’s imagination.