She didn’t know I was sobbing. My hands were shaking: anxiety. I misspelled every other word. She said she didn’t mind. She reads my writing. We’ve been chatting on and off for months. I’ve never seen her face. I only know her avi. That’s Twitter speak. An avi is the little picture that represents you in the stream. Stream: that’s more Twitter speak. They say I’m a Twitter star—whatever that means. My friend, the female avi, just popped up in my gmail chat—“I am so proud of you,” she wrote, but I didn’t know why. So, I asked her. She spoke in riddles—energy and divine spirit and true to soul. I told her my father beat the God out of me—childhood. She said, “that’s fine.” She loves me just the way I am—the scared little boy who became a poet. “Because Charlie,” she wrote, I assumed emphatically, “that’s what you are!”
The State of New Jersey denied her unemployment claim because she “voluntarily” left her old job to accept a better paying job that ultimately laid her off. It’s true. She left her job of three years to start a new job, a better salary. We had a celebration when they hired her. Finally, we were getting ahead. Finally!
But then, after two months of mule labor—bringing work home, working weekends, work, work, work—her new employers decided they just couldn’t afford her salary, and laid her off.
They sent her home early on a Friday—“Great work this week!”—emailed her on Saturday—“We overestimated our hiring budget. Don’t come in on Monday. Sorry.”
After reading the email, she looked at me with tearful eyes, and asked: “What did I do wrong?” She was almost pleading for an answer. But before I could respond, she just clutched her chest, almost hysterical now, almost hyperventilating, and wept: “Oh god! Oh God! We have no income now!! What are we going to do, Charlie?! What are we going to do?!
“Don’t worry, baby,” I said, soothing her as best I could, “we’ll be ok, at least you can collect unemployment.”