She was right there at the top of a modern building full of cracked walls and bankruptcy stories. Maria’s eyes were capturing with disbelief how every single part of the city seemed to move in slow motion, at that pace, which happens to be hers as well, typical of a society under the failed state of Shock.
Her eyes followed two overdressed men entering the kitsch International Style structure built three years ago for a Cable TV and Internet Service company. “They must be looking for a job at the top of the ladder but they will only hear the amazing offer of a telemarketer position for 7.25 the hour”, thought Maria while getting closer to the edge.
Earlier this morning she found a detailed, residential, foreclosure notification in the mailbox. She had a week to leave the premises of her twelve year dream house in one of the most expensive suburbs in San Juan, if a 150,000.00 payment wasn’t made by Friday.
Come Monday, she had a mere 15,000 bank account balance. Half or more of which was already compromised to pay for Charlie’s tuition costs at Penn State and Namibia’s new BMW payment leaving her with about 3,000.00, give or take a few.
She was truly fucked.
However, it’s not like Maria didn’t know about it, she’s been dismissing the Debt Collectors calls for months now. But there’s a particular feeling when you open an envelope and read those final statements. In that moment issues get enlarged, heavier, dementia kicks in and the space we inhabit gets impregnated of that repulsive, ink fragrance blended with “right out of the box” blank paper.
She was now obliged to feel the true essence of shit getting real.
The matter at hand is she didn’t wanted to realize that poverty, or an uncommon type of Caribbean poverty, was knocking at her ten thousand dollar, illegal, redwood door. And Maria’s attitude towards the issue was understandable; no one likes to go down in the class staircase. Indeed we, as humans, find a better place in stagnation as a survival program; reality is never a choice in this case but only a last resort.
Therefore to avoid is the verb that feeds her fearful lifestyle, but Maria is fed up with fear. She needs to come off her high trip and make amends or simply jump and start from scratch a different journey, somewhere else, maybe with another identity and body; right now, anything seems to work.
“But death is so definitive”, says her inner voice. She gets curious about suicide statistics and seeks for her cellphone.
“Poverty is confusing and relative for single moms”, she reads in an online newspaper headline on her IPhone. At the end Maria tries to connect with the city again but all she can get is a stream of hot air that melts down the heavy makeup that gives her 49 year old body, a 25 year old look.
A decision must be made: either jump or go back to the office and pay her respects to the Adderall bottle hidden in one of the locked drawers. Those uppers keep her thin and concentrated on the numbers she has to process for a nameless department in order to get paid and end up in this horrible mess.
Maria is almost there when she finds a guy, in a roof next to hers, in his late 40’s as well, looking her right in the eyes, like saying: “Yes, jump bitch. You messed it up, so end it now”. At the same time his shinny and buddhist like skull and the calmness that comes from his blinks tells her something else. “Don’t do it. Stay with us. You are highly valuable to the system”.
She starts thinking about the twins, they don’t deserve this. They have a whole future ahead to experiment with happiness and godly blessings. Besides, they are next in command; they will do something bigger and better for the Martinez last name. Therefore poverty must never stain again the hard working family name, that’s only accepted in the 1930’s grandma tales, not theirs.
Maria hears a body hit the ground. Screams follow up. It’s the 5th victim this month, but it’s ok.
She takes the elevator thinking of her 401k savings and the loan that will mitigate her economic issues at least for today.
Written by C.F.E.
Photograph by Kiara Canderlario