I lay star-shaped on my bed as my large fluffy long haired grey princess lays next to me panting. The house is about 100 degrees and humid. She has been laying next to me for the past few days since my health declined. I had a fever last Friday that lasted until last Sunday. I have been feeling alternatively ill and not so ill all week. My little princess has been beside me the entire time.
What hasn’t been in my home though is loud noises, arguments, little feet running, or small voices asking for help. The nest is empty and the quiet carves a hole into my heart. I have just one teenage boy that almost silently moves through the day and seems nearly totally independent of me. He wakes perfectly at 9 am and goes to bed perfectly at 9 pm. He does his chores and school work often without prompting. It feels like I don’t need to exist anymore.
I roll over on my side towards my grey princess and try to sleep although the sun is up and the heat is oppressive. My stomach lurches and I feel its contents threaten to come back up before they settle down again. I pet my princess and tell her what a good girl she is. I know I won’t get any sleep, so I get up and mosey into the front room to check on what work is available today on the computer. My head swims and the room spins, but I pound down a coffee and chase it with ibuprofen. Might as well be useful for someone. If I can’t be useful to my family, maybe I can be useful for my work.
I check Skype and see that the hours have been reduced today and they are limiting how many operators can work.
“Damn,” I curse out loud as Miss Princess looks up at me confused. She sits next to my office chair cleaning herself and preening.
My teenage boy is in his room with earbuds stuffed into his ears watching funny cat videos on YouTube. He’s been homeschooled his entire life. He didn’t learn to read until late last year because his eye doctor whom he saw every year since four years of age didn’t know he was a low-sight individual. I mentally kick myself for not being better than a board-certified optometrist and missing the fact that my kid was almost blind. It’s still too quiet.
I raised six children on an income that most people would have died trying to survive off of and that the WHO considered deep poverty. Life got better eventually, but the loudness of those days remains stuck in my head. There was always some excitement happening. One of the sisters found a frog or a lizard, or perhaps kittens were born, or the girls fought over whose dress it was…always some sort of excitement. Now the loudest noise is the fan buzzing next to me as I visibly melt into my chair waiting for a spot to work online from home.
I get the thumbs up and log into work. For the next hour and a half, I call people at their homes and ask them questions they have no interest in answering. About half of the calls are answered by an answering machine. The remaining callers answered and hung on or cuss me out as they slam the phone down. I giggle a little as a seventy-five-year-old man informs me he will do what the hell he wants when I ask if he will vote this November. I tell him to have a lovely day with a smile on my face and a cheery voice. His voice softens and he says, “You too, sweetheart.” The only humane interaction all day at this point.
The end-of-shift message pops up and I have to log off. That’s it for job one today. My stomach still feels queasy, but I am also slightly hungry. I saunter into the kitchen for some more coffee and back to my desk. I look at what prospects job number two might have today. I can log in and take calls, but oh I see the callers they have. I see a few familiar names, Dee the elderly woman that just loves to chat all day long about this mysterious underworld figure named Michael. I see also that Ester wants to chat today, probably about her ex and when he will contact her again. The second job I work is as a psychic phone operator. I use tarot cards and other divination techniques as requested by my clients. I prefer my clients on this job better, but sometimes it takes a toll like when they commit suicide on the line.
I log into job number two for the day and put a good solid three hours in before logging out. I didn’t talk to nearly as many people as usual. I make a mental note of the fact that my pay per hour is declining on this job due to a lack of clients. During the last recession, I worked 18-hour days to make approximately a dollar an hour. I was bringing home about $140 a week, but had to be logged in from 7 am until midnight most nights to achieve that. I have already decided I will not be doing that.
At my feet, the princess is curled into a perfect fluffy circle, with her nose covered by her very fluffy tail. She has been so patient. She looks up at me lazily, half awake and half asleep, assessing what I will do. I listen to the fan buzz as the room finally begins to cool with the nighttime. There are no requests for movie time. I have no one asking for popcorn. No one asks for dinner or even help to tie their shoe. The memories of the past twenty years wash over me in an instant and I can see my second daughter bringing me my purse so we can go out. I can see little Lucy sitting on the corner of the couch drawing and licking her fingers with her big glasses on her oh-so-small face. I can see my eldest son goofing around with my youngest daughter. I can even see my youngest child at about five or six years old trying to climb the bookcase. I’m reminded once again that I am useless. No such people exist in my life anymore.
Two other humans inhabit this house, but I can spend days never seeing them or hearing from them. I speak to strangers that curse me or alternatively praise me, but that have never seen me. The ones I love the most can’t be bothered to say hello most mornings. It’s an empty existence. I am reminded to take my daily medicine by an alarm before logging into YouTube myself to watch some videos before I go to sleep. Except I don’t sleep…I’m awake with a lump in my throat watching the ghosts of my motherhood haunt me from the living room corner. The world is much too silent.