Sometimes I forget I started writing something and then find it hidden among hundreds of other files on my desktop. Here's something, not finished, that I started about my experiences of being unemployed...
In those days, when I became numbers, the paint peeling off the wall at the back of the kitchen became a metaphor for the pain of sitting in coffee shops and listening to the sound of other people laughing — Presbyterian smiles sipping their skinny latte’s. The pain of watching the vibrating, deep cut jowls of pasty faced Ulster men talking loud; mouths full of bacon and sausage —important matters of business. I decide to stay at home instead, searching the internet for jobs. When I had a job I had a fantasy of not having a job and having time to do other things. Now I don't have a job and have fantasies of having a job and stand in the kitchen resting my forehead on the glass of the patio door watching pigeons. A small elliptical sweat stain marks the spot — and the paint peeling off the wall.
We tried to fix the wall, but the wall persisted, and so giving up left it to give up its paint, and every morning — in what I imagined was a kind of cruel penance for my circumstances — in pyjamas and slippers, swept up the small flakes of ‘Skimming Stone White’ into a pile and put them in a jar on the window cill to be looked at, and thought to myself about, every time an email arrived containing the words ‘unfortunately’; ‘unsuccessful’; ‘unable’; ’unqualified’, and on signing day being number ‘620.
With my head resting on the glass I consider the subtle nuances in the differences between the possible answers for the online, multiple choice, screening process for the night shift job at the local supermarket. I fail to achieve the correct score. A computer algorithm deems me unsuccessfulfor interview and, while sweeping up flakes of paint, I experience the paradox of simultaneously being able both to laugh and cry at the same time.
I change out of my yellow, box fresh, Nike air trainers into my old and well worn gardening shoes. I am embarrassed; because at half past one, I will become, for as-long-as-it-takes to say “yes I have been following my three steps” and sign the A5 sized card, a number among numbers; waiting for the automated voice to summons me to my selected booth. I am a number. I am a number among numbers I feel the need to clarify that they were — and let me be very clear — a ‘birthday present’.
I sit, and wait, and imagine my future as the man who sits in the park at the back of my house, shouting anticapitalist conspiracy theories at the pigeons; watching as through revolving doors and clouds of vape others appear. Like a dystopian remake of Stars in Your Eyes; “tonight Mathew I’m going to be a number on a ticket.” I’m going to be pigeon man. I’m going to be resting my head on the patio door. I’m going to be the paint flake sweeper.