The email was written and spell-checked, too. The cover letter was attached. You checked your watch and read through your resume one last time, not that you expected to catch anything that needed changing since you’d read it a hundred times and even read it backwards as a way to focus on each word to make absolutely sure that the spellings were correct. You took a second for a deep breath before clicking Send and being done with it. Then you rushed off to Mom’s birthday party.
It was in this pub on the main floor of your sister’s building, which was near where you lived, but still a bit of a hassle to get to and pretty shitty. But since your sister got pregnant, your world—the world of your whole family—was expected to orbit around her as though her barely bulging belly contained the fucking sun. Mom was in a bit of a mood because there’d been traffic getting in and the drive had taken the whole hour she’d “budgeted” for it.
Everyone except your sister ordered drinks. Mom’s boyfriend asked how the job search was going. First you explained how everybody your age was struggling to find work, not just in your field, and how boomers were holding on to jobs for what? For fear of retiring, maybe? But he didn’t bite the bait. Neither did Mom. So you told them how every day you’d been checking these different websites and if you saw someone was hiring, how you researched them to make sure that they were the type of people, the type of company, you would want to work for.
“There’s a cool coffee shop on the corner that’s hiring,” your sister said.
Mom could see how pissed you were at that, but she also knew how dire things were getting so she said, “Well, maybe until you get something that is a little more, well, more what you are looking for.”
“I sent an application off today.”
Their applause and cheers were genuine and loud. People at the other tables in the pub turned their heads and some even smiled at you offering nodding, non-specific congratulations.
You explained that applications had been due—you looked at your watch—fifteen minutes ago, but that you’d sent yours off before you left and you knew that there would be, you guessed, fifty people applying for the job, but that it was just perfect for you and that it was directly related to your Master’s research, and that you had a really good feeling.
“You keep saying sent off,” Mom’s boyfriend said.
“Emailed,” you explained.
“Hunh. Sure,” he said.
“What?” you asked.
“I just— Part of applying for jobs, for us boomers anyway, was going in and introducing yourself and, well, your aura, your presence, your,” his hands circled the air around his head, “your you.”
You didn’t respond because you were thinking about the other day when you were waiting to pay for your sushi and a white girl, no doubt prompted by her parents, walked into the restaurant, staffed exclusively by Koreans, and handed her resume to the girl working the cash—a girl who spoke few words of English—and explained that she loved sushi and that she lived in the neighbourhood and that she would love to work there. When the applicant left, the staff started speaking Korean to each other. The girl who’d been handed the resume held it up so that whoever knew what to do with it could just take it, please.
“Times have changed,” Mom said.
“I don’t know,” your sister said. “With teaching it’s different.”
You excused yourself and went to the bathroom. You sat in one of the stalls and waited for your email app to load an update. You only had one of five dots of LTE service and once the update had loaded you wondered if it had actually loaded or if the service was too light. No response from your potential employer. You tapped on the “Sent Mail” folder. You tapped on the “Job Application re: Job # 398578” email, the paperclip denoting “Attachment” there at the far right, reassuring you all was well. You opened the email up anyway and, Holy shit, no way, you hit refresh because you couldn’t believe it, It must be the one of five dots of LTE service, or some shit, shit, shit because only your cover letter is attached and now the fucking Sent Mail won’t refresh and, oh, come on, come on, come on, it’s none of five dots service, no matter how hard you shake the phone and it’s almost one p.m. and all the RESUMES were due at noon so you are fucked and just some loser sitting there in some frat-boy-magnet, “Irish” pub, on a toilet, bare-assed just to give the illusion that you are using the toilet for something other than checking on a job application that you failed hard at, epically hard.
The rest of the meal moved at underwater pace and you wished you could just fast forward past all of the asinine conversation about your sister’s fetus and the position of the placenta because you had a real life and death situation on your hands. They had no idea how few jobs were even out there that remotely interested you.
Wait, probably no one had even opened your email yet, right? It was the weekend, right?
After you sang Happy Birthday to Mom, you went back to the bathroom and found an article about “How to Unsend an Email With Gmail” and you had, apparently, five seconds unless you changed some setting, which you couldn’t do retroactively, of course. You knew your friend Pat was into computers, good with computers, but you wanted somebody on the level of that guy with the Guinea pig from House of Cards who could unlock the internet, reach into the computer of your potential future employer and gently attach your resume to that email.
Mom and her boyfriend offered you a lift, but you declined. On your walk home you decided that you were just going to have to call on Monday. Then you decided that you would call today and leave a message.
You stood outside your building and dialed. “Hi there,” you said. You told the answering machine your name. “I just emailed you an application, but I forgot to attach the resume, which I had done for the deadline, which I actually had done before the deadline, but I proofread and made improvements to until the last possible minute because I know a resume’s got to be perfect, and this one was, believe me. Anyway,” you said to give yourself time to think. You probably should have scripted this, you realized. Then you had a thought, “I’m going to send it right now. I’ll resend everything else. And I know it’s late, but please consider it still. Please. Thanks.”
You felt like you might pass out in the claustrophobic elevator.
You walked down the hall and noticed that the door to your apartment was open a crack. Not only had you forgotten to lock the door, you hadn’t even closed it properly. What a total fuck up you were proving to be. Honestly.
Obviously, someone had broken in and what did you have to steal but your laptop, right? No, no, there it was, on your desk, right where you left it. You closed the blinds against the sun and turned on your computer. While it booted up, you looked around at your other stuff—your French press on the coffee table, your TV, your PS3, your guitar safe under a thick layer of dust, the new Sleater-Kinney on the turntable, your jar of nickels and your jar of dimes. Nothing out of place.
You didn’t proofread your resume before you sent it this time, but just to make sure that you had actually attached them you did check both attachments by selecting “Open in Browser”. The formatting was funny, but you hit Send in spite of yourself.
Mom called later and asked if everything was OK with you. “I’m fine,” you told her because you didn’t want to talk about it and because you were fine, right then anyway.
Toronto, June 2015
Emoji sequence: Gaelen Pierce
Story: Lee Sheppard