Living on Benefits
One morning a couple of weeks ago my phone woke me up. It was a collection agent informing me that last month’s payment had not gone through. Obviously, like any curious person, he wanted to know why.
“Because there’s no money in the account. I’m unemployed.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. How long has that been the case?”
“Ahh, about three months.”
“Well what we can do Jarred, is reduce the payment size, on a temporary basis, until you get yourself sorted. What amount would be suitable for you?”
“Hah, oh well we can’t do –“
I hung up. The time was 9:13. I created a contact for that number called “Cunts” and went back to sleep. They’ve been calling me every few days and sending emails less occasionally. Two days later they called me from a different number and I answered because I hoped it was a potential job. That was just an automated message from the collectors, so I created a contact for that number titled “More Cunts”. They have old bank info and the wrong address. I think I’ll be fine. Don’t worry, they’re calling for, basically, a scam of a company because I made a dumb decision about six months ago, which has not paid off in any way. So fuck ‘em. The one comfort of being unemployed is being able to sleep, especially when it’s early, and cold. I really don’t like being woken up anyway – that’s when the thoughts and fears come back.
I’ve been unemployed for more than three months if I need to be honest. The last job was sales-based and I worked there for two months, but essentially made no money. My last real job was nine months ago, in Australia where my family is, and I left it to move back to the UK for artistic reasons. Not only that, but I moved to London with no girlfriend, or really any friends or family to speak of, and very little money to my name. That means I chose this shitty life, and it’s a bitch to deal with that, but I’m a good looking white guy, so I deserve a bit of “suffering” to try and even the scales I guess.
Getting benefits is a comfort. It is encouragement, I think – to stay alive, rest up, and prepare for when you need to go out and really try to battle the elements. But it isn’t enough, not to even cover my rent. As close to the edge of poverty as I’m getting though, I still don’t want to get up early almost every day, amd do something ridiculous just for money. Echoes of my father stay with me. I hear him boasting as he often did, drunkenly, about having “always been able to make money”, but it always felt like a justification that he was repeating for himself. Maybe he actually felt that he wasted his life? I don’t know, but I do love him. I may not be happy now, but I’m numb, and doing anything which isn’t exciting to me, feels like playing with fire; I know it’ll just be a matter of time before I’m burning with depression again.
How am I now? Christ, I wrote that down somewhere, and it was good. Not that I’m good, I couldn’t say about that. Every day I make breakfast impatiently though I have nowhere to be. Eating the four pieces of toast or cereal, depending on my mood, takes around five minutes, but I sit with the digestion and coffee for up to an hour. I try to watch documentaries or alternative news channels like RT on YouTube. I think about sex because the anchor Abby Martin is so smart and sexy. I know she uses her sex appeal to boost the ratings. I’m grateful, but I can’t masturbate at the start of my day; I’ll get sleepy and waste another hour.
I live with a couple. We have a small 2-bedroom flat in a council block in Hoxton. The walls are thin and the rent could be cheaper, but we only claim one person lives here to save on tax. I like the area and it doesn’t seem unsafe to me, but I don’t hang around the parks or streets, so I wouldn’t know much about that. I go to bars some nights with the few friends I have, and we drink cheaply from the Off Licence while smoking rollies outside. I mooch drinks where I can, and sometimes get drugs too. The good kind, just pot, pills or gak. Girls who like me often like drugs, and have scars, but I like that they need me, however briefly. I look into shop windows or cafes. I tend to look at everyone with a judging eye. I wonder how they got the job, and if I can, or could, do what they do. They don’t even have to be doing their job, just walking around the world in my line of sight. Sometimes, when I’m impressed or inspired, everyone seems better at everything than me, and when they don’t, I don’t trust my judgement.
When I look at council workers wincing in the wind, dragging tired limbs that seem numbed by cold and whatever else they have to battle, I see dignity at least. When I go to jobcentre I feel no overwhelming desperation there, but I feel like a fraud. I check facebook on my iphone while a woman in her late 30s has to come in to use the computers for her internet. But I still need the help. I look online at different recruitment or jobseeking websites. I fill out the same profile information of varying degrees and gradually build the lies and half-truths to make things better. What felt strong and persuasive a week ago, now reminds me of failure, or at best, seems foolish.
I’ve had to go for more than a few sales jobs every time I’m unemployed, because I didn’t go to university, and with my interest in doing comedy, I can’t work bars or night-work without giving up the gigs. One to watch out for is the charity subscriptions. There’s no dignity there: they advertise with euphemisms like “Events Coordinator”, and you are not hired by the charity itself. The offices are small and rented cheap. They call the job a “position”, and reinforce the need for determined, hard workers who want to build a career. This kind of talk is to intimidate you by putting the idea in your head that the job is in demand, and you need to want it, so you convince yourself you do want it, but the truth is, no one wants it. You will be going door to door, begging people for their bank details on the supposed behalf of a charity. I am too prideful and too assured of my inevitable and bitter failure in that “job” to ever do it.
In all of this, one thing is certain: whenever I do get up, it is probably better to not just jerk off, and then think about the absurdity of life, or where I could have done better in my youth until the smell hits me and I have to clean up and look for a fucking absurd and probably useless job. I’m just not exactly sure what the better thing to do is.