Signs of Life: affluence

nightmare copy

“I used to get off the train here.”  She nodded her head towards the platform. She was sitting on one of the folding chairs that were fixed to the side of the train wagon. She had asked to sit down, because she said she was  wobbly in the morning. I could imagine she was as she was a very tall and slender girl walking on heels that made her even frailer. Her ankles seemed almost too thin to handle the stress her body put on them. .

“Oh.. not anymore? It did not go well?” Her companion said. She was a much smaller and more broader girl in build. She had long black hair that fell over her shoulders, glasses with a thick frame and a pink knitted cap. She was standing and holding to a pole to keep her steady against the movement of the train.

“I did finish the internship, but I was glad to leave.. it wasn’t a fun job.”

“Because of the patients?”

“More the work environment. I didn’t get any proper guidance. The school just told me to go there and I had to join in without any proper supervision or introduction. They were too busy because they were too short on people. “

“Must have been hard then.”

“It was, but mostly because they seldom told me what to expect. I think they couldn’t even because anything could happen at any time of the day. No day is the same in psychiatric healthcare…”

“I bet.”

“..Some could be nice at one moment and cruel the next. Depressive silent at one time and screaming their heads off at another. ”

“It is probably much easier where I work.. Elderly people are much easier to handle.”

“Yeah, unless they are demented. They can be as unpredictable as those inmates of the psychiatric hospital. Even to each other. There was once this fight we had to intervene. One wanted to escape all the time and one day she was screaming from a window. One of the others came and hit her. They started to fight. Slapping and scratching each other. A catfight.. “ She laughed.

“Sad though. Did nobody intervene?”

“We did, but it took some time before we knew what was going on because we just don’t have enough people to do all the work. Like we don’t even have time to help them shower or bathe every day.. Some even get angry at that. Calling us names. Hitting us.”

“Oh my.”

“Yeah, awful. I wish it was otherwise.”

“It is the same with us.. not enough people to get everything done. Like they fired a lot of the kitchen staff to save costs. Now people get basic meals..Very basic.” She seemed to shuddered at the thought.

“It is the same where I work now. I work with homeless people. There is just enough money for a basic meal. We focus on keeping the rooms clean, but they need new paint and a lot needs to be fixed or replaced. The television broke down the other week, so we invent games or other activities for them to do so they can socialize a bit.”

“You’ll have to do whatever you can do.”

The tall girl nodded.

“So any idea where you are going to work when you finished school?”

“I think I’ll try working with mentally disabled people. They can be selfish and nasty, but they are also very sweet at the time and funny. And I seem to get along with them well. And what about you?”

“I haven’t yet decided for myself. There is a need everywhere, but never enough money. ”

For some time they were silent. The movement of the train shaking us about.  Everyone retreated into their own shells, thinking their own thoughts or listening to their own music with their private headsets in the morning train that would transfer them from the reality of home to the reality of work or school.

“I wonder if there has been a time when it was different.” I wanted to remark.

Was there a time when there were enough people and there was enough money for everyone. I couldn’t recall such a time and I was twice their age.  It is strange considering we have now seven billion people on this planet and this is probably the most affluent period in the history of the world. Yet it seems that after the eighties everything went downhill?

Perhaps I should ask my mother?

She would need that help soon enough.

Signs of life: legacy

When my father died from a sudden brain bleeding I had my brother sign a paper together with me that rejected his inheritance.My brother was already diagnosed as a schizoid, so I had to tell him what to do. Not that he didn’t understand, but I had to tell him these things regardless for whether  he knew what was going on: he didn’t understand the consequences. .

Rejecting my fathers inheritance was no surprise to me, for I had already seen this one coming. The real surprise would be next year, when the tax office send me a letter telling me that I owed them taxes over sixty thousand. The reason for us to reject my father’s legacy was tied in with taxes however. Let me tell the tale.

“My father told me to get five thousand dollars as he was promised. ”

The young man behind the counter, I think he must be in his thirties, looked down on me. His face was set in a disapproving look. He was sitting next to two other people who sat behind the same grey counter handing out money the same way they were doing to me. The office was a shed that looked like a large sea container that was painted white overall on the inside and the outside, but was accentuated with grey at various points to break the monotony of white. Most of the paint had worn through.

I could have sworn he was about to spit, but he did not do so. Instead his hands disappeared under the counter and when they returned they placed an envelope on the counter. He took out a stack of bills and started to count them slowly. “One, two, three, four, five…”

All the while he did not look at the bills but at me. He ended at twenty-five.

“Twenty-five times hundred. That makes twenty-five hundred dollars. Twenty-five hundred, son. That is what is in this envelope.”

“My father said it was going to be five thousand. He said we need it for the holidays. They said they would pay that, because they owed him much more.”

He looked down on me for a long time. Then started to recount the stack ending at twenty five again. “Twenty-five hundred. That is what is in the envelope. That is all you get for now. He gets more in a few weeks.”

He handed the envelope to me, but just before I could take it, he snatched it away, “Count the amount and then sign here.” He pushed a paper forward. I had to count the money and then sign a paper.

A boy of fourteen.

I walked away, feeling his disdainful eyes following me.

My father was outside in the car. I told him the news. He did not say anything, instead stepped out of the car and walked into th eoffice. There was a lot of shouting as my father yelled at the guy behind the counter.. Eventually he left the office again. They had given him an additional five hundred dollars.

Without much words the incident was pushed aside into oblivion and we went on holiday, with two thousand less than was promised, but somehow it was enough.

“They never paid the full amount.” My mother told me later on.,

“It was all ‘black’ money. Unlisted money. To evade taxes. It was never in the books so there was never any proof what  they owed to anyone. It was how they conduct business. You can’t get any work, unless you do accept to work like that. Then they don’t pay you what they owe you. So they eventually owed my father tens of thousands of dollars, but then never paid the full amount.”  I got it. Like a drug. They gave you just enough to keep going, but never the full amount, because they knew you had no proof whatsoever. Eventually they owed you tens of thousands of money, perhaps hundred thousands as they never paid you the full amount. Always with the promise you get it next time, so you keep on going and the more they owe you the least likely you are going to stop.

“And then the taxmen came. They said: based on what you made previously or on you profile you ought to pay us this kind of money, but you never paid the taxes you owe us. And that times so many years.. It was a considerable amount. A huge amount.”

“Which you didn’t have as you never got it in full in the first place and what was spent was gone.”

“Then they declared you father bankrupt and there was this taxes due punishment for years hanging over his head..”

“Once you start to make money again, you have to pay taxes. And that is why we reject his legacy,” I said, “because any taxes my father has to pay has to be paid by his children after his death. That is how the taxes work. The sins of our fathers…”

And I signed the papers and had my brother sign them too. We both rejected his legacy, because there was nothing he had left us but a huge debt after his sudden death at fifty-three.