This is a work of fiction. All characters in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
I have a small board just beside my bed on which I fix interesting short phrases or words that I cut out from old magazines and newspapers which are thrown away at the embassy where I occasionally work as a substitute tea lady. The receptionist there, who knows how much I love to read the old magazines and newspapers which they throw away, keeps them for me and whenever I pass by, she hands me the piles.
When I get home, I usually go through the pile, cutting out interesting words and phrases which I stick on the small board beside my bed. On weekends, because I usually have nothing to do to fill my time, I pick two or three words or a phrase from the board and write anything that comes to my mind related to the words or phrase.
Today, I picked the words “Major” and “impact”. Initially I was excited because the words seemed to form an excellent combination, and I thought I’d have a lot to write about, but each time my fingers touched the keyboard of my laptop, an uneasy feeling evolved me. Major impact? Really? How can a person in my position have anything at all to write about major impact?
I hesitate and look around uneasily.
I’m seated on a comfortable bench, in the most beautiful garden in the heart of the most beautiful part of town, surrounded by a striking scenery consisting of a variety of flowers, trees, birds, decorated benches and very expensive restaurants. The huge garden overlooks the sea and from the bench I am seated on, I can feel the fresh breeze from the ocean blowing against my bare skin.
Mixed with the fresh sea air is the delicious smell of cooked, fried and roasted seafood from the restaurants nearby. To my left is an expensive Portuguese restaurant which specializes in making sea foods and in front of it is an ice cream parlour full of screaming, happy rich kids accompanied by their respective nannies. Next to the Portuguese restaurant is an upscale Indian restaurant. To my right is another upscale restaurant, followed by a pizza parlour and strangely enough, next to it is a nail salon.
I close my eyes in frustration as I take in the delicious mixture of aromas loitering in the air. Eating in any of these restaurants is but a dream for me. I can barely afford the monthly rent of the tiny room I share with three other girls I hardly know, which is way less than most of the foods on the menus of these restaurants.
I come to this garden every day to escape the smell of poverty that permanently lingers in the air of the building I live in and surrounding areas. My landlord constantly reminds me that I got the best spot in the room, a bed near a window – but that would have been a plus if the window were not overlooking a huge mountain of rubbish. Even then, the sight of the rubbish is the smaller part of the problem; the main problem is the unbearable stench that comes with the wind which blows from that direction. I have to keep the window permanently shut to prevent the stench of rotten and rotting garbage from coming into the room and the curtains shut because I just can’t stand the sight of that ever growing pile. Opening the door on the opposite end of the room doesn’t help either, because the smell from the communal toilet just down the corridor kills me every time I open the door. So basically my roomies and I just keep everything shut to prevent the strong smells from outside from getting into the room.
That room is just where I sleep at night. During the day, I move around the city carrying a bunch of printed CVs and certificates on my backpack, and move from company to company distributing these. At the end of the day, I drop by the public library to read newspapers, to see if there are any vacancies advertised so I can leave my CVs at the respective companies the next day. On days when I can’t find any vacancies in the newspapers, I go through the yellow pages and jot down the names and addresses of twenty companies to visit the next day.
Occasionally, I get freelance jobs like cleaning, washing windows and replacing the tea lady at a certain embassy whenever she is absent. However these jobs come occasionally and the income I earn from these jobs usually goes towards reducing the huge debt I owe to my landlord due to months of non-payment.
On weekends, most companies are closed and I usually have nowhere to distribute my CVs. Since I can’t stand to be in that room for even a second during daytime, I escape to this garden and spend most of the day typing away on my laptop – which was donated to me by one of the managers at the embassy when she discovered that I had a university degree. She told me that she was shocked that a person with a university degree was serving tea but I assured her that it was common for graduates do these kinds of work due to the high rate of unemployment. She said she hoped that the laptop would help me to find a stable job soon.
I adore my laptop, not because it saves me the hassle of having to go to the public library and line up to use the only computer available there, with a time limit of thirty minutes per day for each person, but because it has opened the world to me.
Okay, now I have to confess. While it is true that I go to that beautiful garden every day and put myself through the torture of watching rich people dine in upscale restaurants I cannot afford to escape the poverty of my living environment, it is not the main reason why I hang around that place so much. The main reason I spend every free second of my time in that garden is because it is the only place where I get free wireless internet.
I confess I am consumed with guilt because the owners probably don’t know that I tap into their wireless networks to download hundreds of documents, email CVs and watch free movies online. Most of the buildings in that area seem to have wireless internet services and just by being nearby I can log in and have free access to the internet. How do I get the passwords? I’d rather not say!
Perhaps that is the main reason why the words I picked today make me so uneasy.
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