1. a charlatan or quack.
  2. a person who sells quack medicines, as from a platform in public places, attracting and influencing an audience by tricks, storytelling, etc.
  3. to act or operate as a mountebank.

The leather on my therapist’s couch secretly hates me. It squeaks every time I move. I often suspect that my therapist secretly hates me as well, and that’s why she always directs me to the couch as my punishment. Once, I broke down in a fit of tears and the couch sang along, squeaking with every trimmer of my body. I felt like it was mocking me, telling me to get over a childhood with an oppressive standard of perfection. And that made sense because I am an adult after all…well, I at least have the body of an adult.

Today, my therapist doesn’t want to focus on my childhood. Ten minutes into my weekly session and she’s already rattling off questions about the not-so-great here and now.

“Tell me, how are things going this week, Abigail?”

“Fine… kind of.. okay… just regular…”

“Do you feel you’re progressing?”

“No.” I feel like an upset 2 year old right now.

“Have you made any plans to move out of your parents’ loft?”

I grunt my response.

At this point, I’m just glad she hasn’t touched on the current bane of my existence, the daily job hunt.

“And, how is the job hunt going, Abigail?”

I try to ignore the urge to roll my eyes, but by now the word “job” seems to cause an involuntary response of annoyance and agitation.

Except for a heavy irritated sigh, I am wordless. As I adjust my weight, the couch squeaks my response for me. At this point, it seems nonsensical to even talk about how things are going.

“Well…the other day I silently thanked God that I didn’t do drugs or drink, because I’d probably feel tempted to fill my orange juice carafe with bourbon and grab a bottle of pills to help me get through the job application process.”

Dr. Ferguson is quiet, looking at me, expecting more. I don’t know what to say.

After 15 months of applying for a job in my field and only receiving a few phone interviews I had moved through the first stage of grief rather quickly, but I now find myself stuck in anger.  It’s a topic I rarely talk about during our Tuesday meetings. I don’t want to tell her that every unanswered application makes me feel like a mountebank, trying to prove my worth. I open my mouth, feeling something bubble upward, but unsure of what will come out.

“Jobs now are ridiculous! You’ve got to have two years of administrative experience to work for someone who’s been in business for all of five days. You’ve got to have job experience to get the entry level job.

“Oh, and God forbid you actually have more than 10 years of experience and a Master’s degree, because then you’re overqualified and you can’t get that job that is below your pay grade, but you need to repay the money you spent on your master’s and the bills that you racked up while looking for your next job, so that you’re now at the point of being willingly dishonest just to get the job in which you know people are going to yell at you, mistreat you, belittle you, and act condescending with their second-grade vocabulary, because they assume you know less than they do all because you humbled yourself and took a position to pay the bills that you’d be absolutely fine with if you didn’t have to work with the cruel and ignorant public–”

I whence at my words.

“Sorry… that’s my introvert speaking, but my pacifist side is sorry.”

“You don’t have to apologize to me.”

“I mean, why is it so hard to get a job?! Even a part-time job! You don’t want me to have your health insurance, so I figure you would be throwing those things out like it’s an episode of Oprah’s favorite things or something! But no… for the part-time job, I need my Master’s degree, 4, not 7, years of experience, five solid references, the ability to lift 60 pounds, a heart of gold and the ability to expel confetti and streamers from my colon.

“So then you start to wonder why you went and got all these degrees instead of becoming a massage therapist or a fitness instructor in the first place–because they’re always in demand, and by the way, you need both if you’re going to make it through the stress of applying for jobs and getting in enough shape to look decent for your in-person job interview, because nobody wants to look like they just climbed through hell and high water and came out looking like a depressed wretch that is desperate for a job by the time they actually get a call for said interview.

“And then when you apply for these jobs, they want all your information–your social, your birthday, your race, your veteran status, your mailing address–and they’re not even going to mail you anything–your phone number, but they never call, and they want your education history. They stop short of asking for your firstborn, thank God!

“And then you’ve got to have a password for a job you’re going to apply for only once that is going to respond to you in less than 24 hours just to say, thank you for applying, but we found a candidate who is better suited for the posted job description.

“Really? Really? When it’s 9 in the morning on a Monday and the job ad is still live, you found the right candidate over the weekend miraculously?

“I mean, I feel like I’m jumping through hoops, as in I’d have a better chance of staying sane if my job were to jump through hoops drenched in gasoline and set on fire. It’s crazy and I feel like it’s driving me crazy! And I don’t want to be crazy!”

Dr. Ferguson nods quietly, pressing her lips into a thin line. She taps her finger against the screen of her tablet a couple times.

“Abigail, how about you come back and see me this Friday at 3? How’s that sound?”

She’s polite. This is why I don’t talk about these things.

I sigh. The couch squeaks. After a while, my savings will be gone and I won’t be able to afford our squeaky sessions that so blatantly expose my neurosis. I nod though, not really knowing what else to do. My time is up for today. I grab my jacket and head back to my parents’ place to apply for some more jobs.


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