She waddled into an empty office; I could hear her footsteps from down the halls as I sat at my desk. Friday afternoons were a period of dead hours until closing. Occasionally a student would find their way into the slim metallic doors, though most were quick conversations before hastily fleeing the grasp of what they were really getting themselves into. Student Loans are hardly the righteous path. To put it simply it is a method of indentured servitude trumped up to help get the world further in civilization only to hold them hostage with a high priced interest rate that only a gold-studded pig could afford.
The life of a student is simply a wet dream. Broke. No cash for a mild cigarette, but taking whatever money you can to stuff in your pockets through medical testing and plasma donations to survive; still able to afford the monthly mani-pedi combo packs at the salon. Obviously all while getting their distinguished education. That isn’t to say the modern degree is worthless, on the contrary education is fulfilling and life changing. It is simply the necessity that moves perceptions aimlessly through the current daunting national situation. Nevertheless the hour of realization hangs on all of us.
And that’s all it is. That’s all it ever was; a haunting weight that is always on the shoulders of the masses but never essentially fixed or looked at. A simple signature shoved through a computer to get a few bucks to pay for tuition, knowing the interest will accrue down the line but who the fuck cares? Take it and use the left overs to fund whatever you need it to. No one’s looking, no one’s watching. Spend it and never stop to fucking think about it. But even that is never the whole picture; all of perception can only focus on the majority of the situation and nothing more. The minority of the people, the responsible are essentially and unfortunately non-existent from view.
I could see the smoke staining her hair as she wandered through the cold doors. The fluorescent lighting has always injured my eyes but one could tell the greying was no odd spots through suffering vision. Her face was shriveled, wrinkles overpowering her cheeks and harshly damped from the consistent dribble of tears wasting to the floor. Her hands held a blue and white folder overflowing with several pieces of documentation ranging from her monthly cable bill to her birth certificate. One only imagines that a secretary is a hoarder of paperwork.
Nothing was said as she took a seat directly across from me, my computer screen only covering a small portion of her. “How can I help you?” I ask in the friendliest of tones. A heavy sigh leaves her body, her shoulders relax as she sets the folder down and hands me a few pieces of paper from her student loan companies. I read them as she prepared herself to speak; one could see that she had to mentally go over every little detail of her situation before spitting out a few words.
“I need help. I’m behind on my loans, not just a year or a month. I’m behind by 9 years and now they’re threatening me. They’re threatening to garnish my wages. They’ve already seized my tax check. I barely earn enough as it is with what I do.” She couldn’t go any further without breaking down into a huge sobbing mess. Her words from there were practically incomprehensible.
Universities can never assist students in financial situations. It is the simple duty of the financial aid office to assist students in becoming aware of what they are getting into, and not every university is alike. All lenders are essentially the same when it comes down to it. They all have the same policies and repayment plans. They’re all rather unpleasant to deal with when you owe them money as well. There isn’t a soul out there who dreams of calling up their lender when they’re behind—the bullies practically squeeze as much as they can from you.
“There’s some contact information on the papers that you provided. The only advice that can be offered is to simply contact them and work out a payment or deferment schedule. You should know that the interest will still accrue if you defer, but it’s still an option and your right as a borrower.” What could I do? What could anyone do? No one wants to sound cold or unsympathetic but the Master is calling and the only solution is to respond and hope the punishment isn’t too tragic.
She sat back in her chair to mull over the only option that was available to her and smiled softly. Most of the time they smile because the terms are so unreasonable it’s insane, so something cracks inside them leaving them defeated. Silence grew between us but I never sensed anything in her. I could only see a sign of faint relief in her face as she stared at the papers in her hand, looking like Jehovah or Cthulhu would come to her aid. The woman gathered her belongings and looked at me.
“And you?” she asks, “What degree are you seeking?”
There are moments where we just bathe in a rapture of consciousness. Maybe we’re enchanted; maybe we’ve demoralized ourselves in knowing that one day we may be right with her.
“I’ve already graduated. Left about a year ago and I’m just as behind and getting further like the rest of us. But that’s the reality isn’t it. The club. Borrow til you die, they can’t call you after that.” We both understood each other. We both knew we were at a stalemate and there was not much else we could do aside from putting more money that is the trap of fiscal responsibility. Such is the nature of our cross.