“Maybe you could work in a trade?” I can hear my mother pleading from her modest home in suburban Wisconsin. It’s 2023 and I still don’t have the credits to graduate from community college. There have been 37,500 deaths in metro Atlanta and I am a twenty-nine year old single woman with a four month sublease and no degree.
The pandemic turned fall of Western Civilization as we know it has changed everything, except me. I still drink myself to sleep. I still google online therapy once every month or so. I dropped out of school again. I still call my ex.
But you know what? I am thinking about getting a welding certification. “The world will always need trades people,” I confidently announce to the four other people at the once crowded bars I insist on frequenting. There are nods and groans of agreement. “At least that much hasn’t changed.”
“There are a few good programs still out there,” I explain to my father, who has had to sell nearly all of his possessions just to keep his household afloat while still managing to lend me $20 every few weeks for cigarettes and miraculously, Arby’s.
Bernie Sanders is running for office in 2024, and this time there’s no way he is going to lose. Student loans will be a non-issue by the time I enroll in a certification program at what’s left of the Atlanta Technical College. I hear we might even get the checks we were promised in the beginning of the outbreak.
“I could do sculpting in my spare time outside of work, too. Remember how I used to be an artist?” I enthusiastically explain my new scheme to my mother. There is a silence and then finally a breath.
“Please stop calling me.” Her voice is cracking but I know she’ll be proud of me. One day, as I repair the worlds last working radiator (or whatever), it will all have been worth it.