Her webcam perched on top of her Foucault, her Deleuze and Guatarri, her Butler; to give a better view of her outstretched body. As she writhed on the bare mattress that sat plumply face-on to the camera, her mind wandered to anything but the motions of her body and the voices that barked out of her tinny computer speakers. She wrestled with the muscles in her face, to conceal the monotony that wracked her everytime she performed this routine and tried to avert her mind from the grim figure of Alan Greenspan standing over her. Just another day at the office.
Checking that the webcam was switched off, she mopped her brow with the shirt from her uniform at the cafe that she had walked out of a few weeks ago, finally having enough of the late/non-payment of wages, the grabby, borderline-perverted, but really harmless manager, and the assorted mix of drunks, bourgeois families, and students. As the labour market contracted, forcing round pegs into square holes, and forcing young people to flee unemployment and their families to supposed opportunities in Venezuela and Argentina; a imposed decision that would have been unthinkable for their parents at that age, who enjoyed the economic miracle of the post-Franco era. For her, this was also the plan. For many it was, but like a flittering bluebottle, she got caught in the web of the modern world of work. A web devoid of collective bargaining agreements, rights, and dignity, and as much she spasmed and wriggled, she could not free herself from its grip. When you work yourself into the ground just to pay your rent, utopian thoughts remain a profound stretch of the imagination. Whilst her friends emigrated with dreams of opportunity and dignity, she was left with melancholic reflection, with no end in sight.
It was one particular evening at the cafe that had sent her over the edge- pushed her beyond her limits of control. This particular family took particular faux-disgust to a coffee she had brought over to them (despite them turning up ten minutes before the cafe closed). The Father of the family turned to her with a grimace on his face- “I asked for my latte to be extra hot. Do I really need to explain to you how to make a latte?!” His face a picture of class hatred and mockery. Her stomach wrenched with hatred for this family and she lurched as she tried to stop herself destroying this man in the middle of the cafe. But it was one step too far, she could not smile and carry on. “Who the fuck do you think you are?! How dare you sit there and pathetically mock me- you really think your probably mid-rate management position in some exploitative conglomerate makes you any better than me?! I have a fucking Masters degree you bourgeois pig”. She ripped the apron from her frame. “Ah yes” He replied, “and I bet it was in the Social Sciences!” He turned to get validation from his wife, who replied with the smile he wanted to see. “Calm down dear, the last thing society needs is another loud and angry woman. It…” Those last words could not emerge from his vocal chords, as the collar of his shirt wrapped tightly around his neck, his face frozen in shock. She managed to compose herself, allowing herself to not fluff her punchline, “You have been coming to this cafe for at least the last year, I have served you maybe a hundred times. Not once have you tipped me, or even asked me my name. So let me leave you with something- I have never once served you an extra-hot latte. An extra-hot latte would taste like shit, and I’ve saved you that displeasure. You want to come in here and sound like some cultured little prick asking for extra-hot lattes, lattes you expect to remain the same temperature from the time I make it, to the time it arrives at your table. Take a look at yourself in the mirror sometime.” She released him from her grip and turned to her gawping manager- “Thanks, Andre. It’s been…real”. Andre was alright, he did have delusions of grandeur concerning the importance of his job, but he was ok. She smiled at him as she handed him her apron, and leaned down to kiss him on the cheek. “Good luck Andre, it’s a hard world out there”. With this, she turned and left that cafe one last time. No job, no way to pay her rent, no way to pay the interest on her credit card, but with her dignity firmly intact.
She wasn’t used to walking the streets this early at night. It was usually the people stumbling home from the bars and cafes who accompanied her on her walk from the cafe back to her flat, but tonight, having walked out her job, she was enjoying the pre-midnight clientele. Having strolled out her job, is probably more apt. She felt liberated, she had reclaimed her self. She was trying hard to not think yet, just yet, about what this meant in reality- no way to pay the rent. No way to buy groceries. Those thoughts were for tomorrow. As it was before midnight, her old hangout, the squat of the Asociación Autónoma de los Trabajadores y los Parados, would still be letting people in and could offer a place to stay if she needed. And she needed a drink, and that was something she could always rely on them for. The squat itself was invisible to the police, at least it was at the moment, as it was up a flight of stairs that sat in the far corner of a dark, badly-lit courtyard that sat back from the road. The space itself was an old Communist hangout, where comrades from around the world would arrive to fight in the Civil War. The door still had a small cut-out, with a metal sliding shutter, allowing the person on the inside of the door, to identify the knocker. They even retained the old process of having a code word. She was slightly out the loop, so she would have to blag it, but they would remember her face. Whilst the world of work no longer provided the solidarity and social secturity, that those Communists of yesteryear enjoyed, young people across Europe now had to look for this support elsewhere. And as labour market initiative after labour market initiative, their ranks were swelling.