I stepped forward to the granite counter top and managed a weak smile. The woman in the bank’s uniform half-smiled back at me. Her striped blue and red scarf was tied jauntily at her neck.
Like a flight attendant.
“How can I help you?” She sounded bored. In her mid fifties, the woman had amazing hair with just the right amount of wave and body.
I felt the familiar envy. I stared at that hair, wishing my own head was not covered with the flat, lifeless, straight as a board hair I had been cursed with. It was a dull mousy brown until I started to dye it blonde. At least the blonde helped. Speaking of which, my roots were showing. I needed to make a hair appointment if I was going to have to start interviewing for jobs now.
Times of stress always left me to dwell on each of my own flaws. My thighs were probably going to come up next. Maybe the crows feet. I was getting old. I looked closely at the woman’s eyes. She had great skin, too. I focused on her chin looking for hairs.
Please let there be whiskers. Please let there be whiskers.
Nope. Not a single one.
“Ma’am?” Irritation was in her voice and any trace of smile had now left her face.
“Oh. Sorry.” I felt my cheeks flush. “I need to make a deposit.”
I pulled the paper paycheck, my last paycheck, out of the envelope. “Wait. I forgot to sign it.”
The woman raised an eyebrow and passed a ballpoint pen to me. It was attached to the counter by a chain that made a slapping noise with each stroke. Banks were always disconcerting… unearthly quiet despite the hard surfaces and volumes of people. I felt I was disturbing the peace just by scribbling my name.
I passed the signed check to the woman. Her name tag read Elyse.
She waited, expectantly. “Where’s your deposit slip?” She looked at me, incredulous.
It had been too long since I had manually deposited anything into my bank account. My checks had always been deposited electronically.
“Um, I don’t have one.”
“What’s your account number?” I could tell she was holding back the disdain with great effort.
“You know what? I don’t know that either. I have my bank card, though. Can you pull it up from that?”
I pulled the card out of my keychain wallet and handed it over.
“Do you have some ID?”
I cringed self consciously as I showed her my awful driver’s license picture. It was from before the blonde. She nodded, handing it back, and I tucked it quickly into the safety of my billfold.
Curt typing ensued. Then a scowl at the screen. More typing. Finally, she looked up at me suspiciously.
“It says here that you closed out that account yesterday.”
A wave of nausea came over me.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that it says you were here yesterday and closed out the account.”
There was $20,000 in that account.
“Does it say if I took that money in check or cash?”
She manipulated her computer mouse and clicked twice.
There was no way to trace it.
“What about my savings account?”
“Also closed out.”
I had scrimped and saved, trying to accumulate enough to eventually retire, hopefully sooner rather than later. I didn’t know how long I could keep up working as an ER physician. They had a high burnout rate after all.
It was gone. Every bit of it.
What was happening to me? Should I say something? Report it to the police?
“That wasn’t me,” I said softly.
“Customers are not allowed to cash out accounts, particularly NOT accounts that large, without notice and without proper ID. I can assure you that you did indeed close out that account.”
“It was not me.”
A “Hmmmf…” of disbelief was all she uttered. The woman offered no other explanation, no further assistance.
“Can I just cash this check, then?
“Fine,” she said sharply.
“In tens and twenties, please.”
I weighed my options as I watched her count out the bills, one by one. Four thousand dollars was not going to last me very long. Not in Chicago.
Not anywhere, really.
At least I had paid the month’s rent last week. I was good there.
The wad of bills was thick. I registered that my work computer was still there as I stashed them at the bottom of my bag. That could be helpful. I wondered how long it would take for them to realize I still had the thing.
I walked the few blocks back to my apartment mulling things over. Who could I call for help? I needed advice. Six months ago I would have called my boyfriend. Well. I would have if my phone had been working, but now, even if we were still on speaking terms I realized I did not know his phone number. I had never had to know it despite texting and calling him thousands of times over the years we had been together. My phone made communication with him a no-brainer.
There had to be someone else I could call. Surely. As I rode the elevator up to my floor, I wracked my brain but there was no one. I had no friends. Only work acquaintances. There was no one I was close enough to that I could call them up and confess that my world was falling apart. No one except for him. Having regular sex with someone allowed you certain lifelong privileges didn’t it?
Probably not, but I still had to try.
Maybe I could look him up on the work computer if my password hadn’t been shut down already. Not his cell number, of course, but I could Google his office number. He’d be in clinic right now if it was not a hospital week. If wifi was not working in my apartment, and something in the pit of my stomach told me it would not be, I could find a Starbucks somewhere…
I turned my key in the lock. It stuck a bit and I panicked as I jiggled the key and retried it. Finally the lock clicked and I pushed open the door, relief flooding through me.
My relief was short lived, however. It evaporated when I saw what was waiting for me inside. Or rather, what was not waiting for me.
There was nothing at all inside. Every scrap of furniture was gone. Every last one of my possessions, gone. All that remained were the indentations in the carpet where my couch and chairs and other furniture had once been.
I was exposed. Bare. Naked. Nothing was left of me. At least nothing of the me that I once was.
My life was being dismantled before my very eyes.
It was time to fight back.
Want to know how we got to this point? Check out the other chapters of Impact: