This tattoo I can never erase

I wrote this piece today using the prompt from Wicked Wednesday, but it’s hardly erotic and I feel like it won’t contribute effectively to that forum. So I’m publishing it here anyway, with a nod to the lively contributors in the group, and I will try to be a little sexier next week….

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I’ve discovered that grief does strange things to me. How else to explain the steadily accumulating collection of sex toys, the venture into blogging, my venture into paid sex, my glorious, frequent masturbation sessions?

However, the most scary aspect of my grieving process to date, is a total inability to control my finances. Bills are piled up and paid randomly, while others seem to materialise out of nowhere, days after the due date. It’s no better on-line, where tiny recurring payments collide with larger periodical payments, setting off financial chain reactions in the process.

I had a periodical bank payment rebound on me two days ago. Not just any bank payment, but the one linked to that lifeline – my mobile phone. This was less like a tap on the wrist, than a smack on my bum with a hard paddle, a simile I’m sure a number of my fellow bloggers will appreciate.

So today,  chastened, I set out to get my financial situation in some sort of order, and to visit the doctor again for some more antibiotics. Knowing what the queue is generally like for the local medicaid, I decided to venture into the bank first. This confirmed what I already knew – there was, what might be referred to in time honoured Australian slang, as “four fifth’s of bugger all”, left in the account. Mystified at how I had spent so much (it had been a quiet fortnight sex toy wise and I’d scarcely ventured out of the house thanks to my bronchitis), I organised to view some statements and quickly found out the problem – my contract job was only paying half of what I originally imagined! This called for serious concentrated financial investigation, in the form of checking my on-line payroll slips for only the second time since I started working six weeks previously. Fortunately it was a process that quickly revealed the culprit – my first pay check, the one I had initially mentioned to Centrelink, had actually been a double.

All these financial revelations were a wake up, a curse and also a blessing. In Australia, as in the UK, we offer governmental financial aid to people who are actively seeking work. So at the greatly reduced rate I was now subsisting on, I would now be eligible for assistance, and the prize possession of all low income earners – a health care card. This entitles the bearer to receive discounted medicine – which given my health at the moment is a cause for celebration in its own right. I will also be eligible for some discounts on essential bills. These were the blessings, as I had begun to reach a state of mild anxiety which was quickly escalating to panic when I thought about the lead up to Christmas. The curse is that I didn’t discover I was eligible for assistance six weeks ago. Then I could have transferred straight from my carers allowance without needing to fill out the necessary “paperwork” – which is in fact no longer on paper but on-line.

Seated in the relative comfort of the revised version of a Centrelink office (which under the previous government resembled an penal institution and now resembles an airport lounge), I set about cross linking government accounts, revitalising old passwords and answering questions that seemed to bear little resemblance to the realities of my current situation. The basics were there – Name, address, phone number, ability to actively seek work. But the devil, as always, was in the detail. When did I commence work? While I thought “about six weeks ago” was vague, the computer demanded actual dates. Reassured by a helpful staff member that a guess would do – “…it’s just to get you started, when you have your interview you can fix it up”, I typed in the magic numbers and was given access to the next round of questions. “When did you last work?” ‘Umm – still working – I’m on a contract’. “Yesterday,” suggested the woman standing beside me. “Just put yesterday”. And so it went on, until my fear of a parking ticket, rather than my impatience with the procedure made me save and log out, to complete the paperwork tomorrow. Not overly difficult, just tedious.

There was however, one moment of that whole process that really gave me pause, well, two, actually. The easiest part inquired about my previous partner, a person with whom I’ve had no contact for three years. I gave his name, his date of birth and wrote, with some trepidation, unsure of how the machine would respond, that his address was “unknown”.  But the catalyst for this particular  inquiry was an old nemesis, the word that seared me the last time I filled out these forms, one that continues to leave its dark marks on my psyche – my ‘marital status’…

‘Separated’

“I regard myself as single”, I explained to another helpful staff member, a nice young man this time, who answered my questions with nary a hint of an eyeroll. Very professional. “Single”. I said. “I regard myself as single. I’ve been separated from this man for over three years, yet on your records I am forever locked in partnership with him. A man whose address I no longer know nor care to know. Even if I live for another twenty years in a solitary state, I will still, on your records, be ‘separated’ “. He smiled sympathetically at my impassioned description of this tattoo I can never erase. He too had a problem with it, he said, but the government legislation – moored, presumably, in archaic ways of description, did not have a category for “single”. There was only “never married”.

I thought again for a moment, spurred on perhaps by something in his expression, of the meagreness of this description. Thought too of the  “debate” we are currently having in this country over same sex marriage, of the ethical “Poly’s” I’m currently chatting with on the internet, of a whole world of possibility which has opened up for me through a grieving process.

Then I smiled politely, thanked him, picked up my keys and wallet, and went home.