INT – CRAPPY APARTMENT – DAY: Chipped, dirty dishes are scattered across the couch and the coffee table. A chubby twentysomething wearing a camisole and boxers, REBECCA MCCARTHY JAMES, chews on her thumbnail and stares at her cracked flip phone. After taking several deep breaths and wiping her glasses on her shirt, she punches the green button to call. The phone rings several times, and a woman, JENNIFER, answers.
JENNIFER (V.O.): Hi I’m Jennifer thanks for calling the Department of Education Loans Servicing Center social security number please.
RMJ (rising from her seated position): Sure! Okay! Sure! It is [redacted].
JENNIFER (V.O.): Can you confirm your last name.
RMJ: McCarthy James? No wait, just James.
JENNIFER (V.O.): Full address including city state and zip code.
RMJ: (pacing, mumbles her address)
JENNIFER (V.O.): And we have your number as [redacted].
RMJ: Uh huh!
JENNIFER (V.O.): And we have your email as email@example.com?
JENNIFER (V.O.): How can I help you today Rachel.
RMJ: Well, the, um, I. Well, I’m not really. I only make like $[embarrassing] a month? So I need that forbearance or deferment or whatever.
JENNIFER (V.O.): Do you want me to lower your monthly rate.
RMJ: No? I mean, I am not great at making rent here.
JENNIFER (V.O.): Are you unemployed or applying for unemployment insurance.
RMJ: No. I mean, kind of? I tutor basic composition, like, helping junior college students with their papers about their best vacation and why plagiarism is bad and why Death of a Salesman is awesome. And they’re just getting back from summer and they still want to be lazy and never work on their homework in advance, so there is no need for me. So I only work like 10 hours a week right now. You know, because my work basically seasonal? I’ll be working like 50 hours a week in like two months, though, so I can totally pay you then.
JENNIFER (V.O.): And do you have a profile on a job hunting site such as Monster.com [So you can get a soul sucking corporate job that gives you no time to work on writing or play bubble popper and ruins your marriage because stress.]
RMJ: Yes, totally. [Assuming that they still have my resume from 2008 when I uploaded it in the precious few months between my graduation from college and the collapse of the economy. ]
JENNIFER (V.O.): Okay, we can send you some paperwork for a temporary forbearance -
RMJ (terrible panic because of desperate fear of paperwork, which is what led to this whole phone call in the first place): NO!! Can’t you just get me the forbearance thing like over the phone?
JENNIFER (V.O.): Well, the problem is that you’ve only got 483 days left of forbearance —
RMJ: OK, fine! [That sounds like basically forever.]
JENNIFER (V.O.): But your interest continues to accumulate —
RMJ: Yeah. [Yeah yeah yeah yeah, I know, it's cool, please stop making me think about the interest!]
JENNIFER (judgmental pause, V.O.): Okay, I guess you can do that but -
JENNIFER (V.O.): Your next payment will be due on [date in the future by which I will surely be raking the dollars, for real this time].
RMJ: Okay! Thank you Jennifer! Thank you so much. Have a great day!
JENNIFER (V.O.): Have a good day and thank you for calling the student loan direct servicing center.
CUT TO: ONE YEAR LATER: RMJ opens a white envelope, whistling a happy tune until she sees a trailing list of numbers with no decimal point in sight.
CUE: Horrified screams at decades of student loan payments that are higher than mortgage payments, like the Obamas but minus the wild success.
Rachel McCarthy James is a writer who honestly believes putting that drink on her credit card is a good choice, just this once. She’s originally from Kansas, but right now she lives up a mountain in Virginia with her husband and their two cats.