January 28, 2018
By NadjaGoldberg BRONZE, San Francisco, California
NadjaGoldberg BRONZE, San Francisco, California
3 articles 0 photos 0 comments

The Nourishing Art of Relaxation, I’m frazzled— You’re Frazzled, Get Your Life Together NOW, Unearthing Inner-Clarity, How Find Yourself: A User's Guide, and more.

I can still picture the heap of self-help books on the floor of my apartment. How could I possibly believe those books would ease my immense stress? Drowning in my overwrought mind, I was incapable of grasping a single word. They remained in a voluminous pile, and often, as I walked frantically about the apartment, I slipped on the pile, plummeting to a painful collision with the oakwood floor. Now, as I gaze back at the severe struggles of those grueling months, I wonder how I ever survived such a hopeless mess.


The weight of the canvas bag sliced into my shoulder. With each step, the bag thumped forcefully into my hip, and afterward, I noticed a large bruise that I watched slowly fade from plum to blue to beige.

The sky was a blazing white. After days sitting at my desk, I was unaccustomed to the outdoors. I squinted my eyes, causing the faint lines of my sunlit eyelashes to come into view. I inhaled a sweet whiff of fresh baked bread as I passed the deli. My stomach rolled around with hunger and I realized I hadn’t eaten since lunch the day before.

I plunged my hand into each of my fraying jeans pockets, and emerged with a crushed dollar bill. It was not enough for a sandwich, so I continued on to the library.

As the glass door of the library swung shut, a breeze blew through my unbrushed clumps of hair. I approached the front desk and set down the bundle of books.

“I’d like to return these books,” I said, my voice emerging feebly after hours of not speaking.

“Can I see a card?” the man asked.

“Wh-what sort of card?”

“A library card,” he said, looking at me as if I had come from another planet.

“Oh, right. Um, I don’t have that on me.”

“Okay, I can look you up. What’s your name?”

“Jade Patterson.”

He typed my name into the server.

“Ma’am, you have twenty overdue books. And they are six months overdue,” he said harshly. “That’s going to be a one hundred fifty dollar fee.”

He glared up at me expectantly, but instead of words coming to my mouth, I felt a pang swelling in my throat, and a slight sting in my eyes. My lips trembled with fierce restraint and tears made my vision of the man go fuzzy. With a single blink, it all came out. Tears streamed down my face and I was consumed with sloppy hiccups and sobs.

“Um, are you alright ma’am?” the man asked uncomfortably. “Can we continue with our procedure?”

“Continue with the procedure?” I sobbed. “My life has no procedure! Everything is one big jumble and I’m sick of it! I’m sick of it! I’m working twelve hours a day! Twelve hours! I’m so wound up I can’t sleep at night! I have missed three months of rent! Three months! And you know why? I don’t have the money! My boss cut thirty percent off my salary! Thirty percent! Because I was working too slow he said! I can’t live like this! I can’t keep track of anything! My life is spiraling out of control and my one effort to tame it was checking out these self-help books! And look where that’s brought me! I can’t do it anymore! I don’t have one hundred fifty dollars! All I have is this one dollar bill! You can take it! I have nothing more! I have nothing and I am nothing and everything means nothing to me!”

“Ma’am, will you please lower your voice?” the man asked, frantically looking around for someone to help him. It was sweetly satisfying to release it all, let it all slide down my cheeks and leave dots on the gray floor. I didn’t care that I was in a library full of forty-some people staring at my hysterics. I didn’t care that the man behind the desk nervously scratched the rust-colored stubble on his face. Looking back on it, I realize that at the same moment that I stopped caring about a thing, I began to care tremendously. It was a wonderful feeling.

The author's comments:

I wanted to write a story that takes the feeling of being overwhelmed in one's life to an extreme. "Overdue" is about not only books that are overdue for return, but a woman's emotional release that is long overdue. 

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