I’m in my grandparents’ old house downtown, but everything is strangely quiet. No sign of the loud buses and street vendors screaming their products under the window. The living room is light green, like it always was. When I walk into the dining room, instead of the crowded, pink affair where we used to have three meals a day, it’s a cold, gray room, with an autopsy table in the middle. Somewhere in the background, an AC unit purrs ominously. In the autopsy table, there are bones, pieces of flesh, entire organs and muscles. My former roommate enters the room, wearing a white apron and yellow gloves. He tells me, in a very nonchalant way, that I have to touch the stuff on the table.

I woke up screaming.

She turned around startled and hugged me while I stared at the other side of the bed, watching the pieces of cloth we installed in the terribly noisy AC fluttering away, propelled by the influx of cold air. I turn it off.
- What?, she asks.
- Nevermind.
She embraced me harder, holding me against her breast, rocking me back and forth like a baby. I didn’t like that and rouse from the bed, aiming to the bathroom, where I turned the light to stare at my blank face in the mirror. I could see all the pores, the rugged stub of a two days beard, small dark circles around the eyes, and some kind of emptiness hiding between my pupils. I closed my eyes. When I opened them, I was staring at my back in the mirror. I screamed.

That one really woke her up. She came to the bathroom and stopped in the door, rubbing her nose furiously like she always did when awakened suddenly.
- Maybe you should see a doctor, some kind of shrink. It’s no use for me telling you that I’m worried.
- Well, it helps, somehow. But we can’t afford it.
- Try your insurance. Now please come back to bed. I have to wake up really early tomorrow. No, in a couple of hours.

She went back to sleep and I kept on staring at my face. There was nothing behind my eyes. I was tired about these visions, but still couldn’t sleep. I lighted a cigarette and watched the sweat form in my chest, small droplets condensed from the suffocating weather combined with the overheating inside of me. After a couple of minutes, I went back to bed and managed to get something that could resemble sleep but was too feeble to be satisfying enough.
The next day, I was trying to concentrate on an especially boring article at work but kept remembering her suggestion about the shrink. To tell the truth, I kind of thought about it before, but couldn’t admit it. “As default rates rose, bonds backed by subprime mortgages got hit. That threw collateralized-debt obligations -- pooled-together debt instruments -- that held subprime-mortgage-backed bonds into turmoil. CDOs are cut into slices, known as tranches. The higher-rated tranches run into trouble only if a relatively high proportion of a CDO's assets get hit. Many CDO-valuation models showed little chance of that happening. But then that happened, too”. If this was nice, they wouldn’t be paying me to do it. But I was tired. More coffee: “Because some investors hurt by CDOs were forced to sell other assets to make good on their losses, and others began to wonder if other, similarly structured products were riskier than the models said they were, financial markets in general got rockier”. At that moment, I felt more inclined to put a bomb in the stock exchange than to write about it. Actually, that’s how I felt everyday. I could feel it growing inside me, like a tumor.

My coworker asked a redundant question. I couldn’t understand it fully because it seemed his mouth was moving slowly and at the same time blurred under the cold light of the fluorescent lamps. He was an old guy, more than twice my age, and would retire in a short while for his 401k and whatever you do after a distasteful life under fluorescent lamps, hunched on a bench like a horse ready to be fed.
- The Fed! The Fed is cutting the interest rates!, and that was it. He dropped to the floor and started foaming, holding tight his left arm with the other hand. They had to call the paramedics. Luckily, he didn’t die and they even retired him earlier. The company was being bought by another gigantic faceless conglomerate and everybody thought that was nice. They gave him half-hearted pats on the back one week after, when he came back to clean his stuff and gave us this wonderful piece of news. Now, with the interest rates down again, he could recuperate part of his life savings that the hotshots in the financial district had messed up because of a bad market hangover or simply pure greed. Greed is good, like that Gekko guy says.

The same afternoon that the old guy had the heart attack I called human resources to inquire about them paying for my mental health. No deal, they said. It was not included after the last contract negotiations with the union. But you still get an extra week of vacation!, cheerfully said the lady, some cold bureaucrat who probably was already planning the next restructuring, so it wouldn’t help my case to complain about our trashy health insurance. I was on my own. On the way home in the E train, I thought about which were our expendable expenses.

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