Debt Demands a Body

Longreads

Kristin Collier| Longreads | November 2021 | 6,596 words (21 minutes)

I open the email at 9:30 a.m. in my retrofitted, windowless office on the second floor of a high school in St. Paul. The fluorescent lights are so bright and the walls so white that sometimes I look up from my computer screen and feel as if I’m in a dream. Everything blurs and bends. Here, I shield myself from my students’ bodies, from their breath, in between teaching classes. I remove my mask, just briefly, to eat lunch while refreshing a COVID Tracking Map. November 3, 2020: 1,040 people died in the U.S. from COVID-19.

I read the email’s subject line: “The results of your request are now available in a paperless inbox,” before noticing the sender is American Education Services, a private student loan servicer. The body of the email informs me that AES has added…

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