My friend made me feel welcome in her home. She made sure I knew how much she enjoyed having me and the dogs around. She was a widow, lived with her small Wiener dog alone in the boonies on two acres of land.
The single-wide mobile home she had bought brand-new, over the years had been transformed. A big, covered deck in the front with a porch swing and rocking benches. Two extra rooms with French doors and bay windows had been added to the place. Laminate floors in every room, new windows, a nice kitchen. There was even a gigantic screened-in porch in the back. The wheels underneath the house were long gone, now it sat on a solid foundation. A rose garden in the front, a covered carport, and walkways on the side. Two acres of fenced-in land in the back. It was quiet where she lived, it was just what I needed. Far away I heard chickens, in the nights I could hear the whistle of trains close by.
November 2009: Her guestroom was all mine. The small walk-in closet was full of what was left of my former life. I didn’t feel anything. It almost felt like an out-of-body experience. This person sleeping in her friend’s guestroom with nowhere to go, could not possibly be me. “You stay as long as you want,” my friend had told me. I was very grateful.
My husband didn’t have that much luck. “I think I am a burden here,” he told me when he called. “They are not doing too well themselves,” he added, and I could hear the sadness in his voice, and I almost felt guilty. While he slept on his brother’s couch, the dogs and I had a room with a queen-size bed all for ourselves. He had bought groceries for them, mostly meat and ‘freezer stuff’ to help out. He had spent $100 on food, $50 on cigarettes and another $120 had been used already to fill up our big truck twice. We had lost insurance on the car, and it was risky for him to drive the monster truck around but we knew he needed to. Sometimes you don’t have a choice left.
I had bought three gigantic bags of dog food and two cartons of cigarettes. I too had around $200 left in my wallet. My husband bought the same amount of cigarettes. Why, oh why didn’t we stop smoking back then when we couldn’t afford to buy cigarettes?
Our phones had been turned off. My husband used his brother’s landline, and I borrowed my friend’s cell phone in the evening. We talked every night. At a time where we needed each other more than ever, we were separated -by choice. For the first time in my life, I felt helpless, and a bit hopeless when I listened to him. He had been filling out applications everywhere, even at Wal-mart and the Wafflehouse, which made me laugh a bit. He had always joked that one day he would become a Wal-mart-greeter when we went shopping there. Be careful what you wish for!
He sounded so depressed, I tried to cheer him up. Soon we would be together again and we would start all over. It didn’t sound convincing even in my own ears. I was scared.
Not having a phone terrified me. What if they would throw him out? What if my friend would tell me to leave? We needed to be sure we could always reach each other. The next day both of us went to the dollar store in different cities and we spent more money on new phones and phone cards with 500 minutes of talk time. Another $50 was gone on each side but I felt better.
I had been sending out my resume to all my former clients and customers, even had approached the one translater office I swore I would never work for. Nothing! Not a single lead. Not a single interview. No book deals for translation. I even filled out an application at the Dollar Store.
How could it be? How can you be so overqualified for a job and so willing to take a pay cut -any pay cut- and not get hired? Recession is more than just a word. It’s a neverending nightmare. Like a blogging friend stated in a comment. “A sledgehammer to your life.”
I didn’t have transportation anymore. I was stuck at my friend’s house which didn’t help the situation. I set up her brand-new computer in her office. One of the many things she had bought, but never used. I thought I could print flyers and offer my service to clean homes, or offices near by. I had been cleaning part time when I was a student, now, so many years later, I was willing to do it again. Anything!
We both were very so naive. Did we really think that he would find a job at a time when people everywhere were laid off? Did we really believe my husband would be able to not just find a job but be able to pay a deposit and first month’s rent for an apartment for us, and four dogs in just a couple of weeks?
Our credit was shot. We had pets and no jobs. Our future didn’t look too bright.
I ‘played house’ for the first days at my friend’s place. I tried to keep myself busy. I think I tried to be useful to her, like a maid or a butler, even though she did everything to make me feel welcomed. I cleaned her home, made our beds, and took care of her laundry and the dogs. I cooked dinner, so everything was ready when she came home at 4 pm. She was an early riser like me, and so we both got up at 4 am and enjoyed a cup of coffee together. Then she headed off to work, and I went back to bed for a couple of hours.
I often found myself sitting on her back porch, either at night or during the day, daydreaming of having a place like this in the near future myself. I talked to our dogs, promised them I would try everything in my power to keep them.
Guests are like fish, they stink after three days. I have used this joke myself in the past. We had invited guests into our home and the truth is, I was always happy when they left after a few days or a week. No matter how much you like or love them, you lose your privacy and you behave differently. I didn’t want to be that stinking fish.
I had nowhere to go. I was houseless, and I would be homeless without my friend. The first time I used the word ‘homeless’ in my mind, I pictured us standing on the side of the road, holding up a cardboard sign, begging for dog food or cigarettes. It shocked me! It felt like an ice-cold hand tried to grab my heart.
Our dogs. They were our responsibility. We had rescued them, they were part of our small family. Deep down I knew they would weigh us down. Finding a place to rent with three big dogs and a little one. Good luck with that!
The thought of giving away our dogs was painful and simply unacceptable, but so was the rest of my life right now. Would I end up being somone’s charity case for Christmas? Would someone buy us presents, or give us a gift card for groceries the same way we had done it for so many years.
My birthday had been forgotten in all the turmoil. My husband apologized, “I am getting you a card later,” he said and I didn’t know what to say. So much had changed so quickly. My birthday was meaningless.
My friend tried to spoil me. She brought home foods she knew I liked. Fresh fried catfish from a nearby place. European wines from the world market. I didn’t eat much. Turns out losing everything is a good appetite suppresent. I didn’t drink much either, yet the wine bottle was always empty the next day.
In the evenings we talked and played cards. We laughed a lot. The first time I heard me laughter I was surprised. How was this possible? How was I still able to laugh when I felt so much pain inside?
My friend and I knew each other for a long time, still, it’s different when you live together. I found out my friend smoked pot, something I never knew. “I didn’t tell you because I knew you would disapprove,” she informed me, and she was right. Now I was in no position to judge and she felt free to enjoy her ‘little habit’ around me. I also learned about her dream to have a sausage kitchen just like back home in Lousiana. I never knew about that either.
What in the world was a sausage kitchen?