I sat in the living room, and when I looked outside, I saw all the dogs run down the gravel road. Our three big dogs were in the lead, our little dog and her mom, my friends’ wiener dog, were right behind them. Somehow they had gotten out and they run as fast as they could. I didn’t even ask permission, grabbed my friend’s car keys, went outside, jumped in the car, and followed them.
The dogs run around the blog, a big cloud of dust showed me where they were, and then they came right back to my friend’s house. When I parked the car, all five of them sat in the driveway. Their tongues hanging out, huffing and puffing, with happy dog eyes.
I opened the car door and when the inside light came on, I noticed the empty bottles on the floor of the passenger side. Small wine bottles, four of them, and an empty cardboard box beside it. I smiled. The partying at my friend’s work never stopped. They had birthdays and get-togethers on a regular basis like so many big companies.
I locked the car and went back to the house. The dogs followed me, all of them held their heads low, pretending to feel guilty. I was so proud of them. They stayed in the backyard during the day and respected the 4-foot tall fence, even though two of our dogs could jump that height with ease. Even my boy aka Houdini had given up his break-out attempts. They were so well behaved inside. In an open living-kitchen area, they stayed out of the kitchen, like they sensed that their future could depend on their behavior.
Two of the dogs slept on their beds in the guestroom with us every night, just our spoiled Weimeraner stayed in the living room. Every morning we would find her laying on her back on my friend’s white leather couch. We got an old blanket for her, which made it pretty much her bed. She was my friend’s favorite, I could tell. During the week, when my friend was at work, I often let all the dogs in the house, even though I knew I wasn’t supposed to. They had never been backyard dogs. So much had changed for all of us.
Every time I thought about our future, I stopped when it came to our dogs. Deep down I knew it would be impossible to find a house or an apartment for rent with three big dogs and a little dog. Even if a landlord would be willing to rent to us, we couldn’t afford the security deposit for each dog. One night when I couldn’t sleep, I started to write a few lines about every dog, thought it might come in handy in case we had to give them up but I couldn’t finish. I started crying, felt like the worst person on this planet, and that was the end of it. People don’t give their kids up when they become homeless, why would we give our dogs up? And we weren’t homeless (yet) we were at our friend’s house. I was panicking for no reason.
My husband and my friend hadn’t even noticed the breakout of the dogs, Ben and Steve didn’t say a word either.
The next day Ben and Steve joined us in the kitchen. We made Boudin balls, to this day an appetizer I love. Cajun sausage balls baked in the oven, similar to Boudin sausage but more delicate, served with a mustard sauce or any other dipping sauce. A feast for the taste butts. I tried to get Ben’s focus, tried to make him understand that a consistent look and weight were important. We first formed the balls, then froze them for a couple of hours, so we were able to vacuum seal fifteen golf-size Boudin balls in a bag -without squeezing them.
Knowing that Ben would lose his kids and his wife soon, didn’t make my job any easier. Perhaps he felt it deep inside as well and couldn’t focus because of it? We went outside, sat down on the steps, and smoked a cigarette. I got serious, explained to him that he would lose his ‘kitchen job’ if he didn’t concentrate better. I will never forget. He looked at me, “I already have,” he said and I felt like he had punched me in my stomach. He was right, there was no sugarcoating it.
Let’s forget for a moment that he didn’t really try, or that he couldn’t focus. Did he really stand a chance when I came along and took over because I needed something to keep me afloat when I was drowning? I don’t have to answer this, do I?
One more day and my friend would be on her way to Louisiana to see her family. A long weekend for her, a four-day vacation for us. We were looking forward to it. We had spent so much time in the kitchen, had tried to stay out of her ‘hair’ at the weekends, to make sure she had enough privacy.
We needed a little bit of time for ourselves. It was time to sit down and make plans. A few nights ago my friend had joked that she could buy an older mobile home or RV for us. “We put it on the other side of the yard, so you guys have a place for yourself.” My husband and I didn’t say anything, laughed with her but we looked at each other for a split second. In one split second, so many words were exchanged without a sound.
Whenever people joke, there is always a kernel of truth to it. The kitchen was doing very well and she liked it, so did we. Our goal had been to help her start her sausage kitchen. We both wanted her to get part of her money back but neither one of us wanted to stay for good. We had succeeded. We needed to move on -somehow.
We both felt very comfortable at my friend’s house but we also missed our privacy. Being a guest is not easy either. You don’t behave like you normally do, you are at all times aware that where you are, is not your home. Welcome or not, you are always on your best behavior.
It wasn’t our bed, it wasn’t our room, it wasn’t our table, it wasn’t our home. Couples need privacy!
We had to file our taxes in 2010 and we had to file certain quarterly payroll forms by the end of 2009, even though my husband’s company no longer existed. Our former employees would need their W-2 by the end of January to be able to file their income tax. With sending out the tax forms our debt would rise to 30K with open payroll taxes and all other responsibilities. How much would they sell our home for and how much would we still owe after forclosure? Would it even matter in the end? If you can’t pay, you can’t pay.
There was so much to do and I wanted it done and over with. I had prepared the paperwork, had all the numbers I needed. I had been busy before I left our house, one of the few things I got right. The office had been my job -and that included tax preparation, a trade I had learned as an intern years ago when I had been a student.
We needed to buy the tax forms and enough stamps to send everything out.
We went on a road trip in our monster truck. We drove in the opposite direction from where we once had lived, we didn’t want to run into anybody we knew. It’s not like we had something to hide, we just wanted to be left alone. We drove by a FAST-FAT-PLACE (that’s how I like to call them) and my husband asked me if I wanted something. A coke, a coffee, a cup of tea, maybe an ice cream? A piece of a normal life perhaps?
We had all our money with us, there wasn’t much left. $80 together. We got two diet cokes at a gas station. We splurged. We sat in the parking lot and watched people go by. The normality of others made us more aware of our unnormal situation. If a trip to Walmart is a luxury, isn’t that a sign that you have failed pretty big? We didn’t even point it out, we both felt the same.
We bought all the stamps, and all the forms we needed. We drove around, just because we could. We both knew it wasn’t smart, we were risking too much. What if we would get pulled over?
Back at my friend’s home, I made dinner. We ate splendidly every night. We used the end-cuts from the beef jerky, and the Canadian bacon and the pork to create marvelous dishes. I had made two Ritz-Cracker pies that afternoon. One for us, one for the neighbor kids, who thought I was the greatest baker in the world, which is hilarious because I don’t like to bake!
I got myself a glass of wine, my husband opened a beer, and we watched TV. The dogs were spread out in the living room. For one evening we forgot where we were.
The next day I printed the payroll taxes, printed the W-2, and got our taxes ready. What address would I fill in? I hesitated, didn’t know what to do. Should I write UNKNOWN? What do the homeless respond when someone asks them for their address? Parkbench 3 3/4 like in Harry Potter? Address: The world? Could I still use our old address, even though we didn’t live there anymore?
And then it hit me. We didn’t have a forward address either. Whatever would be shipped to our old home, would be sent back. And the things without a return address, what does the post office do with them? Is there somewhere a building for the homeless letters and cards?
We put our old address on everything. We didn’t know what else to do.
The last act of the owner was the signature. It was hard on my husband. In the end, five large envelopes and forty little ones were ready to be mailed at the due dates.
I filed the copies in a binder, put all the receipts and duplicates in a box. The cardboard box is to this day in a closet in our home. I know I have to shred it, I just didn’t have the nerve to do it. Eleven years later, and I still didn’t find the time (or the will) to get it done.
Perhaps when I am done with our story it will be the right moment to shred all that is left from BEFORE.