Who else would understand the love you have for your pets, then another pet owner who feels exactly the same way? The response to our provoking housing ad had been overwhelming, and just what we had needed. There was hope and it came in form of dog owners and pet lovers. Many were reaching out to us, sometimes only to wish us well.
Quickly, we realized we were way ahead of time. Our ad had been premature. We needed a place to call home by the end of March, or the beginning of April 2010. It was the end of January and an empty house now, most likely, would no longer be on the market two months later. We took the ad offline.
Kurt came home that Friday and would stay until Tuesday night -four eventful days for all of us.
Of all the people, I should have been the one welcoming him the way my friend had welcomed me. I am glad you are here, and I wanted to, I really did, but something deep inside me told me otherwise. The words just didn’t come out.
I didn’t l like how my friend changed when he was around. This is a phenomenon I have witnessed so often in my life. Men and women suddenly acting completely different whenever their partner was nearby, just to change back to normal as soon as you were alone with them. My friend did exactly that. She laughed louder, she drank more, and she jumped to fulfill all his wishes before he even knew he had any. She did everything she said she would never do. My wonderful, independent friend changed and became the submissive housewife she wasn’t meant to be.
In my eyes, she was the one who deserved to be spoiled, yet she was the one doing all the work, spending all her money. “He will give me his paycheck every Friday, and I am going to deposit it in my account,” she had shared with me, she also had mentioned he couldn’t do it right away because he had some open bills to pay first.
The more I got to know him, the less I liked him.
I had started to prepare her taxes and noticed she spent the same amount of money every day at a gas station Monday to Friday. $4.99 for a 4-pack of small wine bottles. The empty bottles I had found in her car the day the dogs had escaped for the first time now made sense. For a few nights, I checked the trashcan and hated the way it made me feel. I was snooping, but somehow I needed to know. Sure enough, every day I found a plastic bag with empty wine bottles tucked underneath the regular trash. I couldn’t pretend any longer. My friend had a few problems, and one of them was to drive under the influence of alcohol, not to mention that she arrived at home at 4 pm in the afternoon -buzzed.
I worried about her but didn’t know how to address the issues. It’s terrible how tongue-tight I had become since we had lost our home and most of our belongings. Would it be smart to bring the subject up? Could it harm us? Thoughts holding me back from being me.
Ben and Steve left the house the moment Kurt arrived and joined us in the kitchen. They wanted to know how the job hunt was going. Both were sincere, both were routing for us, I could tell. Things between us had changed. We accepted each other for who we were. They never judged or asked us questions, quite the contrary. Steve and I had formed a bond when his kids had been babysitting me during the holidays -which they enjoyed tremendously because I made them watch Harry Potter movies. Ben and I had started to trust each other.
They guys stayed for a while and helped us to prepare everything for Saturday. We chatted and joked, and soon called it a day.
We got up before dawn the next morning. The sausage kitchen was ice cold when we opened the door, despite the small space heater, which blew the heat right onto the incoming water pipes. During the night the heater had gone out, we could see our breath. My husband opened the back of his truck, moved his toolbox to the front, and got to work right away. His toolbox, a heavy hard plastic box on wheels with a pull-out handle was so heavy, I could not lift it up. 20 years of experience in one huge crate, lots of money as well. Replacing all the tools he needed for his job would easily cost us $1000-$2000, not to mention all the extra stuff he had accumulated throughout the years. His tools were sacred ground.
Later on, Ben joined him. They worked well together. One knew what the other one was thinking. Men and tools, I suppose that’s like women and shoes -a form of happiness which cannot be explained.
I started grinding the meat, bundled up like an Eskimo. I put hot water on the stove, thought some hot tea or hot cocoa would warm us all up.
My friend and Kurt came over to let us know they were leaving for another shopping spree when Kurt noticed my husband’s toolbox in the back of our truck. He asked questions about all the tools, and before anybody could stop him, he was going through my husband’s tools.
They left soon afterward. My husband locked his toolbag carefully that day, checked the trunk twice, made sure the vehicle and everything in it was safe. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t trust Kurt, which didn’t help me feel any better.
The heater was running again. The kitchen was cool, but we didn’t have to wear our winter coats anymore. A few customers came by and picked up their orders.
An older gentleman walked in, held out his hand, and introduced himself as Ron, the local butcher. I had been dying to meet him. He owned a small butcher shop with an added restaurant in town.
My best friend lived on the outskirts (the bunnies) of a small town, population 2,000 give or take a few. Perhaps “town” is the wrong word. Settlement, village, suburbs might describe it better. Back then, it had one small grocery store, a truck stop, one restaurant, a church, a few shops, and a school. My husband shook Ron’s hand, so did I.
We were competitors in the sausage business, and I was wondering why he had stopped by. He couldn’t be pleased that we took business away from him.
He noticed my accent just like everybody else because it’s like a tattoo on my forehead. “Where are you from?” is the usual question I get. “Austria right at the border to Italy,” I explained, and his face lit up. “My family is from Germany,” and in broken German, he continued to tell me he learned my native language as a kid. “So that’s your sausage kitchen,” he nodded in approval and looked around. I corrected his mistake, told him about my friend and owner.
We had stopped by his restaurant a few days earlier, had left one of our sample boxes for the owner and chef to try. That’s when we had learned that he was the local butcher as well. Maybe leaving our product hadn’t been very smart.
Ron invited us for dinner that night, asked us to meet him at his restaurant. “Bring the owner with you,” and before we could ask questions, he left.
That night Kurt wanted to know everything about my husband’s tools, and what he used them for. Shortly afterward he declared, he needed a toolbox full of tools as well. We all nodded. The weekend before, he wanted an iPod and a speaker set just like mine. It seemed everything we still owned, became the center of his attention.
He had admired my laptop, had asked all kinds of questions about it. Didn’t he know how uncomfortable it made me? He had mentioned that we could sell the laptop, which made me flinch inside. This was our lifeline to the rest of the world. The laptop would find us a home and jobs, it would help us plan our move.
If I wouldn’t have known any better, I would have assumed he was jealous, but how could anybody be jealous of a couple that had just lost almost everything? Did it bother him that we still had a few things?
That weekend he left the gate open twice, and I watched our escaped dogs run a big round on the graveled roads surrounding my friend’s place. They run beside driving vehicles and passed barking backyard dogs. I noticed a pattern. Kurt never left the gate open when the little dogs were outside as well.
My friend decided that just the two of us would meet with the local butcher that night. She left my husband out, who had been invited as well. It was one of the days when everything seemed to bug me. Perhaps I was overreacting. Was it the time of the months when I tent to jump on my invisible broom?
The dinner meeting with Ron went very well. He welcomed us, showed us his kitchen, even let me try his secret recipe of red cabbage, which was almost as good as my Grandma’s. I told him so and got in return the biggest smile he could come up with.
He had a business proposal for my friend, which took us by surprise. The Cajun Sausage Smokehouse didn’t bother him, quite the opposite. He was offering us to sell our sausage in his butcher store as well, and in return, he would get the sausages he would use in his restaurants for the cost price.
I thought it was an outstanding offer. What a big step for my friend’s sausage kitchen, to not just solely rely on restaurants and hotels, but also have a butcher shop offering her products. What a long way she had come in such a short amount of time.
Back at home, we sat around the kitchen table. A bottle of wine was quickly opened, and shot glasses were filled with hard liquor -all to celebrate the new business opportunity.
I asked for half a glass, my husband didn’t want any. We had to get up early the next morning. When they lit up the pipe to have a hit, we both left and moved to the living room area. “What’s up, bro?” My friend looked surprised when my husband walked away from the second-hand weed smoke as well. “I will have drug tests soon,” he explained, and she understood.
Kurt laughed, “You haven’t found a job yet. What makes you think you get one?”
“I will have a job by the end of March,” my husband told him with so much confidence, even I looked at him.
If wishes and dreams could move mountains. If we only could command hopes to come true.
From this moment on, his confidence would bring the best out in me as well. Help yourself! Believe in yourself! That’s what I had learned as a child.
Monday morning, before my friend went to work, I got brave and mentioned her drinking carefully, tried to explain to her that it worried me.
“I am an alcoholic,” she said and laughed, “Didn’t you know that?”
And like in a puzzle game in slow motion, all the missing pieces fit suddenly, and so much that had happened in the past made sense. I had enabled an addict for many years. How could I have not noticed?