It all started out like an ordinary day. Kurt would leave the following morning and would be gone for two weeks. He stopped by the kitchen for a short while, we enjoyed a few test patties, later he went back to the house and spent the rest of the day in their bedroom, watched films, and packed his things.
He requested one sample box and one box of Boudin sausages, which he would take with him. We marked the packages with his name, showed him in which freezer department he could find them. My husband created a receipt marked ‘private use’ and adjusted the inventory list accordingly.
Kurt and we were nicer to each other now, and it felt good.
My friend arrived home from work early that day and they both took off in her vehicle, Kurt and she had some errands to run. A few customers came by in the afternoon, then a woman tapped at the door. She stood outside in the entrance, didn’t come in. She introduced herself as Lorie and pointed to the mobile home where she lived, far down the road behind the sausage kitchen. I invited her into the kitchen, and when she started talking, I listened for a short while, then I interrupted her. “Please, stop, don’t tell me anymore.”
I begged her to come back later when my friend and Kurt would be back home. “Around 6 pm that’s your best chance to catch them both.” I apologized to her, and while I didn’t explain our situation any further, I suspected she knew.
I didn’t want to get involved, didn’t want to listen to hearsay or tales, didn’t want to know any details before my friend knew what was going on. I felt so confused, and in my husband’s face, I could see he felt the same way. What we had learned was nothing we didn’t expect, nevertheless, it upset us. Everything freaked us out back then. We were so insecure, so fearful, always expecting the worst.
“When she comes back tonight, we will get up and leave them alone,” my husband suggested, and I happily agreed. When a bomb goes off, you want to be as far away as possible.
When my friend and Kurt came home a while later, I stood at the stove, made dinner as usual. My husband had his nose in his word-find book, he was quiet -which is not unusual for him. We ate supper, waited for the knock on the door, but nobody came by. Finally, we all called it a night and went to bed. The next morning Kurt left. We all went back to our now normal routine.
In the afternoon, when I checked our email, I noticed that the envelope with the emergency money was missing. I thought little of it. Perhaps she had taken it, had needed cash, or one of us had moved it by accident. It had happened once before. I came up with all kinds of harmless explanations.
That evening there was a knock on the door, and when my friend answered, I heard Lorie introduce herself again. At that moment, my husband got up, and we both excused ourselves, left toward the kitchen to give my friend and her visitor the privacy they needed.
“What do you think will happen?” I ask my husband, his guess was as good as mine. We only knew what we had heard that afternoon.
Kurt had been living with Lorie and her husband had rented a room from them for months and had left, paying none of the outstanding rent he owed them. Kurt had secretly moved out to move in with my friend when they had been shopping. When they came back home, he was gone and all his things as well. No note, nothing. A few days later, while searching for their cat, they had driven down our street, and they noticed Kurt’s old car in my friend’s driveway, and of course, assumed he had rented another room and my friend was his new roommate. That’s when I had interrupted her.
When we went back to the house, Lorie had left already and my friend had gone into her bedroom. We could hear her on the phone, she stayed in her bedroom for the rest of the evening.
The next morning, we had coffee together. Her eyes were puffy. I could tell she had been crying and I wondered about that. I waited for her to say something when she didn’t share what was going on, I pretended not to notice. I hadn’t been feeling good a couple of days myself, got dizzy spells more often, and felt anxiety was overwhelming me.
The last thing I needed was more problems on top of the tons of problems we already faced.
Kurt had money problems or was broke. So were we! So were many! Why was she so upset about it?
We had answered two more new job ads, one in Iowa, the other one in North Carolina. Both companies were looking for an employee with my husband’s experience. We were eager to hear from them, the waiting was killing us. Then another job posting popped up, the second one in Indiana -a supervisor position, just what we had been hoping for.
The Holiday season was over, a new year had begun, the recession seemed to come to an end, companies were hiring again. We soon would be on our way to wherever. It was almost February 2010, twenty-eight days of opportunities to end our homeless (houseless) life. Spring was just around the corner -the season for new beginnings.
My friend didn’t share what was troubling her, leaving us in the dark. She acted weird and looked exhausted, I could hear her on the phone in her bedroom in the evenings. Some conversations were louder than usual, other times I could hear her sob. I often quietly stood in front of her door, wanted to knock, but I knew her too well. She needed time for herself and I understood; I am the same way. I become a hermit crab when my life gets rattled and I draw back from the world until I figure out my feelings, and know what I need to do. Only then will I open up to hear what others have to say.
My friend could be very money-oriented and the way it looked like, she didn’t like how Kurt had handled his rental situation.
A couple of days later, Lorie showed up again, and they both left. What was going on?
That night my friend asked me into her bedroom. She sat on her bed like a little girl, sadness on her face, eyes were swollen from crying. She shared with me what she had learned.
Kurt had indeed lived with Lorie and her husband, who also got Kurt the job in the cleaning crew for who he was currently working with. He vacated the room he had rented without notifying them. He said he felt ashamed because he couldn’t pay rent for months. So nothing new here, I already knew.
She then continued, and what she told me angered me, and it explained her sadness. Kurt had been engaged to Lorie’s friend, a woman who was a bit slower than average people. She had some health issues and lived comfortably with the money she got from a trust fund. Kurt had ‘forgotten’ to break off the engagement, instead had left with her dad’s watch, and had taken some money out of her desk. They got engaged a few months before he asked my friend to marry him.
That afternoon Lorie had picked up my friend to meet her friend, so the women could meet and talk. I felt so sorry for both of them.
I didn’t know what to say, felt it was my place to listen. I needed time to digest all of it. I hugged my friend tight, comforted her, tried to cheer her up. There was nothing I could do or say that would help her. She was heartbroken and there wasn’t a thing I could do. I had a few ‘nice’ names for Kurt, thought he deserved it.
“Did you talk with him? What did he say?”
Kurt denied taking the watch. He said he had fallen in love with my best friend so quickly; he didn’t want to stop her when she had made the move on Christmas.
I thought about the envelope with the emergency money and didn’t dare to bring it up. Now was not the time. By then I also knew that Kurt had taken not just the sausages boxes that had been marked with his name, but that over $200 of inventory was missing.
I stayed with my best friend until she finally fell asleep, then I tiptoed out of her room just to find my husband still up in the living room.
I shared with him what I knew, got me a glass of wine, and filled it up to the rim. I was struggling to digest all the news, tried not to overreact. I wanted Kurt out of my friend’s life, felt like I wanted to punch him. What did Ben call him? A piece of shit?
“You know if they break up we can’t just leave her.”
I consider myself smart at times. I believe I am quick to understand things, but that night I didn’t get a thing. “What do you mean?”
Deep down, I knew what my husband meant, but refused to even consider it. Was the universe laughing at us. What a cruel joke?
First, we wanted Kurt gone, then, when it looked like it could really happen, we needed him to stay.
The mountain of obstacles we had to overcome had just gotten a bit higher.