All we needed was THE ONE PAYCHECK people always talk about. The one that can make the difference between being homeless and having a place to call home. We had fallen off the cliff, and now we were trying to climb back up. We were ready to move mountains, and desperate enough to jump into the unknown -blindfolded. All we needed was one chance to make it all happen.
Millions of people live paycheck to paycheck, and we longed to be one of them. Long forgotten seemed the time when we had a savings account and credit cards to our name.
Time was running out. With only two weeks left before we would leave my friend’s place, we worked harder and longer. We sat for hours on the computer at night, trying to find solutions to our problems. We didn’t leave a stone unturned, pushing to find what we needed the most. First a job for my husband, then one for me, and an apartment or house that would allow us to keep our dogs, that’s all we wanted. A chance to prove to ourselves, and the world, that we were still a part of the society and not low-lives, who were sponging off other people.
Everything else would fall into place afterward -we were certain of it because it just had to. There was no plan B, no family to fall back on, and my best friend was no longer approachable.
I watched her more closely, and it frightened me. What I saw was so out of the ordinary that I wanted to drag her to rehab myself. I wanted to tie her up in a chair and yell some sense into her. I was afraid I could no longer count on her, scared that she would change her mind at the last minute, and back away from the promise she had given us.
Without the money we had earned in The Sausage Kitchen, and the loan we had agreed on, we would be dead in the water. I didn’t trust her judgment anymore. When I watched her with Kurt I felt so much anger in me. I wanted to talk to her so badly, but my hands were tied. The truthfulness I had in mind could come with a high price.
I promised myself I would tell her how I felt after we had left, but knew it wouldn’t be the same. I had become the friend I never wanted for myself, so torn and so afraid. Silence can come at a high price too.
Behind my husband’s back and without talking to anybody about it, or asking for advice, I phoned another friend, the one who had given me such a special welcome when I had called her after I had left our home. “You are such an asshole,” she had said when she had recognized me. The articulate, soft-spoken, and kind woman had shown me her love and concern, with her unusual greeting.
I still had THE RING, the one piece of jewelry people always admired. A set of three rather large diamonds, resembling the present, the past, and the future, given to me by the love of my life, when we could afford to make such generous gifts.
I never asked him how much he had paid for it, but noticed people always stared at it when I wore it on special occasions. I didn’t dare to wear it every day, it didn’t match with jeans and sneakers, at least that’s what I always believed, and so a precious piece of jewelry spent most of its time in a jewelry box.
I was hoping my friend would either buy the ring or perhaps would loan us money and take the ring as collateral, in case my best friend would change her mind. We needed a backup plan to put my mind at ease.
I called her, and we spoke for a long time -she did most of the talking. They had laid her husband off, and she was trying to find employment after spending years at home with their kids. I noticed the panic in her voice, and it broke my heart to hear the same sorrow that I felt myself. The one person, who I thought could afford to buy my ring had just informed me that she was worried about their financial future as well. Another one of my dreams got crushed by life. You think you get used to it, but every time it happened I felt the same STING in my gut. Like an invisible knife poking deep inside of me.
An hour later, I was back in the kitchen and stuffed sausage casings when my husband’s cell phone rang. I heard him answer and from the sound of it, I could tell the conversation quickly turned into a hiring interview. He was on the phone for a long time, and when he hung up, he had a job.
This time in Raleigh, South Carolina -eighteen hours away. It was doable. One sleeps, the other one drives, you switch, you rest a bit; you keep on driving. A few minutes later our housing ad was up in Raleigh and we started searching for rental places online. Everything we found at first glance was way too expensive but the city itself sounded like such a great place to be. We hoped a landlord would read our ad and then, finally, we would know where we would be moving to.
How quickly things had changed, now my husband had two jobs waiting for him. The one in Indianapolis was still on the table, it was our first choice. A landlord had offered us a house for one year. It was small and a bit over our budget. Two bedrooms, a tiny kitchen, no backyard which wasn’t ideal but alright. We would walk our dogs every day on the leash, which I loved to do anyway. The rental offer fell through when he emailed the lease agreement. The owner asked for a double deposit -perhaps she had misunderstood our ad?
Between phone calls and emails, we worked endless hours in the kitchen and tried to fulfill all the demands. The neighbors and most of our customers now knew that my friend would close The Sausage Kitchen, and it seemed they all wanted to get one last order fulfilled.
I called the Hilton hotel, informed the manager about the closing as well. Things between us had changed, he now actually chatted with me and I enjoyed our conversations. I was no longer the stranger trying to sell him something but someone he liked to do business with. I gave him a short version of the actual events and mentioned our leaving. When he asked why we would leave, I explained it to him, left out a few details, but overall I filled him in.
“You can always come and work for me,” he said, and I almost fell off the barstool in the kitchen. I must have laughed. “I mean it,” he said, “I hire you in a heartbeat.” It felt so good, I totally forgot to ask him for what position he would hire me for. It didn’t matter, and I didn’t care. Plan B had just shown itself on the horizon.
The mobile home across the street was now empty after Ben had moved out as well. If I could get the job at the Hilton, we could rent the place and stay where we were. We could help keep the kitchen going, and have an eye on my best friend as well while living in our own place.
It wasn’t at all what we wanted, but it was something. The hotel was right beside a high-end mall, surely my husband could find a job there as well. The car situation was an issue, but that was two months down the road.
We talked about it. We didn’t want to stay so close to where we had once lived, and next door to my best friend and Kurt. Everywhere we would go, we would be confronted with our past and the memories of better times. There was too much history on every corner, but if we had to, we would manage. Finally, we had a Plan B.
I felt like a million bucks, which was comical. Together, we had $45 left. We were broke and homeless, and I was smiling like a fool! Sometimes I surprise myself. Who am I?
The next five days flew by. More phone calls, another housing offer in Indianapolis, which also fell through in the last minutes because he found another renter.
One minute our hopes were up, the next minute our hopes were crushed. Life’s rollercoaster and we were trapped in it.
More companies called and asked questions. Why are you relocating? When will you arrive? Can you come for an interview? My husband’s confidence grew and I loved to see him become his old self. His resume spoke for itself, and it spoke loud and clear. Our decision to send it out to companies that weren’t hiring ultimately paid off. My resume was on stand by waiting to be sent out the moment we would have a zip code.
By Thursday, we were still moving to Indianapolis. Raleigh was too expensive for us. We loved the city and everything it had to offer, but it was out of our league and we had to let it go.
I contacted animal shelters in Indianapolis, begged them to help me and it sounded like they were trying. Living in a motel for a couple of months was now the only option we had left. I was hanging on to the dogs against better judgment.
Friday morning another call, a company in Tennessee had read my husband’s resume, and they had an immediate opening. It wasn’t his dream position, and the pay was not even close to what he had been making in the past, but it was a solid offer.
Memphis, Tennessee, eight hours away. A shorter drive time meant we would spend less money on gas, it also meant we could easily meet my best friend somewhere in the middle, and get our little dog back after a few months.
We didn’t know much about the city, other than some of its history. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and racism, Elvis Presley and Graceland, blues and rock ‘n roll. We read up on it, looked at the houses and apartments, and to our surprise, we learned we could afford to live there. Tennessee had never been on our radar for various reasons, but now all of a sudden it had become very attractive.
Our housing ad went up in the evening, and we went to bed. The next morning I found an email in my mailbox. A landlord in Memphis offered us a house to rent, an older home with some flaws. He had liked our ad and had no problem with the dogs. Two pictures were attached. One showed part of a living room with key-lime green walls, the other a backyard. When I searched for the house online, I found it on a realtor’s page for sale. This guy was trying to scam us with the same old trick the “Soldier” had tried before.
“Oh hell, no!” I got so mad, smoke was coming out of my nostrils. My fingers flew over the keyboard and I did not hold back. I pretty much had it with people who tried to take advantage of us, and I let him know how I felt. I type around 74 words per minute. What I thought, landed on the screen -unfiltered in rapid speed. All my frustration, the hurt I had felt, my anger, my fear, and disgust, all summed up in one long letter to “The Scum of the Earth.” That’s what I called him as well.
It was early in the morning, I was tired and not in the best mood. I wrote and wrote, tried to explain to a criminal how I felt and how devastating losing all the money could be for people like us. I wanted to talk some sense into him, but was fully aware that nothing can ever change the mind of a person like this. I went on and on, and after I had typed a few pages, I felt better. I hit send and turned the computer off.
I had sent a letter to THE SCUM OF THE EARTH!