We waited for Kurt’s background check. We were both nervous and fearful, for different reasons. “He wants me to co-sign for a car,” she told me and I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. “You will not do that, right?”
Her face didn’t give me much of an answer. What a predicament. Living in the boonies, Kurt wouldn’t find a job without a car. With a car, he could take off any minute and she would be stuck with the car payments. I didn’t envy her. Not for the first time, I felt sorry for her. There was so much I wanted to say, I wanted to share my thought with my best friend but instead of speaking up, I was tiptoeing around the truth, biting my tongue from morning to evening. My life around my friend had become a walk on eggshells.
“I feel I cannot be honest with you, as long as the money issue between us is not resolved,” without thinking I had blurted it out. She looked at me, curious and a bit puzzled. I could tell she wanted to say something.
“Put yourself in our shoes. You want to wait until the last minute to pay us and we worry about it constantly. Do you know how it makes us feel?” She got up, left the room and when she came back, she handed me an envelope with the money. It held the amount we had agreed on. $1,000 for our work in The Sausage Kitchen and a $700 loan. $1,700! It wasn’t just money, it was our future. A million-dollar check could not have felt any better.
We hugged, and I folded the envelope and put it in my back pocket.
“He is no good,” and finally I told her about the missing emergency money. “I am so afraid you are in love with the vision of your husband.” That’s what I feared the most. Kurt was the spitting image of her dead spouse, and that’s all she saw. A vision of a man she had once loved so dearly outshone Kurt’s flaws and shortcomings.
She had tears in her eyes. I didn’t like to hurt her, but not speaking up would have been worse. It tore me up inside. Should I be quiet or continue, even though it would make her sob?
My friend pulled a watch out of her pocket. “I found this in his drawer.” It was an expensive-looking chronograph. At first, I didn’t understand and then I realized this was most likely the watch Laurie’s friend had been missing. I shook my head in disbelieve.
Kurt’s background check wasn’t as bad as we had feared, but it gave enough ground to be concerned. He had been in trouble for bouncing checks and check fraud, he had two DUIs and a suspended driving license. He wasn’t allowed to drive.
My best friend jumped up like she just remembered something. She opened the closet and surprised me with an inflatable queen-size mattress and an electric air pump. “I had forgotten I had these,” she said, and I hugged her again. We wouldn’t have to sleep on the floor. Life was good!
The excitement in me grew now with every passing day. I had been wondering about my husband’s feelings. Were his emotions all over the place like mine had been for so long? A glance out the window earlier that day had shown me he was a happy place. I had been adding the spices to the mixing machine, and when I peered out the window, I saw my husband. He was checking the tire pressure on our truck and when I looked at the face I love so much, I could tell he was at peace. He smiled.
“Are you at a happy place?” That’s a question I ask him at least once a year -every year. Quietly, I ask myself the same question. Are you at a happy place, Bridget?
I don’t know where it comes from. Did I read it somewhere or was it a scene in a movie? Did a teacher recommend it or a friend? To me, that’s the ultimate question we should all ask ourselves at least once a year because there is no gray area in between. We are either at a happy place with our life, or we are not. And if we are not. Why not? And how do we change it?
All the time that we had spent at my friend’s home, who so generously had taken us in when we needed it, I had been alright and taken care of, but I was never at a happy place inside.
We weren’t there yet, but we both were on our way to being at a joyous place again -mentally.
“Let him know you run a background check on him,” I suggested but knew she wouldn’t follow my advice. She wasn’t there yet. My friend was not at a happy place, not with Kurt and not with her own life -far from it.
My best friend surprised me one more time. Tuesday in the afternoon, she asked me to get the pawn ticket, and we took off. I was so grateful, I had forgotten all about it. I wasn’t too thrilled to spend money, but I wasn’t willing to let the pearls go for $200 either. It cost $270 to get the jewelry set out of the pawnshop. When I reached into my pocket to pay for it, my friend had the money already in her hands.
“I owe you guys,” she said, and I appreciated the gesture and the words more than she will ever know. I had given my all to make her dream come true. We had worked so hard to fulfill her secret wish and that she would close The Sausage Kitchen hurt us. We felt like we had worked for nothing.
I couldn’t understand why she didn’t keep the kitchen open. She instantly blocked any attempt to talk about it and in the end, I gave up. It was her business, and I had no say in it.
The next two days flew by. We fulfilled all the orders, made the last inventory list, and before we knew it, it was Thursday and we started packing.
I didn’t call Garry in Memphis every day as I had assumed I would, but I called him that morning. “Tomorrow we will be on our way to Memphis,” I updated him. We talked for a while and he wished us safe travels. “Call during the day, so I know where you guys are.”
He became more and more real as a person and as a landlord, but in the back of my mind, the fear of a scam lingered.
I promised I would keep him updated. I hang up and I called the lady with the little house in the hood. She and I had never clicked on the phone. Our skin color was different, she had pointed it out. I heard resentment in her voice and probably gave the same vibe to her. She wanted to meet us and the dogs first and then decide if she would rent to us. I told her I would call her in the evening after our arrival so we could meet if we wanted to. I let her know she was our Plan B.
Steve and his family came by. The kids helped us load the car, Ron stopped by and said goodbye. He urged us to stay in touch. He was worried about us and while it fed my anxiety, it also made me feel good. We weren’t as alone as we thought we were.
I took care of our private things, placed binders with paperwork on the backseats. We would put the dog beds on top of it the next day, so our big dogs would travel comfortably.
We quickly filled the back of the truck with our belongings. Our bags and boxes, the duffel bags my husband had brought with him, the air mattress, comforters, and pillows, we stuffed things in corners, made sure we didn’t waste any space. The hardcover top closed barely and when we tried to shut the tailgate; we had no room left for the two coolers.
We took it all out and rearrange everything, in the hope it would somehow give us more room. We opened the bag with shoes and stuffed single shoes in between things instead. To our surprise, it worked.
The coffeemaker went behind my seat. A bucket with cleaning supplies, the rice bag, and other smaller things were stored behind my husband’s seat, and everywhere else in between. The next morning, we would just add our dirty clothes from the day before, our bathroom ‘stuff’, and the dogs. We were all set.
We spent the last evening around the kitchen table. I had a glass of wine, my friend got high but drank only a little. The two of us walked over to the kitchen and we filled the large rolling coolers with sausages and meats. I didn’t want to take that much, but she stuffed them full, didn’t even ask me and I quietly thanked her over and over in my mind.
Boxes with fresh and smoked sausages, fresh meat cuts, pork tenderloins, shrimp, crawfish, boudin balls, steaks, and ground beef, all frozen solid. We wouldn’t have to buy meat for a while. Ten large mason jars of the Braunschweiger Sausage I had made didn’t fit in the cooler, but she insisted I took them. I wasn’t sure where to put them. There was no room for another box -no matter how small.
We went back to the house, ate a bit and laughed a lot. Kurt didn’t join us. He stayed in the bedroom all evening long.
I had Munchkin on my lap, said goodbye to our little dog. She held still for a while, humored me with kisses, but then jumped down and played with her mom. Later on, she found her place in my friend’s lap. With a heavy heart, I let her go. I didn’t know I would never see her again.
It was a mild night. I went outside on the back porch. Our big dogs were sleeping on the patio, rolled up, belly full, and I picked up the dog bowls with food. Only the water stayed. They wouldn’t get their usual breakfast in the morning, neither would they spend the night in the house. For the second time in their lives, they would sleep a night outside. We wanted them as tired as possible, so we could drive through.
We all went to bed. Surprisingly enough, I slept very well that night.
We got up at 5 am, took a shower, got dressed, and cleaned out our room. I put our sheets in the washer, dusted and mopped the guestroom, and cleaned the bathroom top to bottom. I wanted to make sure I left everything the way I had found it.
We made sandwiches for the road and I fed the dogs a few small treats. We loaded the truck with the rest, we both had to lean against the tailgate to shut it. When it finally snapped, we locked it just in case, so it couldn’t bust open on the road.
Around 7 am we went to the backyard, and we both got a dog out on the leash. They were excited about going on a road trip when they realized we were going to the car. With all our paperwork and their beds on the seats, it was now too high for them to jump, so we lifted them up. First the 100 lbs Weimaraner, which was not an easy task, then the 60 pounds shepherd mix. They rolled up, laid down, and then there was no room left for my boy, who was still waiting in the backyard. He didn’t know what was going on and felt left out. He was barking and whining.
How could this be happening? We had a house for all of us to stay in, and now there was no room left for our third big dog. I had tears in my eyes. Didn’t know what to think or do. “Maybe on my lap,” I heard myself say, but knew it wasn’t an option. Eight hours with a 60+ pound dog on my lap was not just dangerous, but would also be torture for both of us.
“How about between my legs on the floorboard?”
“We will have to scoot the seat back. It might work,” my husband said, and we both pulled out everything we had so carefully placed behind my seat.
A winter coat and the coffeemaker, a box with spices. A pair of shoes, which we tugged underneath the dog beds. I placed the box with spices between the dogs, who didn’t seem to mind. Now my seat could go back further and there was even a little bit of space left on the floorboard. Five Braunschweiger jars and a pair of shoes fit in it perfectly.
I placed the winter jacket on my seat, like a blanket. The coffee maker, wrapped in a towel, found a home on the armrest between our seats. My husband tried to protest but a short, “Coffee or no coffee?” shut him up.
I got my boy, who was now hauling loud and when I sat down on my seat, one leg in, one leg still hanging outside, the dog understood and jumped right in. I got both of my legs in the car, and my husband closed my door carefully.
Two Braunschweiger jars found room in the center console, one fit in the glove department, our bag with the dirty clothes we wore the day before and our bathroom stuff found room beside me.
We waved goodbye one last time and took a left turn on the old gravel road.
Good Friday 2010, we finally moved on and hoped our time of being homeless/houseless would come to an end. All we had left fit in one truck.