Lies, Promises and Rabbit Ears

My husband’s second paycheck, still under a thousand dollars for two full weeks of work, was celebrated the same way as the first one. We drove to the bank together, cashed the check, and back at home, we got the hidden cash out of the kitchen drawer. We called our landlord, asked him if he wanted to pick up the rent, and an hour later he parked in our driveway.

Gary must have felt the same relief we felt. We had kept our promise to him and ourselves. We had survived our first month in Memphis, Tennessee, and had earned enough money to pay for housing and food, but we needed so much more. I had made some cash, but not enough, and time was running out. Our landlord didn’t bring up the utility bill, and he didn’t have to, we knew we had to get it into our name but had no idea how to accomplish it.

Saturday morning my husband went on a road trip to visit his brother who lived now only six hours away, an extra expense we couldn’t afford but we couldn’t wait much longer. At this point, we didn’t know how to finance a new vehicle, but knew we had only four weeks left to drive our beautiful truck.

My husband came back Sunday in the afternoon, the truck full of boxes, tools, trash bags with his belongings, and a 30″ flat-screen TV.

Susan and Ron had stopped by our home one more time. They had found an old entertainment center in their barn and had thought of us. Now we had a futon in the back room, that’s where I slept, a full-size bed and mattress in the room where my husband slept. The master bedroom was empty, a camping table and four fold-out chairs were all we had in the living room. We had decided to “live” in the bonus room and now, with an old TV center, a recliner, and an overstuffed chair, it almost felt like home.

Our neighbor next door left to us was an older lady, Miss Liz. We talked every day over the fence and I could hear her speak to our dogs when our kitchen window was open. She was a cute, very tiny, and fragile-looking woman. We would become good friends, even though she was so much older -already ninety years old when we moved in next to her.

Our other neighbors, the ones right at our side door, seemed nice enough. Their driveway and our driveway were only separated by a small grass and walk area, which was only used to pull the trashcans to the street. Mark, the older son, didn’t work and had many friends who stopped by to visit him every day. His mom, also an older lady, was a feisty redhead, who didn’t seem too friendly at first glance.

Mark smoked outside and often laid on top of his mom’s car when he was waiting for his friends. His back leaned against the windshield, laying on the hood, listening to music. He was a rough-looking guy, not very clean, but he seemed ok and very helpful. They had a roommate, a friend of Mark’s who was very hyper and very talkative. For the life of me, I cannot remember his name.

When we unloaded the truck, they watched us and both men came over and helped us carry everything inside. We placed our TV on the old oak entertainment center and looked at it. We didn’t have cable, so it wouldn’t be used for a while. They noticed how sparely our home was furnished and without going into details, what was odd because we didn’t have a problem sharing our situation, we told them we had decided to start all over new when we moved to another state.

When they found out we didn’t have cable, they brought us an old rabbit ears TV antenna and helped us set it up. Now we could watch two channels which amused us endlessly, a third one, the football channel, needed someone to hold the antenna close to the window. The guys sat down in the chair, my husband offered them both a beer, which they accepted. It felt good to have neighbors to talk to, we didn’t feel so isolated anymore.

They asked about our dogs and their behavior, wanted to know their names and without thinking or talking it over with my husband, I heard myself say: “They are friendly, as long as nothing threatens us. They are watchdogs, fully trained and they attack on command.” Which was only partially true. Our big dogs were friendly and trained, but not to attack. Tail wagging, they greeted every stranger with kisses, always hoping to get a treat or a decent belly rub. I have no idea why I said what I said, but something inside me urged me to use our dogs as a shield, as protection, and as a weapon, because when it comes down to it, most dogs have a good protective instinct. My husband, surely surprised, didn’t show his astonishment.

My health problems continued. I felt dizzy and had taken a fall again, which I failed to mention in the evening because I didn’t want to freak him out. Now I had severe anxiety and panic attacks and only felt comfortable in our home or in our car. I knew I had to see a doctor, but didn’t see a way to make it happen. To be honest, it scared me. The anxiety made sense, but why did I fall?

We had talked back and forth and had come to a decision. Monday in the evening we carefully packed part of our jewelry and drove to a pawn shop nearby. This time we wanted to get as much as possible for it and when we left, we had $650 in our wallet and a pawn ticket in our name. We didn’t know it then, but it would take us thirty months to get our jewelry back, until then we paid only the interest every month and I never dared to add it all up. We did what we had to do.

The back door and the front door of our home didn’t close all the way and could easily be opened with just one heavy push. “At least now part of our jewelry can’t be stolen,” we joked to make ourselves feel better.

We stopped at Walgreens on our way home, bought a pre-paid green Dot visa card for $4.95, and filled it up with the cash. Later that evening when the neighbor named Julie came online, I used her internet again to pay for the deposits for our utilities and our internet-cable bundle. Comcast, the cable company, was scheduled to set up the equipment in our home the following Monday.

Tuesday I piddled around, washed our clothes in the old, leaking washer, and hang them on the clothesline outside. I had gotten another chair to work on, a complicated piece with lots of wood and wicker repair. Again, I had quoted it way under price to get more business.

I sat on the floor, worked on it for a while, and made a list of the things I needed. In the evening my husband came home and rolled an old, very heavy round tabletop into our bonus room. He leaned it against the wall, went out again, and came back with the ugliest metal table legs I had ever seen. A short while later he attached the banged-up legs to the top. We both huffed and puffed when we turned this old, solid table back on its feet. We had a dining room table, at least that’s what it would be used for at night. During the day, it would be my worktable. No more working on the floor. The table was a dumpster rescue. The warehouse guy where my husband worked had planned to get rid of it.

Our fold-up camping chairs didn’t match with the height of the ‘new’ table. We looked like little children when we sat down to eat. We laughed. We laughed a lot back then and enjoyed each other’s company. We were proud of everything we had accomplished and never felt ashamed. Within our home, we were normal people. Looking back I know now that our minds had not fully adjusted to our new reality.

I talked to my best friend at night, her troubles with Kurt were a never-ending story. That night she was in a bad mood, the two had fought all afternoon long. I listened to her whine about him, tried to give her advice when she asked me. She needed to vent, and I understood.

Our little dog was doing great, and according to her, didn’t seem to miss us at all, but we missed her terribly. I told my friend that we couldn’t wait to have her back and mentioned meeting halfway to get our dog soon, to which she replied, “Well if you have so much money to waste on a trip, you can start paying me back.”

When she said it, something happened inside me. Why isn’t there a loud noise that can be heard miles and miles away when our heart breaks? How can we scream so loudly, yet not make a sound?

We were not even gone for two months when my best friend, who was not hurting for money in any form or way anymore, who had a full saving account, mainly due to the fact that we had worked really hard for her, asked me to pay the loan back that should have never been a loan, to begin with.

There now I said it. I had agreed to her loan arrangement because it had been our only chance to get out, but deep down, I had always felt that it wasn’t right. I hadn’t mentioned it before to anybody, not even to myself. For months it had been a feeling in my head, a thought I didn’t dare to finish thinking.

Best friends will disappoint you. You will have arguments and fights with them, which is normal, but there is a line drawn somewhere that no friend should ever cross. It’s an invisible line, one drawn with love, respect, and trust and when it gets crossed, nothing will ever be like it has been before.

My friend, in my opinion, went over that line when she asked me to pay her back so soon after we had finally found a place to call home again, after months of being houseless.

Perhaps I was wrong and ungrateful, maybe I overestimated the work we had done. The truth is, we will never know. I wished she would have waited a few months until she made a comment like this. I wished we would have talked about how and when we would pay the loan back the moment we accepted it. But we were best friends, we had felt there was no need.

I didn’t tell her about the deposits or my health issues but instead promised her we would start paying her back soon. I made a commitment not knowing if I would be able to keep it, which was very wrong on my end. You don’t agree to something if you know it might bring you in trouble.

I should have been honest with her, should have told her what I thought about her request. A heartfelt Fudge You or something similar offensive to show my disapproval. We should have worked it out on the phone like friends do. Her demand vs our capabilities -but I didn’t.

I listened to her criticisms and complaints about Kurt and held back with information on my end. A friend, a good friend, would have asked questions. She knew we would lose our vehicle, she had seen how much we had lost. What was wrong with her?

Or was I wrong? We were still best friends, right?

18 thoughts on “Lies, Promises and Rabbit Ears

  1. Wow! She really did cross a line, I think. Her lack of sensitivity towards all that you were experiencing and the fact that you’d been so helpful to her really astounds me, but at the same time, this is a woman foolishly staying with a man who didn’t appear trustworthy, so I do question her thinking! I am so pleased as I read this installment to see how you did find people who were helpful and willing to share and seemed to want the best for you. I do want to get to the part of the story where you see a doctor! And it was good to read your jewelry eventually came home! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, she did cross the line not knowingly. Funy how it works. I remember the moment, she had no idea.
      She had been so lonely, she had been an easy target for a man like Kurt. Loneliness, combined with her addiction problems, not a good lifestyle to choose. As for our jewelry. Sadly, we would lose a few, but keep a lot.

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      • The people we love and care about the most can be the same ones who hurt and disappoint us the most. This is especially true with addicts. You know from whence – what experience – I speak. If and when we can, we have to move on and reluctantly leave them to their own devices. Of course, backlash like what you got from your friend can make this easier and/or act as the last straw in the process.

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  2. Seems to me she had taken advantage of you when you were at your most vulnerable. She had profited from all your hard work and had then compounded the situation by making such a nasty remark. I love that you were able to laugh a great deal back then. It helped to keep you sane and grounded.

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  3. Very hurtful comment from her – it‘s clear those words came from a place of judgment not care. I agree with Betty about it coming from a place that didn’t have the capacity to be very caring. Friends and money are a complicated mix … Did she intend to charge you interest?

    How messy! Sorry it was a world of hurt.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Words, once spoken, can never be taken back. And I agree, once that line is crossed, one can’t go back. It changes things. Apparently, as you may agree, your friend did not fully realize the details of your situation. It sounds like she was mired deep in problems of her own. She wasn’t hurting for money, but she was hurting. I believe in forgiveness, but I also believe in boundaries. For those that have crossed that love and respect line in my life, I forgive them, and I wish them well, but I don’t have them in my life. I don’t know if that’s the answer or not, but that’s what I do. I like how you describe your neighbors. Like all of us – with some flaws but also helpful.

    Liked by 3 people

    • We have the same values. I always forgive, because holding a grudge is against my nature and it would bring me down, but I never forget, which means I forgive the act, but never the person. When my opinion about a person shifts it cannot be reversed. It hasn’t happened often but when it happens its big and has a dramatic impact on my life.

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