(Originally written in September of this year. Edited to post today.)
As I get ready to embark on the next stage of my life and there being a 4,000-kilometer expedition in front of me before getting there, I am inspired to expound on other stages in my life where I have already begun to piece out a story. It's therapeutic. Fun. And insofar that I am far less emotionally invested than I used to be, retrospection can be spun more positively. Old-fashioned conventions of writing, of time lines, of perfectly positioned punctuation WILL be tossed out the window.
On a side note, I have also thought about selling a large majority of my life story as fiction. I'm already sick of the one-question-begets-another cluster of assbackwardsness that is my life. And I mean, what's the point of putting a title on that story, extracting and sucking more (and hypothetical) sympathy when I have already had the experience of it being ignored, minimized, and slammed with antipathy? At least I won't have to rely on my imagination in order to come up with a good book. But I relent. I'm sure I couldn't even find a publisher. Not that I want to seriously go looking for one anyway, but I still have this retarded, deep-seeded wish in the far back dust traps of my mind that someone would pick it up.
But then I would probably just have one excuse or another for not wanting to work so hard on actually putting something together in the first place. Guess that's why I stick to my blog. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, in whatever order I deem to be in the mood for.
So then, where were we? Oh yes, I hadn't even started. And I was supposed to continue my post from yesterday, which I'm not doing after all. But like a good blogger person, I'll probably make a link from the continuation of yesterday's post to yesterday's post when I get around to it.
For today, though...
And no, not the totally awesome musical with Adam Pascal and Idina Menzel (who played Elphaba, the witch, in "Wicked",) but the foreshadowing I referred to here (12th paragraph down, just before the asteriks and again 2nd to last paragraph.)
At the top of the switch-over, when I moved into the city after my living with friends flopped, I offered the aunt a small amount for rent. It wasn't much but at least it was something. I had done the same with my friends. By then my in-patient husband was getting his long-term disability paychecks and even though they didn't stretch far with an infant and a two-year old, at least we had something. My girls had what they needed and I was taking up space in their house, eating their food, and getting rides from them to the hospital. It seemed... fair.
End of January comes, beginning of February, something like that (yeah, not too long after the Christmas I was displaced--another entry coming soon to computer near you,) and the aunt pulls me aside and says, "well, hey, look, it's not quite enough. What you're giving me isn't covering enough." Vague like that. No details. In her squeaky, passive-aggressive smile, she doesn't explain. I don't ask. I just come to understand how maybe the near-four-hundred dollars for bigger-city living isn't a realistic number. And I trust her. I feel like she's family and I'm cheating her. And what do I know about the cost of living there? Nothing.
So I oblige. I don't think to check the newspaper to compare prices. I don't think to go on the Internet. And this is before the days of Kijiji. I don't think to do much of anything because my husband is sick with cancer in the hospital. I don't think about much else, at all, really, because it's already so much to be in this weird universe where I've lost control of my life, I'm trying to keep it together for my daughters, and security is a long-lost, foreign, far-away dream concept; and I am only 21 years old. My head is too full, I am perpetually in a state of alarm, and I just keep waiting for someone to have pity on me and be able to afford my leeching, or maybe even just know what to do.
But no. Next month, same thing. I don't even remember where the month went in terms of time, and here this woman is pulling me aside with a paper in her hand with figures on it. Somehow the rent goes up another chunk. Now I'm getting a little curious. We're talking over five hundred dollars now. In 2001.
I start to stew over it. My in-laws do nothing about it. What could they, do, right? They warned me not to move in with her in the first place. Husband comes out of the hospital for a short stint to get a change of scenery and in between chemo doses. He stays with us at the aunt's, and guess what? Yep, that's right, she ups the rent again.
By this point, it is costing me $680 to rent a small corner of her house. An enormous house that she and her husband got for cheap because they bought out someone's foreclosure. It doesn't cover my baby's foods, diapers, or formula. It doesn't cover any extras. This is just to live in a hole in the basement of her house.
One day, she comes home with arms loaded with loot from Michael's Craft Store. Another day, it's new HUGE television (before the days of HD.) Yet another day, it was a complete bedroom set for her youngest daughter.
I am now starting to see where all my husband's disability checks were going.
I am livid by the time I point it out to anyone who would listen.
Which is pretty much no one.
During my husband's stay with us and before going back into the hospital, he was with just enough presence of mind to agree with me about the maddening nature of all of it. I wanted to confront her about why she was charging me so much for rent. I wanted to know what she was figuring into the price of rent. And since she couldn't, for the love of God, give our young family a break, I wanted speak up and out loud.
But I was so filled with anger that I could hardly make sense of what was going on, much less what I wanted to do about it. It was a daily thing. No one seemed to clue into any part of the pain I was going through and to make matters worse, here was this aunt contributing to the injustices we were already suffering. I didn't even care about paying rent to earn my stay there nor paying a certain number as compared to the housing market around me, it's just that one or the other of the two choices would have at least yielded something more akin to freedom and the money that was being sucked from my pocket was sick money.
And freedom I did not get much of. I got lectured for one thing or another pretty much every other day. I never knew when I was going to be pulled aside for something, cornered about, or "suggested to." If it wasn't my bedtime--my bedtime for crying out loud! After bearing 2 children? Was she serious?--it was about cleaning the house, or about the way I cleaned it, it was about the way I disciplined (or did not discipline enough) my children or the way I did or did not talk about my emotions with her or "seemed" to be not understanding my situation. Oh, I understood it perfectly well, thank you.
Not to mention, again, no car, no job, no immigration status, no money of my own, no way to make a few bucks here or there. Trapped.
It was maddening all on its own to have been reduced from being my own person with a family and the husband's promising career to some kind of know-nothing, grunt-level, entry-level, belittled kid thing whose loosely-tied "family" status somehow enabled the aunt (or maybe entitled her?) to treat me like crap AND try to fake like she wasn't. But then paying big city rent for a shithole bedroom in her basement and cleaning her house and watching her daughters live comfortably spread out while I crammed myself and my two babies in the shithole bedroom was less than exciting. After months of trying to take it all in--the cancer, the aunt, the inlaws, the young motherhood, and immigration limbo--and nothing coming out, and this short off the heels of a year-old marriage, college with a baby, single motherhood, and no family around anywhere, I didn't know what end was up. It was like jamming a gig of information in 750 megabyte computer and the RAM is fried.
So I practically jumped at the idea of my mom buying me a plane ticket to hang with her for a month in Nevada. Of course it meant leaving my husband to deal with his lung surgery by himself (with his mom) and my mom would have to work and carry on her life while I was visiting, but I would be OUT of that place.
And I had received my mother in law's blessing. Respite came slowly in those days, and emotionally unintelligent people were slow to respond, but my mother in law's understanding of the situation (in addition to her own severe contempt of her brother and sister-in-law) helped relieve the guilt I had about going. By that point, it was May, the prognosis for my husband was looking better, and all the procedures his oncologist had promised were actually starting to be followed through on. I had had all I could stand of the situation. Had I stayed one second more, I might have had a psychotic break.
With what little sanity I thought I had left, I packed up everything I could carry, including two little girls, and made my way through the scary maze of customs to see my mom waiting at the port.