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Friday, May 14, 2010

The Denouement

This is it.

The entire episode, fantasy, dream, nightmare, interregnum, hiatus, crazy phase, and vacation in my truck is coming to an end. It is coming to an end because there is nothing else and nowhere else for this course to take. It will end. How badly we cannot yet know.

The truck is expensive. It eats an enormous dollar-amount of gasoline each day it is on the road while I seek food, a bathroom, or get to a job interview. Yes, I lost my last job. I asked for a day off every week to take care of personal business, but that is not all: I asked for a raise. The answer came a week later when the HR guy asked to speak to me in private and then handed me a notice of termination.

Of course, somehow I knew this employer was not paying me well enough to get out of the truck; but having a job to go to every day gave me a community and a social life in spite of the fact that I used up my meager savings and was not able again to save any money while there. I make too many mistakes trying to stay sane.

So, same day, with my walking papers in hand, I went down the corridor to another business I knew was hiring. Today was my third stab at an interview. Again, the owner/manager was too busy to see me. Not that he does not know who I am. I have seen this man and his employees on trips to the restroom and in the restroom enough times to know them all by name. I was invited innumerable times to come over and visit because they could use someone like me. They were making money --- good money. I could be part of it.

Why did I not go? Why did I not go before I was fired from my current job?

I got attached.

I came to love the very things about this job that I often hated: that funky, not-altogether-clean feeling of the place; the gangsta-rapper sales managers who made it a boiler room; the men and women who had been to jail and were now making good by working for someone who would hire them; the fact that my employer was a black man who had been to prison and whose mom and dad, step-mother, full and half-brothers, and a host of personal friends and neighbors worked for him; and that slightly out-of-place feeling engendered by it all. I fit, and I didn't fit.

There was a warmth there, though, that is hard to describe to another person unless, like me, they have had a fascination with black people and their derivative American culture. Sales meetings were more like coming to Jesus at a church revival. We would stop work regularly to sing. Stepmom, whom I called Reverend Mother, hummed praise songs all day, and she was amused and delighted by that title. I told her if the Hindus could have living female saints whom they revered, then there was no reason we could not have one in our very midst. The name stuck, and she returned the favor often by taking me aside in private, by the hand, and leading me in prayer. She even offered me a vial of her own brand of healing oil that had been blessed.

Mom, that is, Pop's first wife and mother of the boss also had her version of holy oil. Now Mom was about as far from Reverend Mother as another woman could get. She cracked colorful jokes most of the day and was on the phone selling with the rest of us. She was pure funk and very, very loud. She had been an alcoholic, needed and loved attention, and used her status and her son's position all the time to make sure she got what she wanted. She could be unpleasant. She could be funny. She was inspired one day by such a long round of lusty, rowdy jokes and laughter of which I was definitely a part to hand me sub rosa a vial of what she said was a very potent oil and motioned the place to dab it for best effect.

But that is all over.

I do not regret it. I was completely financially ripped off. Not that the place is an utter scam, but clearly the arcane pay structure left so much to the imagination one would be hard pressed to think of another way not to pay employees. Someone set their genius to it. It finally hit me, though, that I had run through my savings, borrowed money I could not repay, and borrowed yet more all because I was only making around $320 a week.

After paying for gas and food and paying down the repair bill on the truck, I could buy a little makeup, do the laundry, or purchase facial tissue and that was that until next week. I lived from one paycheck to the next even while I strove to meet the promise of making a $1000 per week. Like I said, it took a while for me to come to the conclusion that there were not enough hours in the week to reach income anywhere close to that $1000. Like I said, I make too many mistakes.

Still, having fallen too far from the solid middle class, I enjoyed this job and have to acknowledge the grimness of my starting point. It was part of what it took to get by. Even if regret is a waste of time, I have wasted so much time anyway, which brings me to how I do not know, most of the time, what I am doing. I wish I had better judgement, but I do not. I wish I had a handle on consequences, but I do not have that, either. Lastly, in this string of connected thoughts, I come to being so lost in this world that I might as well not be here for all the meaning I fail to contribute or impart. This is not a pretty truth, but I am aware that much of my truth is no longer attractive.

I can now come to Jesus with everybody else.


  1. It seems as though your world has grown very small because your options are so limited, but there are always other options. They may not be good ones, or ones you'd like to pursue, but there are other paths and places. They're just difficult to find.

    I can't pretend that I know how much you're suffering as I have never been homeless (though it is one of my greatest fears), but I can say that more meaning is imparted through pain and suffering than through happiness and ease. If you are Christian, you can look to the fact that Jesus suffered terribly and his life had more meaning to millions than the lives of those who lived in comfort and without excess hardship.

    You sound like you're giving up, and I hope that is not true. I'm not going to pretend there's a bright future out there for you, but I can say that your writing has had an impact on me and I hope that you will persevere.

  2. Dear Orchid,

    Thank you, always, for your kind notes. I deeply appreciate hearing from you and your kindness does truly lift me up.

    In some ways, life in the rough is about waiting and doing what one can. I push myself to go to yoga because it makes me feel larger and more capable than perhaps I really am, but it does help.

    I also run 4 miles three times a week. I continue to do the things that enlarge me as depression, that feeling, is just intolerable. I am fine today, am sleeping better, but tomorrow, who knows?

    Please continue to write to me and let me know your thoughts. I can tell you two or more heads are always better than one in my circumstance!