Adventures in Homelessness: Part 1

Let’s face it: Rents are too expensive

I lined up the royal jelly ginseng vials like shots on the counter, and at the end, plopped down a quart of kefir like a chaser. Noah asked me if I wanted some breakfast. I said no; I had no time left to eat solid food.

As I sucked down one of the bitter-sweet vials I quickly surveyed the wrecked house that was once a home. Sort of.

I ran down an enormous to-do list in my head. I had already packed up my bedding — I had slept on the floor last night. I got home around 1 am after dropping off the U-Haul, and Christopher and I said our exhausted, bruised, sore goodbyes — he drove off in his Honda C-RV to go back to Long Island, and I collapsed into my sleeping bag for a few hours of shuteye. Noah was already in his room trying to sleep on the floor.

But now that it was morning, I had absolutely no time to think about what had already happened.

My mind raced through calculations of what had to be taken, what had to be put off until the end, what would fit in my car, how many trips I could make, how many man-hours were available, whether my older son Noah would be better off staying behind and packing, or riding shotgun and unloading.

I was so busy thinking and calculating, I couldn’t feel the adrenaline burning white-hot through my veins.

I backed into it: today, I need to book a hotel room for the two of us. Tonight, I am going to court and Noah can stay behind and pack more, and I can definitely fit in at least 1 more trip to the storage facility before I’m locked out at 10pm. I have to be at court for 6:30pm. It takes about 20–30 minutes to make a trip to the storage facility, it takes about 20 minutes to load the car, it takes about 40 minutes to go to the transfer station unload and come back — but with help I can cut that time down — and it takes about 30 minutes to load all the garbage into the car.

My big fat major goal, like a desperate dog with its jaws locked on a pull-toy, is to hand over the keys to their lawyer.

My secondary goal was to have the house broom-swept. As I surveyed the living room that once was my office, and calculated what was left in the hall closets, kitchen, basement…I had to start to face the reality that my secondary goal was doomed to failure.

I continue backing into it, while packing things into the car to take to the storage facility. 40-pounds, 50-pounds, it didn’t matter. I lifted large totes full of books, boxes full of bottles, whatever was left, and loaded up my car. Then with Noah still packing and cleaning, I drove to the storage facility.

What’s left that’s most important to take? What will fit in the car? How many trips can I make? How can I leave the place not a complete and utter disaster? What has to stay until the last minute?

Another part of my head is making other calculations. I originally was going to have Christopher take Noah last night down to my ex’s place. I decided I needed Noah today, and boy was I glad I made that decision. Now Noah would stay at the hotel room, and I’d bring Noah to Westchester on Thursday. Tomorrow.

But that means that I need to fit all of the things I need to survive AND run a business from my car AND all of Noah’s things he needs into my little Honda Civic. I’m grateful she’s got a Tardis for a trunk, that the seats go down, and for all my years of packing for Pennsic War in PA. I know how to pack, I know how to fit an amazing amount of stuff in a tiny space.

Speaking of fitting an amazing amount of stuff into a tiny space. I get to the storage facility and grab a wheeled cart, I put all the 40- and 50-lb boxes and totes onto the cart and roll them along inside, open the gate, carefully put my purse and the lock and keys on the washer, and I start building the piles UP.

This fits here if only I turn it sideways, don’t forget to keep the labels facing out, this is too heavy, so it has to go UNDER this one, this will fit in this shelf, this will only work at the top of a pile, where is a ladder when you need one?

I manage not to take up even a square inch more of floorspace, lock up, and return to the house.

Noah and I pow-wow for a moment, I start delegating. I start to prioritize the garbage, the food in the fridge — if the power is shut off it will rot — we’ve basically finished the 3 bedrooms, much of the bathroom. Noah starts shoving our best linens into large laundry bags.

I had formulated a plan, out of desperation. I had to leave, I couldn’t find a new place.

I have to face the harsh reality that most rents are unaffordable. This rent certainly was, at $1550 per month plus all the utilities. I had a salary when I moved in, and 4 months later I didn’t. I had lasted in this expensive house for 11 years. I had nothing left. No favors to pull in. No family to beg for money. I had already collected everything substantial owed to me by clients. I was already buried in much more debt than I could handle.

Next we’re loading the car for the transfer station. We pack the car absolutely full of heavy black bags of garbage, clear bags packed to the brim with paper for recycling, and Noah and I get in.

Mental calculations, I’m passing right by the Days Inn, I had already taken a moment yesterday to figure out who had the best prices, I need to book a room, it may be fastest just to go in and book a room, I’ll do that on the way back.

Chris had left Krisvilburgton (the name we lovingly gave the house) 2 years before. We were no longer splitting the expenses. We had a roommate for a while, that helped. She’s long gone.

Unload the car at the transfer station, the ground is wet with who knows what disgusting stuff, and the mound of discarded STUFF is huge. Another couple guys have backed up a pickup truck and are heaving loads into the pile, so Noah and I have to walk to get things to/from the car. On the way out, we pay the minimum $20, I write them a check, they check my drivers license, we drive away.

So many people say “I could never live with my mother.” Many of the same people call me brave when they read my autobiography. I guess I was brave enough to try to live with my mother. I thought it would be a win-win if my mom and I lived together: shared expenses, no need to hire an aide if or when my mom and step-dad’s health started to go, I wouldn’t have to leave them in Missouri to other people’s hands — they’d be right there to take care of. Even if it’s a decade or more away. I’m a dreamer.

Well, short story is Mom moved in, Mom moved out, and isn’t really talking to me. I’m ok with being basically disowned. Seriously, I’ve been through much worse. That was 2 years ago, right after Christopher moved out.

We pull up at the Days Inn and I go in to book us a room. I get the price I saw online with no hassles, I go to pull out my license and credit card and my license is not there. Where did I last see my license? I just had it at the transfer station. Do I remember getting it back from the guy in the booth? No. At this point my brain isn’t recording anything well. I rummage through my purse, I don’t find it. I apologize and get back into the car to go to the transfer station and ask for my ID back.

Just when I turn in at their facility it occurs to me that it might be in my checkbook.

Yes, my ID is tucked into my checkbook. I turn around without bothering the man in the booth, and drive back to the hotel, book the room.

Reshuffle the calculations: bring our things to the hotel room to get them out of our way at the house, make another trip to the storage facility, fill up the car again, make it to the court, hand back the keys, survive court, make another trip to the storage facility by 10pm, two trips if possible with Noah still packing, come back to the house, pack the car up with the very last things for the storage facility, lower the thermostat, lock up the house behind us, sleep at the hotel, wake up at 4am to go to BNI in the morning, drop things in the car off at the storage facility, pick up Noah and our belongings at the hotel before check-out, check-out, check my PO Box, drop Noah off at Panera in Newburgh, drive up to Albany…and my brain starts sputtering in rebellion. Thinking too many steps ahead.

I’ve even been homeless before. But that’s another story for another day. I survived. I figured I would survive this too. I have a comfortable car, a warm sleeping bag, a hotel room tonight, a plan for the next 24 hours.