This episode contains content that may be triggering such as anxiety and panic attacks so please skip if you need to.
I wandered the empty halls of the fifth floor as I went over the details of the notice again. I was supposed to be making deliveries, at least trying to figure out where this stuff is supposed to go, but I couldn’t focus on anything with the threat of eviction looming over my head like this. I was behind on my rent — not by a whole lot — but enough to make my landlord feel some kind of way as made evident by the note left on my door this morning. It was passive-aggressive in tone, swapping back and forth between legal jargon and little jabs at my payment history. It wasn’t all bad though — threats and insults aside — toward the bottom, in the last paragraph, was an offer for a little extra time, an ‘understanding’, he called it, in the form of an additional week, to get this past due balance taken care of and me, back on track. And while I should’ve been grateful for this understanding, and feeling at least a little better inside, I didn’t — well, I couldn’t — not with the knots in my stomach that seemed to tighten with every passing thought because those seven days are nothing — not when it comes to this financial hole I’m buried in.
I leaned against the wall as my legs weakened from the weight of self-pity. This was hard, way harder than I thought it would be. Like, I knew that by leaving the way I did and taking a job in a whole different industry, I would be looking at a huge pay cut but I figured the downgrade in living arrangements would even it out. What I didn’t account for though was how expensive the rest of my life is. There’s the car note, then car insurance, phone bill, student loans, groceries, breathing — everything — costs so much and I just don’t know how to pay for it all without making another huge life change or doing something questionable or… illegal… I lifted myself back up as I considered the possibility of these other options. Could I do something like that? I paced the small area in front of my resting space on the wall. I mean… desperate times call for desperate measures, right? I could deal with ethics and morals and all that stuff later, right? As long as I get to keep my apartment and my life in Atwood — that’s what matters… right?
But then again… what if I get caught? I paused as I pondered the hypothetical consequences of these hypothetical crimes. That means… No. I cannot go to jail… but maybe I won’t have to. I resumed my walk as I used my very limited knowledge of the law to weigh the probability of me going to prison. If I make bail I could get right out and I don’t have a record so the odds of me doing actual time are slim as long as I don’t commit like a real felony but who would bail me out? I mean, I know my dad would but he’ll tell my mom and she’ll lose her shit and I cannot deal with her and– the cluster of knots from my stomach shot up to my chest as the idea of living with my parents again forced its way into my thoughts, making it nearly impossible to breathe. I backed into the wall again, this time gasping for air like I had just come up from a long swim. My heart was racing, my head was spinning and I was stuck, like frozen in place, in this same spot, against the wall, struggling to move, to breathe, to think about something else — anything else — that would take my mind off of what things were like before with her in that house and everybody else in that city…
A few agonizing minutes passed and I was still glued to that wall, my mind void of solutions and my body exhausted from worry. The letters I came up here to deliver were still clutched tightly in the palms of my now sweaty hands instead of sitting on the desks of their rightful owners. A task that should’ve taken me five minutes to complete has taken twice as long and I still wasn’t done but at this point, I didn’t even care. I scanned the area for a way to get rid of them. An inbox, dropbox — any kind of box — where they would blend in long enough for me to at least make it back downstairs and away from any repercussions. Across the hall from me, I found exactly what I needed, sitting between two of the room doors. I surveyed my surroundings and once I was sure the coast was clear, dashed over to the box, tucked the envelopes inside then briskly walked to the elevator before anyone bore witness to this offense.
At least I was able to solve one of today’s problems.
I pressed the button on the callbox and pulled out my phone for a much-needed distraction. The light above the elevator door indicated it was only three floors away but with the stairway out of commission and only one elevator to service the entire building — I could be here a while. I swiped to my texts, scrolled to the group chat at the top of my favorites and typed up a message. Are y’all busy? I hit send and waited anxiously for an answer from my friends. They probably were though, busy, dealing with their own lives and stuff — Cassandra with the guy that kept her from coming into work today and Jesminder with Kaelyn or a client — but they both had this way of saying whatever I needed to hear to make me feel better about whatever I wasn’t feeling good about and right now, I could really use some of that.
Jesminder was the first to respond. What’s up girl? What you need? That question, as simple as it sounded was a loaded one. I needed a lot — way more than they could give me — but right now, I’d settle for a virtual hug or something. I just wanted to– I paused before typing the rest. As much as I could use the comfort, my problems aren’t their problems and it’s not fair to dampen their day with my issues. See what y’all were up to. I finished it off with a lie. I’m over here with Coffee Bae. Cassandra chimed in. You need something? There was that question again. It’s like they could smell my ulterior motive through the phone. No. Everything’s fine. It’s not. Jesminder called my bluff. What’s wrong? Don’t make me call you. Cassandra followed suit, sending in her concerns. Did something happen with your ex? You know you could tell us, right? And that was my opening, my pass to tell them how I was feeling. That I was stressed again and not the normal kind of stress but the kind of stress from a few months ago. The kind that physically hurts, where all I want to do is lock myself away and cry. The kind that they– we thought I was done with but I couldn’t — the words just wouldn’t come to me. It’s like they were there but my fingers refused to type them so I wrote what they would instead. I’m getting evicted. WHAT?! They both responded at almost the exact same time.
The following messages were all questions, what happeneds and when did you find outs; and mine, answers and explanations. We ended the conversation with a plan to meet up later for a brainstorming session just as the elevator arrived on my floor. I tucked my phone into my pocket and as the doors eased open, felt a new sense of optimism — a feeling of calm that I hadn’t been able to grasp since I got home this morning. This meetup with my friends was something so small but gave me so much to look forward to and that was something I desperately needed to survive this day. This tiny bit of okayness was strong enough to shield me from any bullshit this job could possibly throw at me today, no matter what it was. I could handle it — all of it — except… well… for maybe one thing… and that’s what was waiting for me inside of that conveniently empty elevator.
I stood over the threshold, constricted by the unrelenting grip of embarrassment as he leaned against the wall, giving his full attention to his phone. There was no way I could go in there — not after the way I acted yesterday. What would I even say? That I was… projecting my issues with one man onto any man who even so much as ate with another woman? Or that after everything I found out about said man last night, I now realize that I may have overreacted a little– I mean, a lot? Considering how he stuck around to explain, when he really didn’t have to, just to be completely ignored, would he even want to hear any of that? Would it even matter? Does it matter? Does he care? Do I care? I stood there, in the center of the doorway, my arms wrapped tightly around my body, with all of these questions — all of which could easily be answered just by taking a few steps forward — but I didn’t so the doors started to close but I needed more time to think so I propped them back open and that caused him to look up for the first time since the elevator landed on my floor.
The look on his face was beyond annoyed and his tone was the perfect match to his aggravated expression. “Are you coming in or not?”
“Sorry…” I reluctantly stepped inside; marking off yet another infraction on my evergrowing ‘list of wrongdoings’.
As the doors closed shut and I took my place in the corner furthest away from him, I couldn’t help but notice how different he seemed today. That he was quiet, agitated — a complete 180 from the inquisitive, playful guy I had tacos with the other day. That the text he was typing on his phone, the one I assumed was heated in nature given his… attitude, seemed to frustrate him more than anything else in this elevator — including the girl who snapped on him for no legitimate reason. That I had been standing here, right next to him, for a whole 30 seconds, and he hadn’t given my existence any kind of acknowledgment. And I know I should be thankful that he chose silence over yelling or other acts of rudeness but I hated knowing that I caused this… the weirdness that happens when someone who didn’t hate you before, starts to hate you. The silence that exists whenever you’re occupying the same space… yeah, that silence — I really hate that silence… especially right now.
So I turned to him and in one huge act of bravery attempted to win back my place on his ‘good side’. “I’m… sorry for how I acted yesterday.”
I was fully prepared to wait while he considered the validity of my apology but his reply was immediate — almost like he cherry-picked it from a bank of pre-selected responses.
“It’s all good.” He continued typing away on his phone.
That… sounded a lot like the fake politeness you get after bumping into a stranger in the grocery store — not like real acceptance.
“Really?” I asked; giving him the chance to rescind his previous statement. “That easy?”
“Yep.” he kept his head down; glued to his phone.
Something about this didn’t feel right. His mouth granted acceptance but his body language said something completely different. He was super tense — so tense that the residual energy from whatever he was feeling, filled the entire space of the elevator — there was no way everything was all good.
“So, you’re sure?” I pressed on. “‘Cause you don’t really seem like–“
“Look.” He finally looked up at me as all that tension spilled out of his phone and onto the floor. “I don’t know what you want me to say. You seem like you got some crazy or something going on and I have enough of that in my life already.” He raised his voice ever so slightly. “So you said you’re sorry, I said it’s cool — so it’s cool, okay?”
Hold up. Did he really just call me crazy?
“What do you mean, crazy?” I folded my arms tight to suppress the overwhelming urge to slap him.
“Nothing.” He casually resumed his position against the wall with his face back in that stupid phone again, “I’m just saying…”
“Just saying what?” I demanded an explanation.
“That whole thing with you yesterday…”
“What about it??”
“Looked a lot like crazy.”
Okay. That’s it. I was done apologizing, playing nice, trying to get him to like me again. We had made it to the first floor of the building and at this point, the only thing I wanted to do was rip his fucking head off — both verbally and physically — but since jail time was out of the question so was physical assault but the other one, I could make that happen.
“Maybe if you spent more time focusing on your wife instead of being in other girls’ faces.” I sneered. “You’d see a lot less crazy.”
“I’ll remember that.” He nodded as he exited the elevator. “If I ever decide to get married again.”
Wait– did he say again?