When The Departed left – abruptly – he left one big thing behind: debt. A great big steaming, stinking pile of debt.
A huge luxury car I don’t really need for just two people. Debt on my credit card for things we agreed on together. A mortgage it became rapidly apparent he no longer intended to pay.
There were other bills, too – like the new cell phone service we signed up for, and the cable package for eight gazillion channels of TV that mostly he watched.
And so on.
Some of these items, I am stuck with: jointly titled things, like my car, that I would sell if I could in the interest of reducing costs, but I can’t sell without his signature. I’ve been trying to get him to discuss the Big Picture so I can resolve these issues, but he has no interest in this whatever.
He wants to discuss who the Cuisinart really belongs to. Other things he needs urgently include: skis, his iPhone 4S, a cocktail shaker.
I do up a spreadsheet and look for ways to reduce my budget, and what I find is that my costs are inflating – everywhere. Suddenly, I have to take my daughter to before and after school care – $300 a month. I have to pay babysitters if I want to go anywhere. I no longer get a multi-car discount on my car insurance, which is due, conveniently, right now.
And so on.
Meanwhile, he really needs a Cuisinart. He sends letters via his lawyer about this. I’m not sure why, because he’s never actually used one or, as far as I can see, cooked anything other than eggs. I’m reluctant to turn it over to him because a) I actually use it and b) I suspect he wants to “accidentally” slice off a finger with it and then sue me.
I’m looking at my spreadsheet and if there’s one thing I’m certain of, it’s that I can’t afford to be sued right now. The places I would like to cut*, and would probably save the most money cutting – mortgage and car – I cannot cut without his cooperation.
One of the biggest expenses I see: my cleaning lady.
Okay, she’s not the best cleaning lady in the world, I grant you. She shows up every week – usually. She’s mostly on time. She misses strange things, such as a few cobwebs that are really impossible to miss – yet there they are. She breaks things sometimes, which drives me crazy.
She emigrated from Bosnia after the war there with her husband and four daughters, one of whom she is putting through college right now. Her English is so-so, but I have never heard her use an unkind word with it. She brings me food she made herself, and gives my daughter gifts for Christmas that she can’t possibly afford on what I pay her. And I know that a couple of her best clients went belly-up in the current recession – one of them was indicted.
She felt really bad about that. He was a nice man, she said, very generous.
I cannot let her go, I don’t have the heart – but I can barely pay her at the moment. I decide to simply cut her hours back.
I procrastinate. I’m not very good at laundry, vacuuming, or dishes, but if there were a Procrastination Olympiad, I would medal in every single event.
I make excuses through November – it’s Thanksgiving, who’s going to clean up after the turkey bomb goes off in my kitchen? I put it off.
December, meanwhile, is Christmas – pine needles, wrapping paper. A party at my house. Other people’s parties! I can’t miss them to, you know, clean. Plus, I’m no Scrooge.
I put it off some more.
Finally, it’s January, and cold, hard reality starts to sink in. My heating bills are astronomical, and worse – my daughter has to move to middle school next year, and I cannot afford it. I have to fill out financial aid forms and ask other people for money. And there are other people who deserve it more, I have no doubt.
Like my cleaning lady. The one with the daughter in college.
After her first visit in February, I pay her and then say, I have to talk to you about your schedule. I am going to have to cut back your hours. I don’t want to, but, well, you understand the situation.
She says, Oh, don’t you worry! I knew it would happen. I rather come here less but see you happy when I come – and you are happy now, without him.
When she leaves, she is smiling as she says, I’ll see you in two weeks.
*starting with his finger.