dramaturgy: ([SA] Everything we touch is dust.)
dramaturgy ([personal profile] dramaturgy) wrote2013-07-03 01:46 am

There's no place like home?

Long story short: I'm back in Iowa for the foreseeable future.

I cut this for people who don't want to be triggered or even just read the whole story, but... I feel like I need to write down why I came back to Iowa and gave up my NYC dream -- for the moment.

So if I'm honest, this is probably a decision I should have made last year after I graduated. But I wanted it to work. I wanted it to work so badly, and I made it work, for about a year. I lived tenuously. The only job I had was the unpaid internship with {Your Name Here}. And I loved it. The theatre company has internal problems, but these are people who saw me for what I am and believed that I had value, and that I was smart and had something to offer the theatrical community. You can believe in yourself all you want but it's really empowering when someone else believes you too. I pushed through gall bladder surgery in July (which thankfully came to a head before August -- when my insurance ran out) and had some friends who helped me out during that time. In August I moved to the city with [livejournal.com profile] occultebelta and a girl named Ally, who was a friend of Bee's from Ottawa University and would be going to law school. I got a job at Barnes and Noble, which wasn't like a dream career or anything but I enjoyed it. I worked in the kid's section, which included toys and games and like... parenting books as well as educational materials (workbooks, SAT prep guides) and the like.

And thirty days into my sixty day probation period I was fired.

I didn't understand why. I was too shocked to ask -- to be fired from a job I was overqualified for in the first place? I know how that sounds, it sounds snotty and like Miss MFA Is Too Good To Work Retail, but whatever. I'm sure I'm not the only person who worked there who was overqualified and had places they would rather be earning their money. And even though I didn't ask why I was fired, I'm pretty sure it had more to do with "attitude" than not performing to standards -- although I sometimes felt like I was failing that as well. There was one time I told a man with a cane he had to go up to the other restroom on the fourth floor, rather than use the one in the children's section on the second floor. We did this and also kept the door locked to keep pedophiles from hurting kids or otherwise just doing their thing in the store. (I am told that this happened approximately once a WEEK before they started this.) He complained and I got in trouble. That is just one way the training for this particular store was fucked up -- training was basically left to whoever was most senior with me that day, and apparently some people were not teaching me the right way to do things. So of course I would get corrected. In addition, I had moved and lost my insurance, so I was off my Fluoxetine (depression/anxiety) as well as my Levoxyl (hypothyroiditis). I was not doing well, particularly in crowds or in being patient. So looking back, I'm not really surprised I was sacked.

But that didn't mean I wasn't okay with it or that I am now. I found it deeply humiliating and still do, even though I'm hardly the first one to lose a job. I'm crying sitting here writing this. This was mid-September. I knew that I should start looking for a new job right away, but I couldn't. I just couldn't. My manager at B&N said, "You're a theatre person. You should look for a job in the theatre!" like I wasn't doing that already along with every other theatre person in the city. But I just couldn't. I couldn't escape the feeling of not wanting to go anywhere or do anything, and that if I managed to get an interview I'd bomb it, and even if I didn't do that, I would get fired. If I can't work in a bookstore, how could I be expected to sling coffee, fold clothing, or work a cash register? It was like everything I thought I knew about my skill set and confidence in my competence at doing anything except scrolling through Tumblr and watching TV was gone. I knew I had to do things. But I was scared. Mid-September to Christmas/New Year is basically a blur of crippling self-doubt and depression.

I sold my car in December because I couldn't continue to pay the monthly payment, and forget insurance. I sold it for $4000 and paid the remaining $3100 on it, so I walked away with about $900. Christmas came, and Bee went back to Canada for a month. Ally was back in Canada too on her Christmas break. So I was alone in the apartment, which wasn't good for a number of reasons. I basically didn't have to leave the house if I didn't want to (and I didn't) and I had a lot of time to myself. In the spirit of the New Year, though, I was newly determined to not let myself defeat myself, and was submitting for jobs of all kinds. On January 8, I had an interview with the New York Musical Theater Festival, and had set up a phone interview with Sleep No More to be a stage management intern. I went to the interview, kind of bombed it, and bought myself cookies and apple juice for the train ride home. I stopped at the post office to mail a package, and then my phone buzzed. I'd missed a call from my dad while in the subway.

Now, my dad and I don't generally talk on the phone. I talked to him when the doctors determined I was going to have gall bladder surgery, and before that I honestly can't remember. I'm not really a talking on the phone person but for a few people, and he isn't chatty either. So I knew it had to be a big deal and I had a sinking feeling that I knew what it was. So I didn't want to listen to the voicemail just yet and instead checked my e-mail. Except when my Uncle Harry replied to the e-mail my father sent announcing my grandmother's death, he managed to reply to his entire address book. So I listened to the voicemail on the way home, and called my dad once I took a breath. So my grandmother died. I thought I'd more or less accepted it because she's been in declining health for several years, but I was still upset. For a number of reasons I was glad to be away while this was going on, but. Whatever. This is an overview, not deep analysis of my guilt over being away from my family drama. \o/ I remember that phone call so clearly, my dad asked how long I wanted to stay, or could stay. I cried because I said, "I don't have a job, I don't have anything." And I really felt that. I had nothing tying me there.

So I was home for a week. The day after I got back I shadowed at Sleep No More and got the internship. I started January 29 -- after my mom was in New York for nine days. We saw a lot of shows, and I got to spend time with my mother. That was amazing. And the job was amazing. The learning curve was stupid steep -- even when I was doing really well, I felt like I was failing immensely. But even when I got something wrong, they made me feel okay about it. I learned from my mistakes. And it didn't pay me anything. But I can't overstate what I got back. I was a trusted member of the team from day one, and I never felt like "just an intern." Things I did were important. The show didn't run without interns. I was trusted to fix things, replace items, hand off things, keep things safe. Just about the only time I was really happy was when I was at Sleep No More. I actually got really upset at the idea of having to leave. I loved that show and everyone there.

But it was not without its stresses. It wasn't paying, for one thing, but it would possibly lead to a position, so I hung my hat on that prayer for four months. I was sort of making ends meet by a combination of unemployment, relatives sending me money (one relative), and freelancing copy (which amounted to pocket change, really). I wasn't paying rent, and in fact definitely still owe Ally that money. If I'd been living alone or had a roommate who was more confrontational I would have been homeless. (She's not a total saint, this story isn't finished yet.) I'm still involved with YNH which is... experiencing some personnel issues. In March, my cousin's twenty-two month old daughter died and it hit the family hard. The next month, we found out that my aunt/godmother had stage four lung cancer that has metastasized already. Despite that, she was going to undergo radiation and chemo, but prognosis wasn't very good.

Mid-May, my internship concluded and things were looking up. I spoke to the head steward at Sleep No More and was going to start on the stewards crew. So I didn't have to leave SNM and perhaps best of all, this was a PAID position. We wanted to re-sign the lease in August (or at least didn't want to go to the trouble of moving?). I was looking for another part time to fill in around SNM shows. And then things went to shit.

We got bed bugs.

Now, here's the thing: we had bed bugs back in November. Or at least Ally's room did. Bee hadn't seen any in her room (right next door) and I hadn't seen any in my room either (at the other end of the apartment). We had an exterminator come, who was our landlord's "bug guy" which meant he was working cheap but also that he was working on off hours (this becomes a problem this time around). Now one thing you have to do when you have a bed bug problem is launder your soft goods. All of them. Now remember the part where I said things from mid-September to December are a blur? Yeah. Including this. But I am pretty sure all Ally did was bag her stuff, complain about the time and cost involved in laundering everything, and leave it in the kitchen for three weeks. Also bed bugs are nasty, tenacious little fuckers. They can hide ANYWHERE and go without feeding for a long time. So even if you exterminate, there's no telling if they haven't already moved. But now we weren't just seeing them in one room.

The second thing: the bugs that Bee and I saw didn't look like bed bugs the guy had shown us in Ally's room back in November, and they weren't in bed/on the floor. They were up on the wall (this was because they were living in her curtains;jf;asjf okay) and they were black. And maybe, at least on my end, there was more than a little bit of denial.

The third thing: I was getting bites, but I made excuses. They weren't that bad, and besides. It's spring, bugs of all kind are coming out to play and have you seen where I work? I won't pretend that SNM is known for its cleanliness, and we have an office cat, and dogs of cast/crew are sometimes brought in. I thought I easily could have picked up a flea or things from any of the hundreds of people I saw every day.

But in early May (after Bee had left to be in Canada for the summer and Ally had left to do her writing test for law school reviews remotely, also in Canada) I saw them and could no longer deny their existence. I e-mailed and Ally said she would contact the landlord after her test was done (May 24). I know that I should have done it earlier in the week, but it was my anxiety getting the better of me. I knew for four days that I should have e-mailed or something myself. But I didn't. Hi, I'm Liz, and this is how being mentally ill has ruined my life. That weekend, the head steward (Kristi) offered that I could start Saturday (I was planning on doing Thursday-Sunday shows, which is six shows [two shows on Friday and Saturdays]). But since I had to wait for the Bug Guy (Michel) to come, I said I would start next Friday (there was a Your Name Here event I was signed up for on Thursday). So he doesn't come on Saturday or until a few hours after he said he would be there on Sunday. So instead of making a hundred bucks that weekend, I sat on my ass and waited while he broke the appointments.

I should add that Wednesday this week was when I dyed my hair, and Thursday my aunt died. Going back to Iowa to be with my family for the third death in five months is out of the question.

So he shows up Sunday, I tell him the story: we have bugs all over the apartment, and I show him the specimens I've collected. He can't exterminate until soft things are bagged. I'm all alone in the apartment until the following week, by the way. Bee was gone and back in Canada, and couldn't come back. Ally though, was going on a resort vacation in the Dominican Republic. You can imagine how fucking unimpressed I was and am. So here's how my week looks:

Monday: Laundromat. Things that can't be laundered are getting steamed/vacuumed.

Tuesday: Laundromat. I wake up and the internet is disconnected. I literally do not have the money in my account to bring it up to date. Ally pays the internet -- or at least she's supposed to. She hasn't since MARCH, apparently. Get e-mail from landlord asking how the prep is going. I don't answer, because there's nothing to say.

Wednesday: Laundromat until 4:30, at which point I go help at a YNH event.

Thursday: Laundromat. Except the laundromat closest to my house isn't open when I'm ready to start at like 8. I wait it out, until 8:30, and it's still not open. Well I don't have time to sit around waiting to see if this place is going to be open for business today, so I walk ten minutes to the next laundromat, near the subway stop. I put things in there. I do a couple of loads there, and one time when I arrive back home, the landlady corners me in the front and demands when things will be ready for Michel to come back to exterminate. Now I sympathize. The bugs suck. You don't want them. I get it. But I am literally doing this all alone, I haven't had time to mourn my aunt, and I'm starting a new job tomorrow. And she wants to yell at me about not replying to the guy's e-mail from Tuesday, and I don't know what else. Once she starts repeating herself I ask if I can go and then get back into my apartment. I cry and cry and fuck I can't stop crying because I'm trying and apparently I can't do anything right. I end up with a Trader Joe's bag over my head because I'm almost hyperventilating and that's the best I can do. Once I don't feel like I'm going to pass out, I post to my Facebook that I need help. I get text messages and Facebook messages and actually find someone to help me. My friend James, who lived only about a twenty minute walk away, helped me carry laundry and talked to me about anything except bed bugs and was just an amazing shoulder to lean on. By about four in the afternoon I finish with laundry and message Michel. He says he will come that night after he's done with work. (Remember where I said he's doing this on his time? This is when it starts being a pain in my ass.) I decide not to go to the YNH event, despite that this was a dance piece that my friend Felix was doing, and he is nothing but the most amazing, compassionate person, because he's going to come! And also I'm feeling sick. I eventually get a text from Michel that he won't be coming, and I vomit -- I have dehydration sickness. So I alternate fifteen minute naps with water.

By this time, stress is starting to eat me. Because of the bugs, I am sleeping maybe a couple of hours at a time. I am not eating. The idea of eating is anathema. I am just not hungry. And now thanks to the dragon lady downstairs, I'm scared to even leave the apartment. Over this week, with running around and not eating, I actually lose six pounds.

Friday: Michel and I exchange some texts. I tell him I'm working tonight and I'm leaving the house about four (steward call is 6, I had to be there early for training) and won't be home until between 3:30 and 4 (late show gets out at 2, and the 45 minute train ride plus however long it takes to get a train can be awhile). He asks if he can come at 4. I say sure why not because fuck it. So I go to work, love it, and come home. I text him when I get home (which is just before four). He answers about 4:30 that he's already at work and won't be coming over. Fuck me.

Saturday: He didn't come today either. I told him the situation is the same -- leaving at 5 though, home at 4. I don't hear anything. On my walk to work (or get dinner before work) I text my mother saying, "I think it's time we take a look at what me coming home would mean." My mom has always made it clear that I'm always welcome back in my parents' house, and even though I wanted New York to work out, the fact is that it clearly wasn't. Once I get to New York Burger Co, I get a text from the landlord that Michel wants to come tonight. I locked the door, but I give permission via text to the landlord to let him in so he can do his thing (otherwise, I say, I might be able to go talk to my boss and go unlock the door for him and be back late. Which I would have hated, but I would have done it). Finally, I think. Finally, this will be over and I can go along with my life. I ask that they let me know when they're done and what a safe re-entry time would be. Then I have a rather public, sobbing meltdown at New York Burger Co to my mother. I eat the fries from my meal but by the time I look at my delicious chicken sandwich, I have no appetite.

Well. I never hear anything, so I assume they remembered that I was at work until two and safe time would have been before that. So I get home and literally nothing has happened.

Sunday, June 2: I text landlord at a reasonable hour of the morning asking how things went last night and he says "He didn't show." Which I'd assumed but fine. I leave the apartment to go let James out of his apartment (long story. Weird story) and when I get home, landlord, dragon lady in full dragon mode, and Michel are waiting for me. I go a little blurry now because of stress. Michel is finally here and is it ready? Yes, I texted three days ago that the apartment was as ready as I could make it. Where's the money? Well Ally was taking care of the money and has been incommunicado all week. (Literally. I have actually not heard from her since she left.) She'll be back late tonight. It's not about money? It's about responsibility? What the fuck? I have literally done all I can. I actually have no idea what we're arguing about. I can't get ahold of Ally. I panic, and call Bee even though I'm pretty sure she's at work, because maybe she knows how to get in contact with Ally's mother, who is fronting the money to begin with. I don't know what they want. I'm crying and I can't stop. They tell me to stop being emotional. Stop yelling at me. I show them I have $250 in my checking account and ask how much he wants for a down payment. Dragon lady YELLS, "YOU HAVE THE MONEY? GIVE HIM THE MONEY!" and they reiterate it's not about the money. Ally calls me back at this point, and I give her a quick run down of the situation and let her talk to Michel because I cannot play middle man anymore. They sort it out and Michel comes upstairs. He looks around and says that as it is, he doesn't feel he could do a thorough job of exterminating. Things are still on shelves and in cabinets. So I take his advice and say we will start packing things. We tell them the situation downstairs and Dragon Lady starts again. "YOU CALL IN TO WORK! IF YOU TELL THEM ITS BED BUGS, THEY CAN'T PUNISH YOU FOR IT! CALL IN! TAKE CARE OF IT!" And that is how I was bullied into calling in to work on my third night of paid work. I say calling, I actually had to e-mail, because I didn't have a phone number for Kristi.

I try to pack things up, but I can't. I just can't. I keep crying. I can't stop. I just want all the crap to stop. I try calling my mom, who doesn't answer. About the third time I try I leave a sobby voice mail saying something like, "I wish you would wake up and pick up your phone." (It was a Sunday, I assumed that she was taking a nap.) I can't call Bee, since I know she's at work and she puts up with more of my crap than I can properly ask someone who isn't related to me by blood to do. I try calling my mom again and. I swear to god I've had casual "I'd rather be dead" thoughts before, but I've never actually had the urge to make that the case. I knew where Bee kept a stash of painkillers but I didn't want anyone to feel guilty or whatever. I opened the drawer where we kept the knives and looked, wondering which would be the best. I didn't feel safe with myself. My mother wasn't answering her phone, I didn't know who else to call. So I called my dad.

He wasn't at home, he was in Wisconsin for a work thing. But I talked to him for half an hour. I told him I wanted to come home. I'd had one paying job since I graduated, and basically couldn't continue like I had been going. He said he and mom would talk and they could come up with a plan. This was an enormous relief to me. I spent a lot of time on the phone that night; with Bee, and while I was on the phone with her, my mom returned my call and I figured I should answer since the voicemail I left was probably alarming. So I talked with her, and I talked with Bee some more.

Ally got home that night, and we put things in bags until about midnight. At which point I gave up and slept on the couch. (She went to a hotel though. She invited me to go too but to be honest I didn't want to leave the apartment -- in my head, that risked running into dragon lady and I didn't really want to leave when there were still things to do.) She started an internship that day, and I finished bagging things. I called the landlord and told him things were ready. I was done. There was nothing more I could do. Then I tendered a resignation from YNH and SNM. I felt wretched. I didn't want to leave the apartment just in case dragon lady lurked. Monday night Ally wanted to know if I wanted to go to the hotel or hang out at the apartment for a little bit longer and I literally could not answer. I was paralyzed from even making the most basic of decisions; I'd been making decisions for the last week and a half and I was done.

He came on Tuesday and Wednesday -- did the bedrooms one night, and the main room/kitchen the next night. I made the mistake of telling him I was leaving to go back to Iowa, and all he could do was go, "Man! Why are you leaving us? That blows." I ignored him because you know what else would blow? If saner heads had not prevailed and I'd killed myself like I thought about doing. By this time I knew that my parents were going to rent a van and come to get me the following week. Saturday I went to a friend's birthday party and when I got home Ally had found another bug on her pillow and texted the landlord, unhappy. He came the next day to spray in her room again -- although naturally she wasn't there, so I had to deal with him. I just. I was 6000% done at this point.

And also? I'm not really into hating people who are not, you know, raging bigots or right-wingnuts, but I am really feeling the hate for Ally right now. Who the fuck leaves a roommate to deal with a bug problem to go on vacation? I know you want to rest because you just got finished with your first year of law school but you know what? BUCK UP. Be a fucking adult. I don't really want to deal with it either but I HAVE NOT BEEN GIVEN A CHOICE. And also my land people, who were so keen to get this done? Maybe they could have offered to help instead of just let the dragon lady YELL AT ME like I'm her fucking kid. I already have a mother and she's never spoken to me like that, not even when I deserved it.

So I waited for June 12 to roll around. My parents made it, and after my dad managed to stuff all of my stuff and Bee's in the stow-and-go they rented, defying the laws of physics. I had a minor meltdown that afternoon while trying to fit it all, and then again when we were crawling down Canal street during rush hour. But I seriously have never been so happy to see New Jersey.

There's some more minutiae that happened during the week I was waiting -- but I'm so wrung out right now that I don't want to get into it. And it doesn't matter, it's not my problem anymore. None of us are in the apartment anymore, none of our stuff is there anymore. All I have is $50 in my checking account and a larger pile of debt than I rightly know what to do with. I'm supposed to go to a therapist but I'm wary of therapy. And all I'm going to do is cry, I can do that at home. But I suppose I will have to pony up and call.

My mom says that it's not a failure, it's a change in path. I know she's right, but I can't help but feel like a failure.

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