When Linda assured me that not only was I welcome in her guest house, I was a much needed cheerful presence as she has suffered the loss of too many close friends in the last year or so. We are at that age now. Her closest friend in Lake Havasu had sadly passed away from cancer only months before my arrival. Linda and I have been friends since we flew for Trans International Airlines out of Oakland, California in the 1970s. Strictly by chance, we ended up living on the same street in San Mateo after our flying days ended and we had our babies in the early 80s.
We lost touch for years as life took us in different directions, but like true sister-friends, the bond is strong and we always pick up where we left off as though no time went by. Such was the case as we spent a few weeks catching up. We laughed and laughed. We howled over our crazy escapades then and now. We were filling each other’s souls.
And then came the moment I dreaded. We were sipping gin and tonics waiting for Bill to come home for dinner. Linda was happily outlining the plan for getting me back on my feet. She planned to house me so I could save my social security for six months while I accrued start-up money. I froze when she said, “It’s a good job you didn’t loan that money to your friend that got in trouble with the IRS last year!”
My face blanched. I slumped against the table holding my head in my hands. ” You told me not to do it. I can still hear your words in my head. What an idiot I was.”
Her eyebrows furrowed, “Oh, no. That was a year ago. And she still hasn’t paid you back? You’re kidding me.”
“Nope. I refuse to ruin my credit or declare bankruptcy over this, so I make minimum payments. It takes half of my check every month. Every week she says the money is coming. I keep believing her, but I don’t know what to think anymore. I just have to get through this somehow. I know, it was stupid of me. But, it’s done and I can only move forward.”
Linda was kind enough not to say “I told you so!”
A few nights later, as I slumbered in the luxurious, comfy bed, my curled-up body surrounded by down pillows, I bolted upright at 3:00 in the morning. The list! I wonder if I’m still on the list for those senior apartments on Bay Avenue!? I had signed up in 2009 when I had trouble with the last fiasco of a marriage. With all the over-leveraged real estate hubby number five owned, the foreclosure notices that were posted on the door, and the constant barrage of phone calls from collection agencies he received, I realized I was soon to be on my own. He was cracking under the pressure and he made it clear that he did not want the added financial responsibility of a wife. How he got rid of me will be covered in the upcoming book “The Husbands”.
The next morning I called the administrative office of the Bay Avenue Senior Housing Complex. A pleasant voice answered the phone.”Hi, my name is Carole Connolly. I applied for an apartment a few years ago. I was wondering if I’m still on the list?”
“Hold on, I’ll check.” My heart was pounding as I waited … “Connolly? Oh, yes, here you are. You’re number ten.”
I stammered, “Oh, thank you, thank you! How long do you think it will take for me to get to the top of the list?”
“Oh, we never know. It just depends. Once people get in here, they don’t leave. We’ll call you. It could be a year or more.”
Three weeks later, I was staying at Lynn and Lucas’s cabin with Toby, my extra-large Chocolate Lab, when the phone rang. It was an “831” number. Could it be…?
“Hello, Carole. An apartment has come up. Would you like to come in for an interview?”
This was on a Friday. “Oh, yes! Absolutely. How about next Friday?” I asked thinking I could use a few days to get organized to make the nine-hour drive to the Bay Area.
“Well… I have four other people to call for this apartment…”
“How about Monday morning, nine o’clock?” I chirped.
“Make it ten so I can get organized. Bring six months’ bank statements, copies of your income tax returns for the last two years, and a money order for $37.50 for your background check.”
And so Toby and I drove to Redwood City the next day. Poor Toby. He was so confused and nervous. Labs don’t like change. He was not a good traveler. He thrashed about in the little Honda working himself into a frenzy. He panted over my shoulder blowing his hot dog-breath onto my neck. His paws scraped across the plastic dashboard trying to gain purchase, leaving little grooves with his claws. He tried to climb into my lap in spite of my constant admonishment, “Toby! Get in the back!” It was nerve-wracking for both of us.
As I gripped the steering wheel, a song kept playing in my head. It was a take-off from the Broadway Show, “A Chorus Line,” titled “I Hope I Get It.” They sing, “I really need this job. Oh God, I need this job…”
In my case I was singing, “I really need this apartment. Oh God, I need this apartment!”
I had no idea how difficult the application process would be. Would I get it?
Stay tuned for part 3…