Till the Bitter End
I don’t know how it happened by It got ahold of me again. Here I am in a dirty house-dress shuffling along on raggedy slippers in a haze. I must have drunk myself to sleep again. Been too good for too long. I went to four fuckin AA meetings a week, and, if that wasn’t enough I volunteered at the lousy gift shop at the Hospital and then got hired after Tom retired with almost no pension. I was so so goody goody. I was the Earth Mother Old lady around here baking cookies driving brats around, doing anything to regain my “good name” Ha ha.
Old man Goldberg let me go after 5 good years working at his shop. Never took a drop. Had not had a drop since 1950. Some young floozy probably in his pants and I know who…that was the beginning of the end along with all the crap at church.
Who is knocking? It’s only 8:00 in the morning. Didn’t I get rid of the Jehovah’s Witnesses last time and made it stick? No one has been by here for months. I have to go over this obstacle course to get to the door. I don’t know what happened to the cleaning…I kept a good house for Tom.
OOOh lookee now! It’s that sleazy bum, the landlord after the rent. I TOLD him he would get it when I sold my old jewelry…I can’t seem to get around to it. The store and liquor store are the only places I go. He’s with the Sheriff! Oh shit I’m a bag lady. His pop was nicer and patient with us cause we were good folks but this guy is a snake in a suit. I even did not like him as a kid. There was bad in his eyes.
The light in here is hazy and I hear nothing but machines and clicking heels on the floor. I am dying. I am here in the State Home for the Elderly. I think I just had a dream. My God, that was only a few months ago! June??? What month is it now? What can you do to get a drink around here?
I’m dying, only 70 years old, and nothing to show for myself. Tom could never make a buck. He kept a roof over our head and kept my 6 kids fed but not much more. Tom kept promising he was going to buy a house. Never happened. The same stuff is in the house that was there back in the mid ’20s when we moved in “for just a little while”. Fifty years later and I’m kicked out like a bum…what happened to all those phoney little Christians I used to hang around with so much after I started AA? I was always at the Church, on committees, baking stuff, taking phone calls from distraught members. I had almost a full time job on top of the Gift Shop there. No one wanted me. It always ends this way. Since I was born…….
No one will listen to me now. I have a tube down my throat. Who will ever know my story? Tom is gone, my kids and grand-kids estranged from me, my friends gone, even my AA Sponsor gave up on me. Even those neighbors that felt sorry for me on the way down are gone. The goody goods 3 houses down left me here what? 2 months ago? More?
Will you listen to me?
I was born in a nasty tiny apartment in Detroit in 1907. I can’t believe it’s 1977. I was born at home, tended by a woman in our building who was sort of an unofficial midwife. Guess I was OK or I would have died. My dad drank until he died when I was 12 then Mother’s condition forced me to work. She was pretty much useless at that time anyway. It was 1919. I ended up taking in laundry and washing it in the apartments basement where there was a tub and washing board. I would also heat up a huge kettle outside to do the bleaching. There was a huge clothesline in the yard where I hung ’em and then took ’em in to iron. I was paid almost nothing. It lasted 3 years. Then I got a real job.
Mom was useless lying in bed most days only getting up every week or so when whatever lived in her head let her. I worked in a department store in the young miss department stocking the racks, doing inventory and price tagging new items. I also packaged items for gifts and comforted little skinny bitches who were “too fat” for the dressing room mirrors. After I came home I had to cook and clean up a bit. Mother would call from her room to bring her things late into the night. Then I crashed into bed to do it all over again.
The door knocks again. There he is, Baxter Pappas the worst landlord in the world. His mouth is twisted into a sneer as he waits for me to open the door. I look out the window beside the door and see the sheriff waiting. They are coming to make me a bag lady.
“Can I help you?”
“Mrs. Pauley, either you pay up now, 600.00 or you will have to leave.
“I don’t have it. My whole check is 500.00 dollas.”
“I am getting your filthy ass out of here and am going to rent this place for 300.00 when it’s cleaned up.”
“I won’t leave. I have nowhere to go.” my voice rising.
“If you don’t leave, you will go to jail, you ugly pig.”
I start crying. I want to hit him but I’m sure the little piece of shit would enjoy the show and put extra charges on me.”
“My cat needs me here.”
“Your fuckin’ cat can go get toasted at the pound!”
“You are the spawn of the devil, Pappas!” I start to cry.
The neighbors down the street and other neighbors are watching. Mr. Smith seems to be coming over. I”m looking a wreck. I have not had a shower for a week or changed clothes. Been using the drive thru liquor store. Mr. Smith is calling my name:
“Trina Trina, you can come to our house while this blows over.”
“No!” I’m too proud to leave my home of 50 years. No good lazy Tom always needed to work harder…
“I will call Lance, he has loaned me for rent once this year. Let me call Lance.”
“Now old woman Pauley,” Pappas taunted, reeking of cheap aftershave.
“Please come with us, we can help you while this blows over,” said Mr. Smith.
I start to sob and sob. I feel a strong arm around me leading me down the block. My skinny feet in slippers feeling every step. I can’t stop crying. Is this all I get after working since I was 12? To be kicked out like some bum? I feel myself go up some steps and sat at a kitchen table. I can’t stop crying even though Mrs. Smith is looking at me and their youngest son, Mark, is there.
My back aches. Why don’t the fuckin’ nurses move me? I hear one of them talking far away. I try to move but I cannot. The voice sounds like it’s at the end of tunnel. Sounds like she is calling the Smiths. Curtains for me. Is Lance gonna throw me in the river? Will my other kids at least see to get me a stone near Tom?
Well, whoever you are, I better tell the rest of this. I never had many friends. No one liked me in school and I was only to happy to leave at 12. The other women in the neighborhood taunted me back when I started taking in laundry. They’d hang around with each other smokin’ and drinkin’ coffee and eatin’ cake and I never ever got invited. I would cry myself to sleep. The ladies were too old for me anyway. Sometimes I would not sleep. Too tired, too anxious, I guess.
One night late my mother of all people knocks on the door of my tiny bedroom. In a rare show of “Mom” she asks me what’s wrong. I just want to push the lazy pig outta my room but I would talk to anyone. Even her. I told her my problems. She seemed to listen for once. She told me those old whores did not like her either and never invited her either.
“So you put it on me??” I wailed.
“Your Fatha did, you know that,”
“Guess so,” the police had been here many times when Dad hit Mom and the wagon had picked him up to take him the drunk tank when he went on a bender.
“We are different,”
“We are just trash to them,”
“My hands ache from all the detergent and my back aches and my feet aches and all the girls I went to school with are going to parties and dating,”
“Maybe you could try for a nicer job and maybe meet a boyfriend,”
“Yeah sure, Mom, people take a look at me and wanna throw up.”
“You are beautiful Trina!” Mother said sounding hurt.
I looked in the old mirror on my drawers and saw a thin tired 14 year old with bright red hair, freckles and a pout. My nose wasn’t so bad but boys don’t go out with noses. I was flat as a pancake and hadn’t had my cycle. I was a freak.
“I can’t sleep,”
“Why don’t you come to bed with me?’
It sounded so nice but her room smelled of sweat, medicine and cheap perfume.
“No, it’s OK, Mom”
“Well let me bring you something.” She was gone for a few minutes.
She came back with a bottle of sweet wine and a glass.
“No no no!” I screamed.
“Just this time? You will collapse and get ill if you don’t get sleep.”
“I will just leave it here,” she said and padded out the room.
I lay back down and tossed and turned. Looked at the clock. 3:30am. I got up at 6:00 everyday except Sunday to start. I had nothing to read since I didn’t go to school no more and had very little time for the library which was a long walk away. Just this once. I took the bottle and opened it and uncorked it (Dad made me do it all the time) and put some wine in the glass. I gulped it down. A warm cozy feeling came over me like I was at grandma’s house again a long time ago before she died. I took another and hugged the pillow and slept.
I smell all kinds of things here and I can’t complain. They tranquilized me and tied me up like a vicious animal since I came here. No one cared about me. No one even tried to talk to me but the phoney Christian roommate I had at first. I never said a word. I knew the gig was up when the Smiths caught me drunk in their backyard. The End. Finis. Now I’m tied to tubes like a science experiment.
I overslept the first day but I was forgiven by my mother and the customers. It seemed I broke the ice somehow. I was occasionally invited to afternoon “coffee” after my laundry was done and hanging. The “coffees” were usually gossip-fests that featured coffee laced with whiskey, some kind of sweet and cigarettes. I started smoking too, at that time. We laughed and joked and gossiped and even went shopping at times although most of us were housewives or like me the poor orphan laundress. My new “friends” were 2 to 3 times or more older than me but they were all I had. For the first and almost the last time in my life I felt I belonged.
Once, when we were shopping we decided to go “uptown” to the department store to see what the “other half” got to wear when I noticed there was a sign “Now Hiring” no experience needed. Will train. See Mrs. Simmons upstairs. I decided what the hell, it was worth a try. When I was hired a week later I had to give my laundry business to one of our “crowd” who was having ends meet with a large family and useless husband. That is typical on this side of town. I kept only a few customers of my own “just in case” I got fired. I was making more money and was able to afford a few things for Mom and I. She seemed a bit less depressed and would even go out with me on Friday Night for a meal after the workweek was done and I wasn’t scheduled for Saturday. Old friends would come up to her that hadn’t seen her in ages and we got invited to dinner here and there and even got invites for holidays. All of a sudden I was seventeen, getting pretty, making OK money and having a relationship with my mother. Those were the good times. The best ever. Nothing good lasts in my life though.
To be continued….