I never wanted anything in return, really.
There were people, I'm sure, who thought I had ulterior motives when I helped others; and there were even more people who thought I was a large-scale sucker, an idealist who would surely change her tune the first time she got burned...or the next time, or the time after that, or....
But there were no ulterior motives, no expectation of tit-for-tat. I know this because it honestly never really entered my mind that I would ever NEED to have any good deeds reciprocated. I was at a place in my life where I felt comfortable giving, confident that I would never again find myself in a situation where I needed to TAKE.
And yet--here I am.
I would feel better if I was the one left hanging; if I was the one whose life would be thrown into total uncertainty because of something I'd done, or hadn't done, or couldn't do or find or build. But as usual, I'm not the one to suffer, unless you count "moving home to Mom's at the tender age of almost-42" as "suffering". Don't get me wrong, I think it sucks, but I can't even wallow in my own self-pity because no matter how bad I've got it, CR has it worse.
And I can't help him.
We're moving out in two weeks. He's going to stay at his sister's--a big house, paid by Section 8, but still: CR's sis, his brother-in-law, his brother-in-law's brother, and between five and 7 kids, depending on whether the brother-in-law's oldest boys are staying with their mother. The five permanent kids range from 14 all the way down to 2. No one in their house is working, either, and there's a lot of underlying crap going on as well--all combining to make a very uncertain, very very stressful situation. CR, needless to say, doesn't want to go.
And I can't help him. For the first time in my life, someone I love needs help from me, and I don't have the resources to give it. I don't know anywhere less stressful where he could stay; I don't know any social programs where they might be able to steer him to temporary housing, and I don't know any agencies which wouldn't be completely overloaded by now anyway. I don't have any friends he could stay with; his friends, unfortunately, are all back where he came from, and none of them have any resources either. I can't find myself a job; he can't find himself a job, and I don't know anyone who might let me be a foot in the door for him. I can't go to my family--neither Mom's side nor Dad's--because they either don't know about him, or would give my mom hell if they DID know. Several months ago I reached out to someone on my dad's side of the family, someone who has taken in dozens of near-strangers--females, males, couples, friends of her daughters or her granddaughters--n the past. She would take ME in, of course, she said...but she "just wasn't comfortable" having CR there with me too. Okay, I thought; through all the stories of the wild times she'd spent in her youth, the rocky marriages and the single motherhood and all the jobs she'd had where she'd had to work in dangerous neighborhoods, all the black colleagues she's befriended and all the black friends she has and all the black neighbors she's on good terms with...having heard her talk for all these years, I'm surprised she'd feel that way, but after all, I thought, it IS her home. I would have hoped that she'd be okay with it since I could vouch for him---but again: HER HOME. Not mine. And so when I came away from that conversation I was a little bit disappointed, but not angry or anything....
...until I found out (via an ambush lecture a few days later) that she'd called my mom to tell her all about our conversation. That, no matter what the answer was, was totally uncalled-for. She knows my mom's opinions--in fact, the last time my aunt (her sister) was in town, the two of them went to dinner with my mom and I, and she'd made some remark about how conservative and old-school my aunt and my mom were, and how different I was about such things. So there was no question of not knowing my mom would object, or not knowing that she would totally disapprove of my relationship. It was a blatant act of tattletale-ism, and it really REALLY disappointed me, even more than the whole staying-at-her-house issue. What was even worse, I'd told CR many times about how cool she was, how she might be a good last-resort try to find a temporary home---so now, not only had my last big plan evaporated, but I came out looking like a poor judge of character. I've talked to this woman since--we're family, after all--and I've put it behind me as best I can--but that feeling of disappointment hasn't gone anywhere.
So, just to recap: I have a stable place to live, for as long as I want, where I'm not "paying rent" so much as I'm "paying back all the money I've borrowed in the past few months". I have a car. I have the ability to spend my unemployment money getting my teeth fixed so I don't go to job interviews looking like a walking poster for meth-mouth. I am guaranteed food and shelter and a sense of security.
CR gets NONE of these. CR doesn't know where his next meal will come from; he will have a roof over his head and a spot on the sofa to sleep at night, but no sort of autonomy or comfort or anything; there's no one who will pay for the medical attention he really, REALLY needs, nor to get his teeth fixed so he can get a job (his teeth are worse than mine). I 've told him I will do everything in my power to make sure his basic needs are taken care of--food, cigarettes, etc--but that's not living; it's existing. He doesn't know somebody who knows somebody whose sister's boyfriend's nephew is in charge of hiring for...wherever.
And I can't give him any of these things. I want to; more than anything, I would love to have a family member or a friend to put in a good word for him; hell, I would love to have a family member who wouldn't be repulsed at the very thought of my relationship. I want to smooth his path, and I can't.
And this, THIS is the worst part: It shouldn't be this way. I should be able to offer him a place to stay where I am going. When I was in high school and college, and my boyfriend was living way up north and working way south by me, my mother let him stay in her house overnight. (This was not some uncharacteristic burst of open-mindedness on Mom's part, incidentally--she was convinced that there was no kind of sexual hanky-panky going on down in the basement where we were staying, and to this day, when she's playing martyr, she still occasionally drags out the whole "you said you wouldn't have sex" thing. Now, I like to think of my mother as a smart person, but come on now--there's a limit.) So if HE could stay at her house, why can't CR? I mean, it's not like I'm gonna get pregnant, and she already KNOWS there's hanky-panky...he's a good man, doesn't steal or fight or drink orange juice straight out of the carton...so WHY can't he stay with me?
I don't have to actually ANSWER that question, do I. And in the end, because my mother cannot accept my choice of who to love, HE is made to suffer.
I have to forgive her--just out of simple fairness, I have to accept whatever stress she doles out. Because sixteen years ago she took me back, after all the things I'd done and said, I have a debt to her that goes much deeper than any borrowed money. So even though it makes me want to kick and scream and punch and rage, every time I even think about it, I still have to forgive her and say "well, she's old, she's set in her ways, she comes from an entirely different time." Even though I'm not so sure I believe it myself, I have to MAKE myself accept it.
But then I think of other people who I've helped, people who might have settled down enough to have a steady income. And I hate it more than I can say, but I also realize how much it sounds right now like I've been keeping score on every good deed I've done, which isn't true but I can see how it might look that way from the outside. It's not about keeping score; it's about being helpless, about being in need and just out of nowhere, having some unremembered kindness returned, an unexpected gift.
I don't expect it; nobody EVER expects a miracle. And anyway I don't want the miracle for ME; I want it for CR, for his peace of mind, for his stability and his ability to see through the bull***t all around him. I want to see him smile again, to see him HAPPY, to offer him some place where he can feel secure. And right now, between the economy and the political climate and the total inability to get a even a preliminary screening interview, I can't even promise him for certain how long it will be until we can live in the same place again.
For a long time now, I've tried to live my life believing that both the evil and the good we do somehow comes back to us in the end. Lately, though, I see only two possible explanations for the turns my life has taken: Either I've underestimated how much bad I've done, how much of that karmic debt I still have to pay.
before even reaching neutral--or I've done so little good in my life that I've already drained that part of my karmic account. Either way, though, it shouldn't matter; either way, I should at least be able to ensure the survival and comfort of the man I love most in this world. And every time I think about it, I remember time wasted, money spent, bridges burned, opportunities missed. There's no reason I shouldn't be able to keep CR safe and sheltered until he can rebuild some kind of security for himself....there's no reason at all that he should have to suffer for MY old, misguided, stupid choices.
And the worst part of it is: he WILL. Through no fault of his own, CR will be left holding the bag, and the bag will be empty.