With Tati gone, days were for the most part uneventful. I also noticed I was starting to get homesick, so I tried to keep busy and create a routine. Ceasar suggested we watch movies over Netflix at the same time and text each other so that I wouldn’t feel so alone. We watched Let the Right One In and Bachelorette, but the WI-FI signal in the apartment was so bad I kept having to go to the living room when the signal went idle.

I tried to entertain myself and familiarize myself with the area. I went on walks and discovered  that I lived just two blocks away from cannoli heaven, a.k.a Arthur Ave. and made it a personal goal to eat my weight in Italian pastries.

I went out with Miguel, a friend from home who was very supportive and helpful while I settled in. There were no trains in my area, and I still had not taken a train, so we drove to Chelsea, where we ate at the New York Burger Co. and walked along the Hi Line. Miguel bought me my first batch of flowers, a small bouquet of orange limoniums that made me happy every time I looked at them. During the drive home I blasted my music while he held his phone up for me to follow the directions, and that drive was one of the best times I had.

Money started to get tight. We were preparing for one of our half-yearly sales and there were not that many customers. I also had to deal with another down side of commission sales: returns. If you sell an item and the costumer returns it within the year, it doesn’t matter how much time you spent with that customer, if you got them the fresh one from the back like they insist, or if you ordered it for them, hand-carried it to their home and recited the entire brand history from beginning to end. If the customer returns the it, it cuts into your pay. Selling St. John and designer brands, returns were even higher. Some people loved the clothes but couldn’t justify the purchase. Others were shopping around for something perfect and couldn’t settle. Some were simply shopping to feel special and had no intention on keeping the items, and then there were the notable few who treated the store as a their very own fashion rental service.

I had one young lady who came to buy a dress for her engagement party, and walked out with a dress around the $100 price point, I think a Calvin Klein, and a stunning ice blue Roland Mouret that fit her like a glove. She loved it but told me very clearly that it cost more than her wedding dress. So when she came back to return it, this time with her fiancee in tow, I thought nothing of it. I greeted her with a warm hug and asked to see the engagement photos. She left and I opened the dress bag, only to be hit with the stench of cigar smoke and bar. She didn’t even have the decency to dry clean it. 
I didn’t want to stay home and mope, so I used the last $12 I had and took the Metro North to Manhattan, and walked around. I immediately found the flagship St. John store in the city, and they had a markedly better and much more varied collection than at The Big Fancy. My heart dropped a little. 
I also remembered that I was all alone and really wanted to meet people. So I went to the one place that I felt comfortable at: a book store. I browsed and chatted up one of the security guards, asking him what a girl had to do in this town to have fun. I told him I was new in town, that I was starved for interaction, and was dying to meet people to hang out with. He assured me that he understood what I meant and told me he knew just the right bar, and told me he’d be off from work in 15 minutes. When he clocked out, we met and started talking, and walked. He tried to point out some of the buildings and avenues, and told me he was going to introduce me to people so I could start making friends. 
We continued walking until, somehow, we ended up by the west side highway, by the piers. I asked him why we were there. He told me that he had been on his feet all day and that he just wanted to chill, that we would go to the bar soon, and the party didn’t start popping until midnight anyways. It was already 11. Twenty minutes passed and I told him I wanted to go, that I was cold, that I wanted to be around people, not alone watching the water in the dark. He told me to chill, that we were going to go to the bar soon, and if I was cold I could just get a little closer. I got up to leave, he tried to stop me, but once he realized I was serious about leaving he got mad and groaned that I had wasted his time and left, instead of, you know, taking me to a bar like I had asked. That night was a bust. He had taken me so far out it took me 45 minutes to walk back to Grand Central.

At home, I kept to myself and pretty much came out of my room for work, eat and sleep. I either woke up before anyone else to leave to work, or I would wake up in the afternoon to work nights, after everyone was gone. On these days I would sit at the dining room table to work, but the apartment had a really bad mice and roach infestation, and I often saw mice scurrying out of the corner of my eye when I sat there. At night the kids often left the kitchen light on because the roach infestation was so bad they’d cover all of the flat surfaces completely in the dark.

Things were still a bit awkward. Although I speak Spanish, I am super rusty and often have to ask people to slow down, so there was a bit of a language barrier. Madeline and I are also very different people, so finding things in common was a little difficult, but our interaction was minimal.

Madeline had resorted to nitpicking over things that didn’t matter. I didn’t watch TV, and didn’t have one in my room. She found that perplexing and thought I was odd for it. Once, mid-conversation, she grabbed a scale and put me on it in the middle of the living room to see if I weighed more than her.  I didn’t. And if I ever had a wedgie, a tag showing, food on my teeth, frizzy hair, or anything along those lines, Madeline was sure to tell me. Plus side was I always looked fabulous when I left the house.

The kids were also very rowdy. When I didn’t have to leave early, I was often woken up by their shouting. The oldest of the kids was a 14-year-old girl with a filthy mouth and an attitude problem. She spoke to Madeline in a way that would most definitely get my 30-year-old self slapped, and I told her so in front of her mother a couple of times. She didn’t care and told me that this was just the way she talked.

We had one incident when, one morning while I was making myself breakfast, I had to scold her for calling her 9-year-old brother a fucking faggot repeatedly. I was the only adult in the room, and it had to be called out. I immediately went to Madeline and told her about the incident, and she understood, but the 14-year-old took it as a cue to be rude from that point on.

One night, I came home after a very rough day at work. I had asked Karolyn repeatedly to give me a list of the customers she had told me had no contact person, but no such list ever appeared. It took a visit from my district manager for me to receive a list, not of customers without a sales associate, but a list of the top 100 customers in the store. Meaning I was not going to get my own list, I had to create my own customer base.

On this night, I came knowing that Madeline was working. She worked nights and the kids often went to sleep with all three TV’s on, that were permanently tuned to the Disney channel. Madeline always cooked dinner and would leave me a plate. I think I went to grab a bowl or something and closed the cabinet, and the 14-year-old, who insisted on sleeping in the living room even though she had her own room with a queen sized bed she never used, snapped at me and asked if I could slam it any harder.

So I did.

We got into a shouting match, and she called me a bitch, and accused me of trying to run shit (example of why I don’t raise other people’s kids) and told me to go back home already. I told her I wished I could. That I didn’t sign up to deal with her attitude and it was her mother who had asked me for help. She insisted Madeline only needed help with the younger kids, that I had no business telling her how to behave, and I reminded her that calling a 9-year-old boy a faggot, a fucking faggot, was unacceptable, period.

She still insisted on calling me a bitch as she continued to fight to get the last word, and I called her unimaginative, and gave her a long list of other words she could call me: cunt. slut. whore. I pointed out the many ways she had been looking for an excuse for a fight.

I called Madeline immediately and told her what had happened. And I told her that if she needed me to leave, I would sleep out of my car if I had to. She begged me to stay, to reconsider. “I help you, and you help me,” she told me, and the next day she pulled me and her daughter into her bedroom, and told the girl that yes, she had a filthy mouth and that she had her own room to sleep in. I apologized for overreacting, and we shook on it.