Back at The Big Fancy things were getting worse. The sale that we had worked so hard to prepare for had been an abysmal failure. No one made any money. In part it was because we had no new product. There just wasn’t a lot to sell. We were still waiting for our fall merchandise, which had been instrumental in the bump in sales the year prior. Many of the pieces we still had were also old by designer standards. And the sizes were limited.

For the most part, we received product per piece in one or two sizes, so often we would have to order and ship the items to the customer. This was a problem. Why then, would people come into the store to shop if they could do the same thing, and better from home? I tried to spin it and told customers that seeing the product in person and getting the opportunity to see the cut and fabric helped making the decision, but the explanation was as thin as a silk Pucci scarf, and I’m sure they saw right through it.

And if you don’t know, now you know

But money was tight. There was still no manager for my department, so the store decided to merge the sales floors and making St. John and Designer one department, which is how we were treating it in the first place except for one big difference: my base pay was going up to $14.50. Karolyn and I had several conversations about it. She was concerned that with the base pay going up, it would be easier for me to “misdraw’ or miss my commission sales goal. But I, naively and honest to boot, commented that at least, if I misdrew, I would still make a reasonable amount of money to live on, and wouldn’t be as stressed. For one glorious pay period, my base pay went up to $14.50. The next pay period, everyone’s base pay went down to $9.00. They didn’t even warn us.

Everyone was pissed. Andrew even more so. Because someone concluded that we didn’t get along (not entirely true. He just didn’t know when to shut up) Andrew and I worked together every Sunday. That boy had a filthy mouth and would constantly bad mouth customers he didn’t like behind their backs. It was common knowledge that he only liked working with the kind of women that either looked like they could walk down a runway or had enough money to own one. And I remember something about a preference for Russians. But he had a deep disdain for average women and often liked to practice his Spanish insults and slurs on me.

Andrew also had a habit of remembering that something needed to be done and then telling me to take care of it. He told me he was used to delegating from his past experience as a manager. I told him I thought he was full of shit. He got a kick out of that. But up until this point, Andrew kept repeating that he really didn’t need that job, that it was more for his career and that his boyfriend was wealthy enough to take care of the both of them.

But when that base pay went down, he freaked out so much I had a migraine for two days. He complained to human resources, and from what I hear, it was then that Nicole, the human resource manager, thought of calling him out for his filthy language. Andrew vehemently denied it and asked Nicole not to change the subject.

I didn’t trust Nicole further than I could throw her, so I called Monique who was my human resource manager back home. Monique scolded me. She said that she wished I had consulted her before making my move. St. John and Designer are departments that require a veteran sales person with a stable client book, she said, no someone who had spent the past year training as a manager at an off-price store and pretty much just walked in the door. I told her I agreed, it wasn’t the department for me. She told me to come back home. They needed me there and my job was waiting for me. But going back home seemed like a cop out, and I told her so. So I sucked it up and talked to Nicole, and told her I wanted to switch departments.

Nicole told me she understood, and would work with me to find a better fit. I told her I was interested in dresses. It was a much lower price point and much more traffic, and the girls loved me there. And while dresses still had those customers who were looking to be feel like Queen For A Day, it wasn’t nearly as monotonous as Designer and St. John. And there was a spot open. She told me it would have to wait because dresses also didn’t have a manager and I quote, “she wasn’t going to do that to Karolyn.” Meaning giving Karolyn a full staff even though there were two personal stylists on the floor, one of them who was previously the department manager, was more important than putting me in a better fitting department even though I was clearly not making any money.

I was down to cashing in my customer rewards points on all my credit cards (okay, one) to be able to afford my lunch. I had always tried to leave some sort of monetary cushion in the bank for emergencies. But not knowing when I was going to make a real paycheck again, that cushion turned into a life line, and that life line almost completely disappeared one day when I took my car to the mechanic.

For its first year of existence, my car used to be a rental. By the time I bought it, it was considered a high mileage car and the original parts were starting to break down. Ceasar and I almost broke up when I bought that car. He thought it was a lemon and begged me not to buy it, but he made such a scene about it that the car dealer went out of his way to give me the best deal so I could drive that car home.

Momma misses you soooo much 

Driving to White Plains everyday was putting wear and tear on my car, and I had begun to notice that every time I hit the brakes at high speeds, the car would veer to the side. I brought it to the mechanic who told me in pure horror that my entire brake system was shot. He told me that he was shocked I had not already crashed, and that he couldn’t in good conscience let me drive away in those conditions. I knew what he was telling me the truth. I could feel it when I drove, and the car was already nearly eight years old. I just didn’t have the money. It was an $800 job and I talked him down to $500 and an oil change. It was the majority of my savings.

The next day I had to get gas before work and left the apartment a few minutes earlier. It also just so happened that my phone bill was supposed to clear through my bank that same day through auto bill pay. But when I went to get gas, my card was declined. It didn’t make sense, I knew I had money, even if it was just $200. I tried to call the bank, but my phone wasn’t working, so I went to 7/11 and tried to get cash to at least pay my phone. Nothing.

Because I had spent so much money on my car the day before in White Plains, my bank back in Connecticut froze my account, so for a good half an hour, I was stranded in the Bronx with no access to my car, money, or phone. I had to leave my car at the pump and walk to the nearest bodega and ask the guy behind the counter to let me borrow his phone. I called the bank. The put me through the process:

Did you, on such and such day, buy this for this amount?

Did you, on such and such day, use your card this amount?

Did you on this day-

And I cut her off, and yelled. It went something like this:

“Lady, it’s me. It’s me. I know you’re just doing your job, and I am really sorry for yelling at you right now, but I am stranded in the middle of the Bronx with no car, money or phone. I am using a stranger’s phone and I am late to work. I already told you guys repeatedly that I moved, and I assure you that every transaction on my account was made by me and checked by me as of this morning.”

She paused.

Okay, thank you ma’am for verifying your account status. I am now lifting the hold and you should be able to use your card immediately. Have a nice day.

I drove to work. I was already starting to doubt whether moving had been a good decision, and this incident was another reason on the list. I talked to Ceasar about it. He started to suggest I go home too. That’s when I decided to give it a year. No one settles into a new place in a couple of months smoothly, so I told him: I’ll give it a year. If in a year, I still haven’t made a home out of this place, I’ll consider going back home.

What’s a year, right? What could be worse than this?

As I realized, a lot worse. So much worse. I was just getting started.