Money was getting tight again. I was getting near daily phone calls and messages from Madeline for the other half of the rent for August, about $200. She left her debit card with the same friend who was taking care of Shorty the Chihuahua, and the lady had apparently taken all the money Madeline had. She was desperate for money and putting on the pressure.
Looking back, I also made some mistakes when looking for work. I passed on jobs that would’ve gotten in the way of writing. I completely passed on going back to retail. I looked for “dream” jobs in marketing and writing. I looked for freelance gigs that would’ve let me stay home, but every opportunity that came my way, I talked it over with the guys. They all told me the same thing: don’t get stuck again. Follow your dream. We’ll help you in the meantime.
But I wasn’t taking well to being broke.
I was still pissed at how badly I was treated by The Big Fancy, so I call my human resource girl in back in Connecticut. She got me in touch with the regional manager, and I told her everything. It didn’t help.
Three days later she called me back and pretty much put it on me. She told me I should’ve spoken up sooner, that they had resources to help, but that the store had no idea how bad it had gotten for me. And while Nicole admitted that she had not spent as much time with me as she would’ve liked (HAHAHAHAHA) I also should’ve spoken up sooner. The nepotism, the lies, all of that she ignored.
It was bullshit, and in hindsight I realized they were just covering their own asses. But I didn’t have time to focus on all that. One afternoon on way out to meet Todd, one of the locks to the apartment broke. It was a deadbolt and I always had trouble with it. As I tried to lock it I felt something loosen, and I knew it was broken.
Todd was waiting for me downstairs. I told him what had happened. I called Madeline and told her the lock broke. I spent the entire evening worrying about what I was going to come home to, and sure enough, when I got home that night I tried to open then door with no luck.
Todd called a locksmith. Because it was a deadbolt, and a hefty one at that, the locksmith couldn’t get through without a power drill. We spent nearly an hour knocking on neighbor’s doors to see if they would let us plug the drill in. Finally, the gentleman next door, a man in a wheelchair, let us plug in the drill from his apartment.
|A wild Friday night|
We were there for over two hours watching the locksmith try to open the door. Todd paid. I was mortified. The locksmith explained that the lock had been installed incorrectly and that’s why it broke. Those locks have a lifetime guarantee, he told us, and they’re not supposed to break like that. I sent Madeline pictures and told her it cost $500. Two days later she called about the rent again.
Desperate, I got dressed up and went out for a walk. In New York people still put out wanted signs on store windows, and I needed to work. I was used to certain luxuries. I liked having my own money. I liked having my own smoke and never got used to asking for others for the things I needed. I started working the moment it was legal so I could afford my own things, and in this strange place, I hated that I was so vulnerable and broke.
I walked around for a couple of hours. Next to the hair salon Madeline usually went to, there was a restaurant called Stephanie’s. They had a sign up looking for a waitress, and I went in. Stephanie wasn’t there, but the guy made me promise to return in an hour, so I kept walking.
I didn’t have much luck anywhere else, so like I had promised, I went back to Stephanie’s. She still hadn’t returned, but the cook asked me to wait. As I waited, one guy offered to buy me a beer. I refused, but he insisted. The cook told me it was okay to accept the drink, so I did. It was my first Corona. Then Stephanie arrived.
I interviewed with beer on my breath. I told her I needed work and only lived a block away. I told her I was a hard worker, I just didn’t know anyone in the area, and at the moment I barely had food in the fridge.
She was clear with me. This job is mostly about dealing with drunk men, she told me. It’s okay if you accept a drink, she told me, but the majority of the job was patience. I told her I was up for the challenge. She took my phone number and told me she’d call. She had just hired two other girls and she wanted to test them first. Then she told me to take an order of food on my way out. I wasn’t too proud to say no.
I knew that had been a bust, so I stopped at another place closer to the apartment called Rey de Copas. It was literally around the corner from my apartment. They also had a sign up looking for waitresses, but the place looked seedy even from the outside and I was skeptical. I went in.
I asked about the job. The owner explained that the job entailed entertaining the clientele. I would get paid $35 per night, plus half for every beer the guys bought me. I was required to mingle and dance. I said I didn’t want to take my clothes off. The owner told me only if I wanted to.
He made me promise to come back later that night and work just to see how I felt about it. I agreed. I went home to take a nap. I knew what I had signed up for. I was going to be a cabaretera. Like the song I learned long ago. I went home and slept, and that night I got dressed up. I piled on the make-up, wore a low cut shirt, and I went out to dance. I figured at it’s worst, I would have another story to tell. And boy did I.