“Please, just take my money.” I pleaded to the disembodied voice on the phone. This wasn’t the first time I’d said these exact words on this day. And, with each passing repetition the desperation in my being grew.
My heart felt constrained, sharp pains filled my chest cavity and reminded me that it was only a few short months ago that I was lying in a hospital emergency room hooked up to a bunch of machines while a nurse filled my veins with pain killers, muscle relaxers and who knows what else. Acute pericarditis was the diagnosis then, and it wasn’t out of the realm of my thoughts to believe that I had either contracted it again or I was having a heart attack.
“Mr. Novak, that’s not how it works. You have to be approved…”
“You don’t understand… I don’t want to move, I don’t want to lose my house, I don’t want my family to have to pack up their belongings and attempt to try and find a new place to live. We love our house. We don’t want to lose it.” The blood in my veins raced and I could feel the heat coming off my body despite the fact I had three fans blowing air onto me. In a last ditch effort I yielded… “Please… help me. Help us. Take my money so we can keep our house.” I said in a weak and defeated voice.
Thirty seconds of silence. Eternally long silence. So long I felt as if our universe had imploded and respawned giving birth to our entire history up until that very moment where I was pleading once again for help. Then… “Can I place you on hold for a few minutes Mr. Novak?”
My shoulders dropped low, my chin rested on my chest and as I exhaled I said “Sure.” Knowing I was defeated. That all I’d worked for had come crashing down like a house of cards in a hurricane.
Five hours, six phone calls, an army of “assistants” and I finally got through to someone who said they could help. That my mortgage company would take the $3500 dollars and cease the foreclosure action on my families’ home.
I was exhausted. The promises which were made kept repeating themselves in my head. Promises I have every intention of keeping. On the heels of those thoughts was this one outstanding truth “It shouldn’t be this hard. None of this should be this hard.”
But it is.
I suppose I should tell you, since my wife had her strokes four years ago, our life has been a financial hell. So much so, that well… shit, you don’t want to know the dirty details… I’ll just say that it has not been easy to do anything. After all, how can life be easy when all you are faced with every day is the cloud of repression and doom? Yet somehow, we’ve made it work and we’ll continue to make it work. Because the choices we have are not choices at all.
After I calmed down I spoke with my wife. I told her how things went, how we don’t have to move or lose the house and that yes, we are still behind in our mortgage but we are not in foreclosure. That indeed, the company saw fit to take every penny I could scrape together and help us in their own way to catch up.
Let me say something real quick about “Their own way”, it is not conducive of life. No, it’s more like indentured servitude. They don’t believe in medical catastrophe’s. Well, they do but they send you a sixty page book of paperwork to fill out so that they know you’re telling the truth. And, when they get it, they get a group of people together to decide whether or not to approve whatever sort of miniscule assistance they want to offer you.
And you know what? We take it. We take whatever pittance they offer us, because the idea of trying to start over, of packing up your life in used cardboard and paying more for a rental than you were paying in mortgage is an unacceptable thought. And we’re grateful. Fucking Grateful. As if they have just breathed new life in our freshly deceased corpses.
I hate feeling that way. Being thankful and grateful for someone doing the right thing by you when it shouldn’t have been on the table or a question in the first place. It’s downright disgusting. It makes me feel ashamed to be a human being.
But you know what’s worse… I feel bad for the people that work in those types of institutions. I know they need the job as much as we all need our jobs. I know they spend countless hours on the phone listening to sad tales every day. I know that when they get home at night they have to be exhausted and I know there are some that even question why it is they do what they do. Then they look at their own homes, their own families and realize they really don’t have a choice.
I can’t help but think there has to be a better way. A way in which is more personal, more empathetic, a way in which the numbers matter less than the lives of the people behind them. But what the hell do I know? I’m a dreamer.
I dream for a better future every time I see child. I dream that happiness, joy and laughter are a disease from which there is no cure. I dream that the lives of people matter more than the commas in the bank account. I dream where fear of displacement is a footnote in history. I dream that we as a species will wise up and realize that one day, we need each other more than we need the selfish desires in our hearts.