BootsnAll Travel Network

Playing house, Brokeheifers 2

I love my new apartment! After 41 years of living in places with various constellations of other people I was supporting, I’m now living in a doll house, or a cradle in the tree tops (oak to the left, pine to the right, and their boughs intertwine right in front of my balcony). I love the simplicity (I can see everything at a glance), the beauty (those freshly-painted walls, my last few collected things from all over the world), the grace of it–because to me, simplicity is grace. This place isn’t quite as small as the one-room efficiency-with-bathroom-in-the-hall where I lived in Greenwich Village in 1971, but it’s close. Basho is settling in, chattering his teeth at the birds and squirrels in the two trees. So that’s the good news. Manko and Kendra, on the other hand, who have been selling Kirby Vacuum Cleaners 12 hours a day, six days a week since May 25, have still not been paid the promised $1950 a month guarantee due at the end of their first month of work.

Fortunately, I paid their June and July rent, and their utility bills haven’t arrived yet, but they are depending on boyfriends for food. They’ve begun looking for other jobs; they have interviews on Wednesday for receptionist jobs in downtown Houston. I may have to kick in August rent for them as well, though I will be off on my own adventures by then.

Manko is supposed to phone me today to tell me whether the checks, promised every day since the 25th of June, have actually been given to them. If not, she has authorized me to phone Marvin Zindler, Houston’s #1 televised consumer advocate, to raise hell about these deceitful business practices, as the Kirby people are exploiting their workers and their customers, and I’m guessing they would hate to be exposed. Manko has stopped defending them (she began to be really angry when her cell phone got turned off) and is now glad to have my righteous indignation on her side. Kendra is keeping a low profile, hoping she has enough money to put gas in her car so they can get to their interviews. I can now shift into the position of being a positive voice, saying they have learned from this; they have more confidence now; they have sales experience, etc. But I can share their justified anger and outrage. And I do.

I have unpacked all the boxes. All I have left is a couple of hours of cleaning the old place, but I’m waiting to hear from Manko before I go over there today. I have a pile of emails, which I’ll now turn my attention to, as I sit at the computer jammed into a tiny corner in front of my single bed (if I had a double bed, the bed, computer, and three-drawer dresser wouldn’t all fit into the room). It feels perfect to me. I love small spaces. It’s a wonder I didn’t die in a discarded refrigerator as a child, and I thank my grandparents for their vigilance, which is probably the only thing that prevented it. I was a kid who loved hunkering down under desks, in home-made tents, in hollow trees, in boxes, in spaces in hedgerows, or in the smallest possible hidden spaces where I could fit myself. Living in this space allows me to feel the presence of that child-spirit, which is why I now feel like I’m playing “house” instead of living an adult life–adult life meaning “taking responsibility for others.”

I haven’t altogether abandoned my responsibilities, but this place feels like a kid’s space to me. Manko came to visit on Saturday, loved it, and observed: “This feels like a toy house.” Yes. I asked her if she envies me the private space, and she said no. She would be lonely. She likes living with Kendra and having Kendra’s younger siblings visit on the weekends, but having her own room to retreat to when she wants. That’s her idea of perfect. In this moment, everybody’s happy, despite the exploitation and lies from Kirby.

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