Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Not Forgiven. Never Forgotten.

2004 was a horrible year for me.

In fact, it was probably the worst year of my life. It had started with the demise of my marriage, which actually started late in 2003. It ended with a multitude of other events for which I would not be expecting, nearly a full year later.

Fortunately, I can at least say that no loved one had died. However, there are many definitions as to what a "death" is. So, in this case, I am only referring to it in the physical sense.

It was March of 2004. I was deeply involved (or perhaps, disturbed, the better verb) with my lousy lawyer, and my divorce proceedings. Living in my own apartment, was becoming more of a challenge and thankless task. My life had turned into a "War of The Roses", even though I was not an aggressor in this relationship. I could have moved out at any point after the proceedings had started, but I knew where the divorce was going to lead to, and wanted to see as much of my children as much as possible.

For nearly 4 months, I slept each night in the living room on my Jennifer Convertible sofabed. The mattress was nothing like the bed, so I wound up sleeping on a sheet that I placed on the coach, directly beneath me. It was a bad situation all around, but since I am one of the 50% of all Americans that do get divorced, it was obviously done with a heavy heart, but for good reason.

Still, the situation got worse. Mentally unbearable. With the possibility of having it potentially impact my job, I had decided that it was time to move out. But where? And how? The amount of money that I had to lay out each month for just my two children alone was nearly $2400 a month (plus another $500 for my first child). For a person that barely cleared $3,800 net per month, there was no place to go in New York. Unfortunately, the State of New York has a very poor understanding of the man's plight need to be able to survive, regardless of how good of a father (and mother-as I had to do everything around the house) I was.

My best friend said he felt bad for me, and had offered for me to live with him. But just as quick as that offer had been tendered, he retracted his offer, on Christmas Day no less, stating that he just realized that he was not allowed to have people living with him that was not on the lease. Afterwards, he never offered to allow me to put my name on the lease. But by then I had already seen the writing on the wall. As much as I am sure I was his friend, it was more convenient for him to live in his studio apartment by himself. This was not the first time that I had felt a cold shoulder from him, so was I really surprised. No. Did I even ask for his help in the first place? No.

So, I went on, sleeping on that couch every night.

Until one day, I just couldn't take it anymore. And needed to do something. My two other friends, who are married, and who shall also remain nameless, felt genuinely bad for me.

I had actually stayed at their house a few nights already, and realized everything that had been going on regarding my split from my wife. I truly loved them as if they were my own brother and sister. In fact, just writing that brought those feelings back to me. How funny.

My friends did seem to feel awful about my situation, but they believed that they might have had a solution for me. Her mother, who also I will leave nameless, lived nearby in Rego Park. She had a house, with a basement that was currently empty. The house was not in disrepair, but it did need a "man's" touch.

The offer was that I could live there, rent free, until I got my feet firmly grounded to move out on my own. That meant getting a second job. I knew this would be difficult to do. My career at my former job was that of an IT Specialist in the field of Voice Communications. This is not a 9 to 5 job. The profession requires you to be oncall, and to see projects through to its completion regardless of duration. Getting a menial side job with set hours was going to be a challenge.
And that's only AFTER I did what I was "supposed" to be doing to hold up my end of the bargain for a free apartment....

So, I stated that her house needed some "love", some fixer-upping. Each day after coming from work, I would wind up doing something for my friend's mom in the house. But never as much as on the weekend. The house was a big house, with a full finished basement and attic. One of my tasks was to paint the whole house on the inside. There were 10 rooms, maybe more? Another task was the leaders and gutters. Another one was painting the wrought iron bars covering each of the 8 or so windows on the first floor. There was a lot that needed to be done around the house, and I did so gladly. After all, it was a wonderful, great gesture by them to let me live in the house.

Unfortunately, not all was as rosy as it seemed. And this is where the real truth starts to come through, with a climax that will hopefully give you the reason to know why this entry made it into my "running" blog in the first place.

A basement is a dark place to live. The room that I slept in was next to a wall that was full of all kinds of bad mold (as if there was good kinds, lol). I spent a lot of time each week cleaning it off with bleach, but it kept coming back. There was also a slop-sink in the room where I slept. Lovely disposal waste pipes also ran across the ceiling directly over me and where I slept. Now, I am not saying this to complain about my living conditions, because clearly anything was better than my situation with my ex. But I do want to point out the fact, that it was no Taj Majal, and clearly not what one would call an optimal situation either. Again though, with the money I had, what other choice did I have???

I had moved into this basement in April.
I was asked to leave in September. Wow. How did this happen? Continue on...

As the summer months wore on, the amount of "chores" that I had been doing for my friend's mother, had increased. I was clearly beginning to feel as if I was somehow being taken advantage of. However, I never once showed my displeasure at all over this feeling to anyone. This was primarily because I was still grateful for the opportunity that had been given to me...a place to stay. Also, because I did not have any financial options available to me either, so who was I to complain right? I guess that's the problem with getting something for nothing (moneywise). You got to keep your mouth shut, and be willing to eat a lot of doo in the process. In short, I either had to live in this basement, or sleep in my Honda Odyssey ( a family van for which my ex wife forced me to keep, even though it was for my children to get around with, simply because she did not want to make the payments on the vehicle- whew! talk about a little pent up hostility here! lol). Anyway, long and short? I was beginning to feel like an ethnic janitor though. And my friends were becoming less my friends, through their actions towards me, and more like an Uncle Tom.

You know, with all of the things I did around their house, and with them knowing about how much I love my children, you would think they would be willing to help me make sure I see my children in the best possible environment, right??? No. Not at all.

My friend's mother-in-law would not allow me to have my children over at the basement, even for 1 minute. She gave me some excuse involving "insurance".
It almost sounded as poor as the excuse that my then best friend had told me at Christmas regarding the "so-called" lease "clause". Whenever, I went to see my children for the day, I would have to remove the second bench of seats from the car, and fold down the third to be able to accomodate them. On the days that it rained, I had them in my van all day long. Sometimes parked in front of her house on the street. My friend's mom knew the whole story about my divorce, and of how bitter I was towards my ex for every thing she had (and especially had not) done, but she never even thought once to bend on this rule. She did however make it a point to complain about the second bench seat placed on the floor of the basement living room, while I was out entertaining in the back of my van.

Another thing that became an issue was privacy (or lack thereof). Now, I would have to be delusional to think that someone, who was living under another person's roof, for free no less, would be entitled to some. But it did bother me that whenever I went off to work that she would go downstairs to "inspect" my place. I never had anything to hide, and despite her claim to the contrary, I worked hard at keeping the basement very neat and clean. Although, I am sure that it was said by her to pave the way for my departure.

It was becoming evident that I was somehow falling back into a feeling of miserableness. Then, along came this woman whom I met at my ex-stepmother's house during Memorial Day that year. We started going out in June, and while she was not perfect by any means, she did help me to cope with my current situation, by getting me to stay out of that basement on an ever increasing basis. And as I was out more and more, this apaarently angered my friend's mother more and more.

As time went on, the lady who supposedly "saved my life", as her supposed children had thrown in my face many a time, really did not do this out of charity at all.

She really needed someone to up-keep the house, as she was unable to do it. And as I appeared less and less, she became more and more annoyed as the amount of hours that I spent every week began to diminish.

And so here is where the story FINALLY begins....

During my time there, I was already registered with the New York Road Runner's Club. This is the club that sponsors the New York City Marathon. I did this so that I could run in the many races they sponsored to get automatic acceptance into the following year's Marathon race. 2005, would have marked 19 years since my last marathon. Imagine that! My friend's mother-in-law had asked me about the illustrious race, so I told her all about it. Of course, I love everything to do with that race, and even went so far as to show her the medals that I had won for completing the races in 1984, 1985 and in 1986.

In the basement, and just outside the bathroom, there was a little area where I had my computer stand. Next to it, was a black wired rack holding my printer and PC speakers. I had all 3 Marathon Medals hanging off the top rack. I always displayed my medals with pride, especially considering the thousands of hours that I sacrificed my life in order to get those medals. So I liked having them visible to me, to remind me of how I triumphed over my struggles.

August 21st-Day Of Reckoning: I was asked to come upstairs to the living room that like all other rooms, had been painted by me. My friend's mother-in-law was sitting in the couch, and asked me to sit down in the chair across the coffee table and in front of her. She had a very alarming look about her, and suddenly I felt very puzzled which then led to a feeling of dread. Now, I could give you the whole blow-by-blow, but to spare the little details, she had asked me, in effect, to move out as soon as possible.

My mouth was left hanging open.

I knew that I could not continue living for free in her basement, and I was actually ready to start offering her a monthly rent, especially since I was no longer giving her as many hours of "service" as I was in the past. But during her one-way conversation, she did'nt even mention money. She just said she did not like the arrangement anymore, and without even citing any examples as to why she was unhappy, she arbitrarily asked me to move out.

Suddenly, the supposed "life-saver" did not even care where I was going to go. She just wanted me out. On the street or in my van. Just get out. My divorce wasn't even final yet. Get out. My job was a 1 hour commute each way. Get out. I painted your entire house, did your electronics, did the gardening in your front deck, and taking out the weeds in your driveway. Get out. I redid your whole attic.
Get out. Get out. Get out.

Nothing like being kicked by the people who supposedly love you, when you are at one of the lowest points in your life.

My two friends meanwhile, where not even available for comment. And when I did get a hold of them, and advised them what had happened, they mentioned that they were aware of it....and said nothing else. Great friends.

My "friends" also had borrowed from me a box set of Twilight Zone DVDs (retailed at over $100). On the call I had asked if I can have them returned after I move out. They said yes. But there was more to come with that.

I had until September 15th to move out (I knew this by the threatening, hand-written note left on my basement door from my "friends'" mother, warning me not to take anything that did not belong to me-as if I were suddenly a criminal to boot), but I did not want to wait. I would rather begin my life on the street as soon as possible, without wanting to waste a single, moment, more dying in that dungeon.

My 401k (which was now a 101k, thanks to my ex-wife's near bankruptcy, and then taking half more for the divorce), had to be used to avoid my eviction to a sidewalk. I found a wonderful woman named Barbara who had the second floor of a house in Bellerose to rent to me. If anything, she was the one who truly saved my life. And not my "friends" or their mother. In my mind they bartered their favor for favors. In my mind it wasn't a fair barter either. For while Barbara gave me back my dignity, my so-called "friends" had essentially trampled it, and disrespected me all while I died in that dungeon.

Once I moved out, everything began to get better in my life, but not before my job had been eliminated. I was living on a good compensation package that I had received, and fortunately I had landed my feet at MCI. That job also only lasted 6 months, but at least I was feeling liberated. Everything was looking great, except....

My marathon medals were noticeably absent....

Remember when I had previously mentioned that my "friends" had my Twilight Zone DVDs? After I had moved out, I stopped by their high-rise apartment building in Queens. This is the same apartment that has their address listed by the name of "Rocky Sullivan". They did this in order to avoid having to pay $2 dollars per month to have their name officially unlisted in the phone book.

From the lobby, I had called upstairs. The exchange was anything but pleasant. I had told them that I did not have time to come upstairs, and I really did not. But they refused to come downstairs and said that they would not give me my DVDs back until I came upstairs to the apartment. Already having been kicked out by their mother-in-law without even stating any reasons, I was feeling beyond threatened.

They followed up with some unsavory language which basically indicated to me that they had no intention on returning my DVDs, and that my coming 10 minutes earlier, was an "Alex" move. It was said with anger, so their intonation of "Alex" was obviously not meant in a good sense.

However, it took me nearly nearly 3 months to realize that the DVDs were not the only possession that was missing.

When I had moved out, my "friend", without warning, had showed up, and was by the van, as if to inspect my move. I found this unnerving, especially because nothing had been mentioned and because he hardly said anything to me as I kept walking by him to load the van. I think it was then, when I realized, that all of three of them were together in this action.

Were my marathon medals taken from the van at this point??

I will never know the truth, but I can tell you this much:
1) These medals were in my basement until the day that I was to move out.
2) They were never unpacked or seen in my new place.
3) They never returned my DVDs, which are clearly my property and cost me a lot of money. Thereby, adding to the propensity for being able to do such classless things to their so-called friends.
4) My "friend" had run the NY Marathon himself in 1991 and 1992 (in fact, I even ran 10 of those miles to help him along in 1991). What a better way, than to have 3 more medals, and claim it was his? Given the classlessness that I had just witnessed, anything is possible.

I have since tried very hard to have these medals replaced, but to no avail. I've called the NYRR, medal makers, and have been scouring through ebay every night in the hopes that someone would be willing to part with their medal (although I would think that is insane). When my friend's took my friendship and flushed it down the drain, that was a lousy moment in my life, but yet, it was their friendship too, so I saw that as a mutual demise. And when they stole my DVDs, I immediately replaced them a few short months later. But these medals are irreplaceable. What they stole, they had no right to take. Unlike my friendship, these medals preceeded my even knowing of their existence. They or their mother (if that's who wound up with them in the end) took something that was extremely near and dear to me. I was a complete idiot for trusting them at all, but again, I had no idea how quick they would change towards me.

And despite it all of this, I had even sent them an email a year later, on April Fool's no less, apologizing for the fact that things did not go as well as they should have. They never responded back. 17 years of friendship. Gone. RIP 1987-2004.

I know a lot of people reading this might ask, why haven't you confronted them? Why do you feel like you need to suffer needlessly? Well, I'll tell you why. It has been three years since I was evicted from their life. They had my cell, which has changed, but they also have my email address, and that has NOT changed. And they have never reached out to me. I refuse to ask for something for which I know they will deny having. Perhaps even worse, they may tell me off, or do something else to further feel like they are once again stripping me of my dignity. And this I will not allow. However....

I still want my medals. I may not be a super-star athlete, hell I might not even be a good athlete, but I sacrificed very hard for those three years (1984-1986). It has been three years since my discovery of this theft, and I still feel like I was robbed of my accomplishments. I've since run the NYC Marathon three more times (2005-2007), and will continue to do so, but it will never replace the memory of what
I once had and lost.

No comments: