The Mysterious Case of the Missing Mojo
It cannot be spring. I am one month away from the anniversary of my first blog post, and I can’t even believe I am the same person who wrote it. In fact, I am not. Where did I go?
I went into last spring/summer with such a sense of anticipation and optimism, as well as a sense of humor that had been buried for years. I am searching hard and long and urgently to find that attitude, that mojo. But life insists on knocking me back to the ground every time I get up.
First, the unfinished story about Melissa, which continues to continue on a nearly daily basis, even though she is long gone. (Or is she?) Two weekends ago on Sunday (March 15), she showed up with her new boyfriend, Nick. They needed a place to stay while they waited to catch a Greyhound bus to Springfield at 6:30 p.m. First it was only to be for an hour, while they waited for a ride to the bus stop. The cops had asked them to stop loitering, so they decided to come to my house. Because I am a sucker. I have felt for a long time that maybe I could do more good in the world; I’ve never been a volunteer/community-service-oriented person. So, when “opportunities” arise, I feel compelled to give of myself a little. That’s what I did multiple times for Terra Cotta, Tommy, Jessica, Damien, etc., etc., etc. That’s what I did for Frank, that’s what I do for Austin and the other neighbor kids when they want to make a couple of bucks to go to the skating rink. It’s the right thing to do, right?
After using my cell phone for 2 hours, Melissa and Nick (M&N) got their ride (across town, 2.5 miles), bought their ticket and then found out the bus would not be coming through until 6:30 p.m. Monday evening. Scott and I were in the middle of several painting and cleaning projects, both inside and outside, with our reward being an end-of-day cookout planned in the backyard, maybe with a small, romantic fire. M&N came back, begging to stay overnight in the barn. Finding myself in the midst of a moral crisis, of course I said yes. I did not welcome them with open arms and I told them there was no heat. They asked if they could run a space heater. I said no. I gave them blankets and pillows and told them they had better hunker down and cuddle up. Then Nick asked if he could have my Marlboro backpacking bag (brand new, never used, destined for E-bay or some online sale). I said no; if he wanted it, he could buy it for $25.00. He rolled his eyes and complained that they were going to have to get on a bus carrying all their crap in trash bags. Sounds like a personal problem to me.
When Scott and I finished working, near dusk, we set up the lawn chairs and had a drink before getting the grill ready. M&N decided to join us. We sat around shooting the breeze for an hour or two, but I was absolutely not in the mood for a dinner party, so Scott and I eventually excused ourselves to the house to cook dinner, for ourselves, on the stove. By the time the food was ready, I was feeling guilty again. Who knows when they had had their last meal or when they might get their next? I had plenty of food, so I served them, like a waitress, out in the barn. Then I told them goodnight and good luck, hoping to insinuate that I didn’t expect to see them the next day.
But I did. In fact I could have seen them even sooner, if I had chosen to get up at midnight or at 5:00 a.m. when Melissa came knocking on the door. Scott had insisted that I lock my doors, which I haven’t done in 14 years. If I hadn’t, I’m sure Melissa would have let herself in and probably knocked on my bedroom door asking for my cell phone.
Monday morning (March 16). I’m getting ready for work. Scott has already decided to stay at my house rather than go to class so he can keep an eye on things. I can’t lock my doors when I leave, even if I want to; I have no idea where the keys are. I’ve come across keys many times over the years, and had in fact come across several sets while I was in the process of packing, but none of them worked.
9:00 a.m. Melissa comes knocking, asking, of course, to use my cell phone. I say, “Make it quick.”
9:30 a.m. I can’t find my purse. Or my little glass jewelry box that holds my rings. I ask Scott; he is not as naïve as I am, and had the foresight to stow my valuables in my closet.
9:45 a.m. Melissa still hasn’t returned with my cell phone. I yell out the back door. She brings my phone back, completely dead. She asks what time I have to go to work, I tell her, “In five minutes” which is not nearly enough time to charge my phone, but I have a USB charger that I can use at work, and off I go.
12:00 noon. I call Scott to see how things are going. He tells me Melissa’s been in and out of the house all day, using the bathroom, asking for his phone, helping herself to coffee and food. Nick’s been in and out of the house all day, telling Scott stories about how he wishes he’d never met Melissa, that she’s back on drugs, wanted by the law any minute now for missing her parole appointments. I don’t know the nature of Nick’s stuck-ed-ness but, again, not my problem.
Or is it?
5:05 p.m. I’m home from work (it’s a very short commute). I see M&N in the barn as I pull into the driveway. On Mondays I usually take Scott home right after work so I can have the evening to myself to rest and relax after the weekend. But I’m not going anywhere with M&N still here, so I putz around in the house and yard killing time. At one point, I go out back to put the lid on the burn barrel before the rain arrives and find a fire burning. Right around the corner is Melissa. I complain about not wanting a fire going. She asks if she should put it out. I say, “No, what time are you leaving?” “In about 15 minutes,” she says. Two minutes later she’s back in the house asking to use the cell phone. But she’s calling for their ride, so this time I gladly let her use it.
5:45 p.m. Scott and I are watching out the kitchen window. I won’t believe they are gone till I see them get in a car and get gone. A car pulls up, an older man driving. We watch as they load their stuff into the trunk of the car. I’m particularly interested to see if I see a Marlboro bag. I see nothing of color, just black trash bags, and finally the car pulls away. I think it’s interesting to note here that not once in the 36 hours they’ve been here has one of them said thank you. Not even when I delivered their dinner to them and brought them blankets and pillows and lamps and rearranged my kitchen furniture so I could plug them into my house electric so they could have light. Whatever. They’re gone.
But their legacy lives on.
6:00 p.m. Scott and I go out to check on the barn. The first thing Scott notices is that the Marlboro bag is gone. We look everywhere. It’s gone. Then we close the doors they left open, turn off the lights they left burning, pickup the banana peels they left on the table, along with cups and open soda bottles. Then I take Scott home. I really need to be alone. I consider driving across town to the bus stop to confront them about the Marlboro bag, but it’s just not in me.
6:20 p.m. My cell phone rings. I don’t recognize the number so I ignore it. I have a feeling it’s Melissa, my first thought being that there is yet another delay with the bus, “Can we stay another night?” Or perhaps she’s calling to apologize for not saying “thank you.” Or to apologize for stealing the duffel bag. I don’t care. The phone rings again 20 minutes later and again I don’t answer, but this time I compare the number to the last numbers Melissa called. It’s the last number she called, the one for their ride to the bus. They should be on the bus by now. Why would their ride-guy be calling? Guess I’ll never know, but if I knew then what I know now, I would have answered.
Wednesday, March 18. I’m getting ready for work. Apparently Scott didn’t move my ring box soon enough. There are least 3 rings missing. Nothing of real value, thankfully, but still…
Saturday, March 21. Scott and I spend the early morning starting on the weekend to-do list, which necessitates a trip to Wal-Mart to pickup some supplies and tools. While we’re there, I spot a bicycle on the clearance rack. $52.00. I am so tempted. I test drive it, adjust the seat, can’t make up my mind. I’m afraid I’m making an impulse decision, so I decide to wait, maybe check a flea market, wait for a yard sale. There’s rain in the forecast, anyway. Later, during a reorganization project in the barn (readying 30 boxes of books to be donated and delivered to the library), I happen to come across yet another set of mystery keys. They look like house keys, and in fact, they are. My house keys. Two sets. Scott takes one, I take the other.
Sunday, March 22. On today’s to-do list is highlighting my hair after getting it cut short a couple of weeks ago. Scott is actually looking forward to doing this; he has the patience of a saint. I purchased the highlighting kit at Wal-Mart on the Thursday before M&N showed up. I know I did. I bought toilet paper and Kleenex and they all went together inside the bathroom cabinet. But now it’s nowhere to be found. Then I start doubting myself…had I changed my mind? But, I distinctly remember putting it away. I am so mad I could spit. I start cussing up a storm, Scott looking at me like I’ve lost my mind, and I’m wondering, really wondering, if I have. Then I decide to dig through the trash, and some really nasty trash it is. And there it is, my receipt. And Scott says he is sure he saw the box in the bathroom, so there you have it. They are gone, yet I’ve been robbed again.
So, we’re off to Wal-Mart again to repurchase the highlighting kit. My bike is still there, but if I buy it, I will need other stuff: cushioned handlebar grips, a gel seat, a water bottle, all the things I sold along with my old bike. Plus, I will eventually need a bike rack for my car. My $50.00 bike will cost me $100.00. I will wait. The bike is hanging on a rack next to the lawn and garden department. Every year for the past 14 years, this is the time of year I start planning my garden. I certainly cannot justify planting a garden this year, but maybe some lettuce and radishes, short season stuff. And some bulbs, for curb appeal. That’s an inexpensive and worthwhile investment. I need to get my hands in the dirt. That will help take away the sting of deprivation I feel about the bike (and my life, in general).
Monday, March 23. I’m getting ready for work. As I’m leaving, I consider locking the front door. But all the others (there are 3 entrances) are still unlocked and I really don’t have time to deal with it. Besides, then I would have to come home if the Realtor calls for a showing. (That hasn’t happened in 2 months, but hey, every day is a new day.) One hour into my workday, all my work is done. All of it. It’s 70 degrees outside and I still need to get my plants into the ground before the rain comes, so I take the afternoon off work and Scott and I spend the day hauling books to the library and working on the yard. It is a bittersweet experience. Scott is determined to make my place look as good as possible and since I have no money to invest, he chooses to invest his sweat. I’m leaving, he knows it, and still he wants to do this for me. Later in the afternoon, my mortgage company calls to tell me that they once again have dropped the ball by not taking care of details on their end, details like doing a title search and having an appraisal done. They’re now telling me that what started as a 30-day process, and thus far has taken 3 months, could drag out for as long as 8 months. By the end of the day when it’s time to take Scott home, I am feeling upside down and backwards.
Wednesday, March 25 (yesterday). I’m getting ready for work. I need a certain pair of earrings that I had packed into a baggie before the moving sale. I keep the baggie in an open box on top of my dresser along with an assortment of other “to-keep” stuff that I boxed up in an effort to keep things uncluttered and easy to move in case I sold the furniture on which it had previously been displayed. Also in this particular box is a ceramic dish into which I put all my loose change. I’ve been contributing to this miscellaneous fund for several months and would guess the amount to be $30.00 or more. That’s enough for a couple gallons of paint, or it’s a tank and a half of gas, enough to get me almost all the way to New Mexico. It’s now empty, except for the pennies.
This puts me over the edge. Really. I text Scott immediately, asking him to call me after class. Maybe, just maybe, he borrowed it, since he is a regular contributor. Or maybe he will remember that I used it recently for laundry or something. Neither of these scenarios is likely. Scott lets me know when he smokes one of my cigarettes, or eats a piece of cheese, or drinks a glass of wine. He also takes my laundry home with him every weekend and does it for me. No, he didn’t take the money, he tells me. I don’t know when she was able to pull this shit off but, once again, Melissa strikes.
You know, I’ve been robbed before. Many years ago, when I was sharing an apartment with my sister, Mary, our place was broken into, twice. When I had my upper flat in Milwaukee, my garage was broken into. Once, during a catnap in my car on my lunch break in a quiet park in Wauwatosa, someone reached into my open passenger window and took my purse right out of the seat next to me. But these were random acts by total strangers. It’s a whole other thing to be robbed by someone to whom I opened my house and my kindness. If I ever see Melissa again, I will call the police.
And now, I’m wondering if maybe she’s still around. Or is someone else letting themself into my unlocked house? I wonder if one day I will come home and find my computer gone, my TV, my stereo. Today, I lock the doors. This weekend, I will get an extra set of keys to leave for the Realtor. And I will buy padlocks for the barn doors. This will be good practice for when I move to the big, bad city, right?
So, that’s where my mojo went. Down into a pit of mistrust and suspicion and frustration, starting with Frank (and Melissa), and added to by Chris, Anthony, Austin, Michael, and now Melissa again. All within the course of 10 months. My mojo got packed into a box, ready to be re-opened and re-awakened at some future date and destination. Meanwhile, I keep taking steps backwards…replacing things that I sold, unpacking things that I packed, spending my nickels and dimes on paint and tools and materials to fix my broken house that can’t be fixed. Patching holes in my broken life. And letting Scott into my broken world where he wants to fix my broken heart that can’t be fixed.