Lady Godiva

The landlord gave me thirty days.

The letter came out of the blue. In the mail. An official letter with a return receipt attached that I had to sign so the mailman could tell the sender that I’d gotten the letter, held it in my hands. My eviction notice was delivered to me.  I was dumbfounded, paralyzed.

The landlord’s daughter lived downstairs. My daughter and I lived in the upper flat and she and her husband lived downstairs. Once a month I drove six blocks and put my rent in her father’s mailbox. He lived in a house with a porch sagging on to the front lawn. I never knocked on the door or rang the bell. I just put the rent in the box and fled. I didn’t ever want to see my landlord. I just wanted to be on time with the rent.

And I was on time. Every month. I had lived in my upper flat for five years, since 1977, and in those five years I’d gotten divorced from the man whose name was on the lease, I sent my daughter to the grade school a block away, put together her bicycle by myself on Christmas Eve, took all of her friends ice skating for her birthday and came back to our flat for tuna casserole and cake that I made from a box. I drove a yellow Volkswagen. We had a cat named Raindrop.

What had I done wrong? Oh, the landlord said, there’s nothing wrong. My other daughter needs a place to live, he said, that’s all.

And so she would take our place. And we were to have no place. Everything would have to change.

I was frantic. In the years since my divorce, I had tread water. I’d asked my husband to get me set up in a new place before we split up, asked him to put his name on the lease. I kept his last name and lived a long time as if my husband was just away rather than gone. Even though I was the one who wanted a divorce, I lived life as pending. It made no sense.

I wanted him to come back and find us a new home. I wanted him to make sure we were safe and then leave again.

I found an apartment several blocks away and gave the new landlord the security deposit and first month’s rent. And then I found another place that would let us keep Raindrop and I asked the first place for my money back and the guy said no. So then I asked my father for money, something I had never done in my life, and he sent me a thousand dollars telling me it was unwise to loan money to relatives so it was a gift. I never told him about the cat.

Two men from work helped us move. They argued outside in the rain about how to load our furniture in a station wagon, each one wanting to be more expert at moving than the other. I yearned for my ex-husband or my father to come take control.

As it got later that last night when the landlord said I had to be gone, we piled more and more into boxes, balancing things that were precious to me, taking chances that things would break but being more concerned about complying to the letter of the letter.

I had been evicted. I had to leave and take my broken things with me.

And learn how to fix them on my own.


16 Comments on “Lady Godiva

  1. Its never easy at first leaning on your self to do what we’ve been taught as a women how certain things are a man’s job; to fix, to settle things to make it right, to take control.

    But once we do lean on ourself, there’s no looking back.

    I remember I called my ex husband in desperate need as my car got a flat and I needed him to change my tire as I sat on the side of the road in the dark, it was only weeks after I left him. I knew he still wanted me, and I knew all I wanted was a tire.

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  3. I don’t think it’s the absence of a man thing as much as the absence of another. A somebody to make decisions with instead of figuring everything out on your own.

    Anyway, I love this piece. Especially because I know you thrived after this difficult patch in your life. Most times, when you’re stuck in a rough patch, it’s can be impossible to see life beyond it.

  4. Such a beautifully told tale of rebuilding your life. So very powerful. Especially this line “I lived life as pending” — so incredibly evocative.

  5. My heart ached for you. What an awful position to be in. The main thing is that you survived, got another place, and came out OK on the other side. It is so mean that he kicked you out so his other kid could have a place to live. Just so unfair!

  6. Have you ever wondered who you would have become if you had not been forced to be strong? And afterwards did you ever think back and realize that being forced to do these things on your own were worse than you thought, or not as bad as you’d feared?

  7. Yes! The learning to fix. Oh my. I yearned for a man I couldn’t wait to have out of the house to come back and fix my smoke alarm, my broken door, hang my pictures after I put too many holes in the wall. Crazy, isn’t it? And then you learn either to fix or to pay up for the fixing. It’s triumphant and sad at the same time.

    • You reminded me of this — having the soda bottles (which we used to take back to the store then) mount up in the back hall because taking them back had been his job. That and changing light bulbs. Good grief, you would think I was a complete princess. I really wasn’t. But I was in a really weird state of mind.

  8. I agree with Vanessa D. It’s scary sad and lonely but this piece also showcases the empowerment in getting it done on our own!

  9. You’ve so perfectly grabbed the anxiety that comes with taking steps that are normally shared with a partner as a single. Especially when the single is responsible for another person. I feel it every time I have to make decisions and take actions on my own but somehow we get through.

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