The official word came in the mail (not posted on the front door, thank God) on February 3rd. Writ of Possession. We were to be gone by 9 am on February 9th, 2006, when the Sheriff would be by to padlock the door.
Up until that point, we had been scrambling trying to find a new place to stay and to keep up the tatters of our lives as much as possible for the kids' sake. I still had to go to work at my job, a low-paying gig at a department store. My wife still had to go out daily to look for work and run down leads for alternate housing. The kids, of course, had school. Still, even with the threat of final eviction hanging over our heads, we had to soldier on.
I'd like to take a moment now to introduce one more player in our band of characters. I call it simply The Beast. It's a personification of my ever-present depression. I figure since he's always going to be with me, I might as well acknowledge him and set a table for him. He comes and goes, periodically reminding me of past failures and future uncertainties. Sometimes I can fight him off. Sometimes he sneaks up on me. Most times he just sits at the back of my mind, letting his power grow until he has sufficient to break through my emotional shields.
That's what he did through the end of January right up until Sunday, February 5th. Then he struck with a vengeance. Tearing straight through my shields, I battled him all day long. I was ready to die, it was so bad. He finally left me alone (thanks to a hefty dose of liquor and "Family Guy") but it was attack I'll not soon forget. Wasted an entire day just getting rid of him.
The rest of the week up until The End passed in a blur. I recall having to work two days that week and cursing the total waste of time it seemed to be, since I needed that time to get ready to go. In the evenings after work, however, I would hit the front door packing. Utilizing the half of tax refund I had gotten* I rented a truck and storage unit, made arrangements for our cat, Alexis (who still considered me worthy to sit in my lap and purr when I was feeling blue) and got hold of bins, bags, boxes, anything I could think of to hold stuff.
The entire day of Wednesday the 8th was spent packing and stuffing into containers. Anything not potentially necessary to our immediate survival was hustled off to the truck to be stored in the unit. The Goodwill behind our house began getting massive donations, but always at night. (God forgive me, but I just didn't feel like answering a thousand questions with each load of our lives in plastic Hefty bags.) A trash pile sprang up in front of the house measuring 7' x 12' x 4', not counting the broken dryer and the large dresser. Curious neighbors would begin ostensibly retrieving things from their cars or picking up objects from their yards, but long experience with most of them told us that their intelligence just wasn't up to the task of being subtle. The people next door to us suddenly decided their kids needed to play outside. It was the first time in the eight months since that family moved in that we got a good look at the little urchins.
Wednesday waned into night, then the wee hours. The orgy of stuffing, moving, lifting and packing continued unabated. I vaguely remember calling a halt long enough to eat something and catch "Lost" on TV, then things began again. Around 3 am, we surveyed the scene. We'd packed about 97% of our lives in a 16' rented moving van, but we were exhausted. The rest would have to wait until morning.
I slept fitfully and woke up about 6:15 am. I let the family sleep a little longer, but by 7:15, we were all up and the pack-stuff-lift-move dance continued. I kept an eye on the clock. The minutes wound down. 7:25, 7:45, 7:55, 8:10, 8:25, 8:35.
As we hit the fifteen minute-to-zero-mark, we still had 2 mattresses, a dresser, the refrigerator (broken) and a few small items to move. I made the decision to simply abandon what we absolutely didn't need and take the rest. As 9 am approached, I stationed one of the kids near the door to warn of the approach of the Brownshirts. We moved the mattresses and swept under them like madmen making sure we weren't leaving small valuables or coins behind.
9 o'clock came.
We kept working, picking up the pace, trying to salvage the last shreds of life and dignity. We dealt with a minor crisis when Nessie, our youngest, adamantly had to have the stickers she had been collecting on the mirror in her room, now forming part of a retaining wall for the front yard trash pile. I hurriedly salvaged what I could and made it clear that she would be starting a new collection based on the few she had left.
At 9:15, we finally finished. I closed the back of the truck now holding eight years of our lives with an anticlimactic thud. We all unconsciously gathered at the head of the driveway and looked back at our home and castle since 1998, when we had first glimpsed it in a pounding rain. It lookd as forlorn now as it did then, despite the fact it was now a deceptively sunny day.
Since there was only room for two in the truck, I took one of my sons with me while dispatching the other off the the storage unit on the city bus. The women were to go and amuse themselves at the library until our return.
Then as a family, we'd decide what to do next.
At least The Beast had left me alone. For now.
NEXT: The Path Eclipsed. The family must make their initial decisions concerning an unfamiliar condition: homelessness.
*Back in '04, my friends had collectively loaned me a substantial amount of money trying to forestall this inevitability. I have not forgotten their kindness, and indeed had intended on having them paid back by now. I hope any reading this account will forgive me for using the money I was going to pay them back with to deal with this emergency and extend me a little more time.