”Notice of eviction: 30 days to vacate premises”, a neon yellow piece of paper pinned to the front door broadcasted down the block. In that moment, standing outside on the cold pavement street looking in, I realized this could soon be home.
This must be a mistake, I rationalize to myself, it’s probably just a mix up; maybe if I circle the block it will be gone when I get back. My fingers are already dialing before my brain can grasp the situation.
”Hey Dad, there’s an important notice from the landlord posted on our door; is he kicking us out?” I asked hesitantly.
Regardless of what the answer was, I didn’t blame or feel ashamed of my dad for a second. Making a living as a self-employed painter in San Diego, where the job market around manual labor is particularly competitive, can be constant hustle. Sure there’s plenty of work in Southern California, especially with the construction business picking up again. The only problem is, the modest wage my dad has earned for years, cannot compete with the cheap labor available so close to the border. We tried to compensate by collecting food stamps or welfare, but since my dad has worked off the books for so long, we weren’t eligible for a penny nor would they lift a finger to provide us with something to eat. Instead, the IRS picked a random number, put a dollar sign in front of it, and demanded it be paid before we would receive any government crumbs. Needless to say, my dad hadn’t found stable work in a while, and it was catching up to us.
The disappointment in his voice confirmed it, “I’m sorry kiddo, you know I’ve tried hard to round up any work I can”. ”Don’t worry hun”, he assured, I’ll figure something out, you just do your best to stay focused on school”.
His voice became distant, and even though I was fully clothed sweatshirt and all, I felt exposed to the elements. Maybe if I didn’t insist on dessert, or run the washing machine during the times I’m suppose to conserve energy, then maybe we could’ve put up a Christmas tree this month instead of ringing in the new year in my 91’ Volvo parked next to the sewage plantation where the police are less likely to hassle us.
Day 23 of 30 quickly approached, and we still had no plan of action, no place to go and a fist full of Washington and Lincolns. My dad was behaving like a teenage girl about to spill the news of her pregnancy to her parents, as he swallowed his pride and made a call to his mom and dad.
”Hi Mom”, my dad began, “I’m okay, I’m actually calling to chat with you about our financial situation”.
The long pause followed by my dad’s silence and occasional eye twitch suggested the conversation would be a heavy one. My dad excused himself from the room and I didn’t see him again until dinner. Nothing further was discussed on the matter until the next evening when my dad received an unexpected call from his sister.
He answered the phone only to be remain silent for the next few minutes.
”What are you talking about?”, my dad finally blurts. “Report us for senior abuse!” ,he continues, ”When did asking your parents to lend you money become a form of maltreatment!” .
My aunt continues to voice her concerns about how we are leaning too heavily on my grandparents and how we should be ashamed of our failure, but no one empathized with our situation and the reality my dad and I soon faced. A week from now, my aunt will arrive home to be greeted by a warm fire place rather than a final notice to vacate the premises, while my dad and I will officially become houseless.