Time for some rough memories. The worst time I’ve had in my adult life: The Hell Year.
As I mentioned last time, we got evicted from the apartment in Salem, and I was able to keep my computer, my cat, and the clothes I was wearing. Everything else, my furniture, my clothes, all of the other things one acquires living a life, ended up in the hallway of the apartment complex. The day had been spent shuttling Martina’s things to the hotel room we were going to be staying in. I got to go in the last trip, with Martina’s other assistant hurrying me along, trying to pick what was most worthwhile of my belongings.
The next day I went back to the apartment complex, to find that all of my stuff was gone. When I inquired after it in the office, I was told it had been put in a storage facility where it would be safe for some time. After a time, paying for it would stop being the responsibility of the complex, and fall to Martina. Satisfied that it was at least safe for the moment, I returned to the hotel where we were staying.
This did leave me without clothes, which is in fact something of a problem. I walked over to the nearby mall and bought a few things from Target’s discount rack; a few dresses, some tights. Over that whole time period I was frustrated and hurt again and again as I was gendered male regardless of wearing obviously female-coded clothing. It was far from my only frustration.
Roughly ten days into our stay, I was awakened to be informed that we needed to move. Martina had only booked the room for so long, and they weren’t open to extending our stay. Instead, we moved to another hotel, after packing up kit, cats, and mobility equipment.
That was one of the major patterns of that year – Martina wasn’t taking care of, or even really paying attention to things, and so we frequently had to move hotels on very short notice, because our reservation was up and they needed the room for someone else’s reservation, and they didn’t have any other space. So we’d end up hurriedly packing our stuff and chasing down the cats and putting them in carriers for hours – it was kind of like being evicted all over again. And again. And again.
We moved roughly 40 times that year, often on less than a day’s notice (to me, at least), often with no idea of where we were going to go next – Martina wasn’t looking ahead, at all, so we spent several days in the lobbies of hotels with two boxes of crying cat, and an increasingly frustrated Rath. Martina only had one other assistant besides me, so it was often even more complicated as we tried to work out who was going to drive the van (rented) to get our stuff to wherever we were going next. She ended up calling in a number of favors to get someone to come move stuff.
Speaking of favors, she was also calling in favors to get rooms paid for. She couldn’t afford to rent hotel rooms for long, and nor could her parents / family. At several points she came to me for money – while the live-in job was supposed to include housing, if she couldn’t afford housing, we would be out on the street, both of us and the cats, as she frequently noted. I ended up putting my money up several times that year to keep a roof over our heads, eventually putting her tens of thousands of dollars in debt to me, but contemplating being homeless again, and losing our cats in the street, was too horrifying for me to resist.
The other way she took advantage of me during this time – as I’ve mentioned, as the live-in, I took over any shift that wasn’t covered. Her other assistant was working weekdays, from 9 am to 7 in the evening, with all of the rest of the time being my responsibility. I was on the clock for 120 hours every week; technically 60 hours was what I was paid for, but I was in fact responsible for all of the time. PCA hour provision is in fact kind of terrible.
I’m unusually capable of dealing with sleep deprivation; I can do an all-nighter and barely notice. I mention this to give you some idea of how badly off I was during that year – since I largely slept by days, moving suddenly cut into my sleep time, as did having to resolve other problems as I was frequently called to do, and of course I couldn’t sleep reliably when I was on shift. By the end of the Hell Year, I was sleeping through the phone ringing continuously for an hour, there were times when I answered the phone, listened, interacted, and then went back to sleep.
Somewhere in this time she brought in another friend of hers – Mark. While he had been in a bad situation (In a third floor apartment in a building with no elevator, with a problematic roommate) our situation was not really enough better to justify bringing him and his cat from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts, to be a part of our regular move-panics and payment-panics. Nevertheless, there he was in a series of hotel rooms that seemed even smaller. He, too, got sucked into paying for space until he was broke.
I was pushed to my limits emotionally, fiscally, and physically. Eventually Mark and I confronted Martina, because it was too much, and we couldn’t continue anymore. We went to her and demanded to know what was going on in her head, because this wasn’t a situation that could be allowed to continue. I refused to be put off until I got a real answer, and we finally managed to get one from her – she was waiting for one of two outcomes: Either things would get so bad that someone would have to rescue her, or she would die.
I don’t know if it was an attempt to see if anyone actually cared, or if she just couldn’t stand to be responsible for her life anymore. I did know that I couldn’t be carried along with it anymore. After we spent a while trying to explain what was wrong with this pattern to her and failing, I finally set an ultimatum: The next time the day came when we had to move without warning or plan, or the next time she turned to me to pay for rooms, was going to be the end. I’d offer her my last timesheet to sign, and we’d part ways.
Less than two weeks later, we came to the end. The Incident at the Red Roof Inn. We had to move again, and while it was better telegraphed, when we got to the hotel, they were insisting that they didn’t have a reservation, nor did they have a card on file. She turned to me to ask me to put my card down, insisting that it would only be for a day, and her friend would put his card on file the next day.
This was a game we had played before, and I learned from experience. As the person we’d gotten to drive us knew the friend in question, we were able to call him and ask if he intended to cover the room. Shockingly, he had no idea about this – he had planned to come and help Martina with a GoFundMe the following day, and had no intention of paying for hotel rooms.
That was the end of things; I had drawn a line in the sand, and I had to keep to it. I filled out a timesheet, got her signature, faxed it in, took one room with Mark and all of our cats, and we left her there in the lobby. As I told her, I wasn’t going to leave her cat to be homeless and disappear into the streets and die to a car because she couldn’t get her shit together.
Eventually, we relented to the extent of letting her stay with us for one night, and to say goodbye to her cat, after which she would need to find her own way. None of that day was easy; having to break off our relationship, having to take her cat from her because it was the responsible thing for him, and then having to continue making the decision that things were over, because she kept trying to talk me around, was excruciating.
Nevertheless, we did manage to get her to leave the next day. She went to the lobby and spent the day hanging around and trying to get someone to put her up. Eventually the hotel called the police, who ended up bringing in the fire department, who ended up bringing in paramedics, who eventually came to get me. I explained the situation, and they took her off to a hospital somewhere.
I had been making long term sort-of plans to move to Colorado. Some friends of mine, the leader and an officer of my Wildstar guild had offered me space, and I had intended to build up a reserve and fly out there. Instead, I ended up spending most of what I had to have the hotel room for Mark and I for a week. I spent the time finding someone to take in the cats, and reaching out to my mother.
About ten years before, early in the lost decade, I had attended my grandfather’s funeral. While I was there, mom had a lot of trouble with my name and gender, and said something about the hormones making me oversensitive when I said something about it, which had led me to decide to end contact; I was already in a lot of pain and having my mother repeatedly jab me in a sensitive place was too much.
However, parents have a way of being there when you really need them. She covered my trip to Colorado and mailing the rest of my stuff, and a week later, I was on my way to Durango. Thus ended the Hell Year.