Robert Bard

Posts Tagged ‘Debt’

Circumlocution

In Mimesis on August 30, 2011 at 6:51 pm

*(As a brief note–and not part of the story–this material was previously published earlier on in this blog, but I have since moved this chapter to later on the story. Hopefully this does not confuse anyone who had read this before. Enjoy!)

 

Sometime after Reginald was almost hospitalized, he and Elizabeth were sitting in the car at a stoplight as she spoke on the phone with a collections agency about a car that she had owned previously. Her voice had been calm at first, saying, “I know I owe money. What I’m trying to get you to see is that the car was repossessed in September, so I don’t know why I have to pay for insurance for it all the way to the next July. Can I get a deferment?”

It hadn’t ended there. This was something alien to him. His parents had always provided him with a car to drive so that he could get to work, or to school, or wherever. They might have imposed strict regulations on using the car, but at least he had one. Now he was driving her to one of her appointments because the medical taxi that was supposed to drive her hadn’t showed up. It was frequently like this. No one seemed to be listening to her voice, especially not the person on the other end of the line. “I know that. I’m just asking for a deferment. I can’t make the payment right now. I’m homeless, and I’m unemployed. I have no money to give you. I just want a deferment so I can try and come up with the cash.”

Even now his parents were paying for his gas because he couldn’t find a job, and it wasn’t just the gas, it was the insurance. He had never paid a cent towards any kind of car insurance from the day he sat in the driver’s seat. His parents had paid it all. For all her life she had worked hard to pay for her own car and her own insurance and her own gas and every other car related expense. Her father had never contributed a cent towards it. In his defense it wasn’t just that he didn’t want to, it was that he couldn’t; he didn’t have the money to give her. When she got into accidents she paid for the car to be fixed, or bought a new one. Reginald’s parents always paid for the damage he’d done to their cars, the ones they provided for him. He’d had too many accidents to recount here, but the main underlying theme behind all of them was that they were his fault, and not the other driver’s. He’d hit parked cars on the other side of the road because he was too busy looking back at his brother who was trying to enter the vehicle as it sped away, backed into parked cars and driven off on multiple occasions, rammed into the side of a car while having an argument with his girlfriend on the cell phone while speeding through a red light, and slammed into a guardrail while a friend smoked a bowl in the back seat and bounced her head off the window and spilled the ash all over his seat. He’d had three accidents without leaving his driveway, causing significant damage to the car. He put enough damage on the same car to total it twice in one month. There were more; there were lots more. All of them had cost his parents thousands of dollars to repair, some of the time out of pocket because if they had reported it to the insurance company his premiums would have skyrocketed too much, or he would have lost his insurance. In total, his parents might have spent more money on buying and fixing cars, and on insurance to keep those cars on the road, than on his entire college expenses.

In addition to the accidents there were the speeding tickets. The most egregious of these was when he was going 96 MPH in a 55 MPH zone weaving in and out of traffic. He did this right past a State Troopers barracks. This was unbeknownst to him at the time, however, but he found out soon enough. His music was so loud (for anyone that is interested he was listening to Tool, the song “Stinkfist” at full volume) that he didn’t hear the siren behind him, and being a fairly unobservant driver it was a while before he checked his rear-view mirror. Apparently the cop had been chasing him for some time. This resulted in an arrest. His parents hired a lawyer, and the four traffic violations, including a misdemeanor and talking on a cell phone while driving, were greatly reduced to minimal points on his license. There were other times that, after blinding a cop with his high beams and speeding, the cop said bluntly that he could smell the alcohol on his breath, or on another occasion that they could still smell the reek of weed on his clothes, and somehow he had managed to pass their sobriety tests and come away with minimal points, if any, to his license, but most importantly without any DWIs or DUIs or anything of the sort. At one point he was shaking because he was afraid the cop would find the drugs he had on him, and when the cop asked why he was shaking he just told him cops made him nervous. The cop had showed up to court, reduced his two-hundred-and-fifty dollar ticket to a thirty-five dollar parking ticket, and said that they weren’t all so bad now were they (the irony in this is that the cop in being a good person was being a lousy cop, the necessity being that to be a good cop you have to be kind of an asshole, and always suspicious, making it so that being a nice guy, and a good cop are two qualities that are diametrically opposed to one another). Another time he had been pulled over without a license on him and wearing batman pajamas and a bathrobe midday, and the police officer let him off because he said he liked batman too. Whenever he got points on his license his parents would inevitably pay for driver’s safety courses that would take up to four points off each time. He’d had to do this numerous times, but even after all the courses, still had numerous points on his license, and an outstanding ticket that he had no way of paying for, but that his parents would eventually pay for, and bail him out again.

The person on the other end of the line did not seem to be getting the point. “You’re not listening to me at all. I can’t pay you because I don’t have any money to pay you with. I’m homeless. I’m not getting any financial assistance, but once I do I can start paying you back. I just need a deferment until I start getting financial assistance.”

The irony of all of this is that Elizabeth had worked in collections before and had enjoyed her job quite a bit. She had told him that the phone dialed automatically, and that on the computer the person’s credit score and history would pop up with all sorts of other information. She was quite nosy at times, and she liked the wealth of personal information that was readily available, with just strokes of her fingertips.

Her car had been repossessed, though, because she ended up not being able to pay the fees for it, but it wasn’t because of anything she had done purposefully. It was just a bad hand she’d been dealt. She had been in a car accident and developed chronic pain, bone spurs, and fibromyalgia had set in. Fibromyalgia is a disease that attacks your muscles in a fairly unknown way. It causes constant pain and fatigue, and the symptoms are similar to having an extreme case of the flu. At the time she was going to college full time and working full time, making Dean’s list every semester, with her first class at eight in the morning, and getting out of work at nine at night, five days a week. She would then come home and cook her boyfriend dinner, sometimes in lingerie, which he would decline and say that he had eaten already, and was too tired for sex. The stress of all this had wore on her until she broke down. She got tired of taking forty milligram Oxycontin twice a day with six seven and a half milligram Percocet in between, as prescribed by the doctor. It hadn’t taken away the pain. It just made it so that she didn’t care. Eventually the pain got so bad that she couldn’t get out of bed. She couldn’t keep her job. She couldn’t go to school. Her doctor told her that she couldn’t work for a year, and gave her six reasons why, and suggested that she go on disability.

During this time Reginald failed his first semester of college because he stopped going to his classes, but then managed to put together a string of five semesters of Dean’s list and one semester on President’s list, but he mostly didn’t work. While she had wore herself out from working so hard, he goofed off and experimented with drugs, including cocaine, LSD, and DMT (and of course marijuana and alcohol). This added to the drugs he had already tried, which included mainlining heroin and eating mushrooms. In fact when he mainlined a mixture of cocaine and ecstasy it had caused Isis to break up with him until he got sober, which took him a year and a half to do.

The inequalities of life were readily apparent in one car. In the driver’s seat was someone who was irresponsible, but who life had blessed with good health, well off and caring parents, and enough intelligence to do whatever he wanted to with his life, once he tired of being irresponsible. In the passenger’s seat was someone who had worked hard all her life until she had wore herself out, and who now was in constant pain and whose doctors advised her to not even seek a job or school for the next year, and yet no one was listening to her, and despite all her hard work, paying into all these government systems, she was unable to get disability, food stamps, or any kind of government financial aid because the system is not only fucked, it takes forever. It had been like this for months. She was (technically) homeless, broke, and in miserable health. Reginald’s voice is irrelevant. It is of the privileged class—the class that had supremacy for hundreds of years. Elizabeth is the oppressed, the underprivileged, the downtrodden, the hand reaching up for help but crushed again and again, but he, if he could somehow redeem his life will try to give her a voice and show her that all hope was not lost, because his one saving grace is that he loves her, and he will do anything for her.

Her voice was tremulous as she spoke into the phone, “I used to work in collections. I know that by law you have to give me a deferment if I ask for it. That’s what I’m asking for. Can I get a deferment please?”

The conversation could go on for hours. She had explained to him that collections agents are only allowed to say certain preset phrases, and they just regurgitate them back to you over and over, but by law if you ask for a deferment they have to give you one.

She went back and forth with the collection’s agent, and then the collection agent’s manager for quite some time, all the time just asking for a deferment. She explained that the constant calls from the collection’s agency were filling up her inbox and that her social services workers were not able to leave her messages when they needed to, and that this was exacerbating the situation by delaying the process of her getting aid, and that the fact that she was not getting aid was the reason that she couldn’t pay the collections. She explained that she really wanted to pay off the collection’s agency and restore her credit to some semblance of its former self, but that she would not be able to do it for at least a month, and that she was asking for a deferment only until she started getting assistance to help her. Finally the manager gave her some vague response about giving her a deferment for some indeterminate amount of time; it could be three days, it could be three months. Either way they wouldn’t tell her any more.

She hung up the phone and turned to Reginald, and said, “Sometimes, I just want to shoot myself.”