The Right of Way by L.B Lewis
Genre: Romance, coming of age, NA
Length: 137 pages
Warning: This is a cliff hanger! I know some of you don’t like them- I know some of you love them!
“Everyone knows you don’t have a pot to piss in,” my mother says, “but I don’t tell them how bad it really is.”
“I’m trying to get a job, Mom, and I could use your support. It’s not easy for my generation,” I said, trying to scrape the mold off the mozzarella I found in my fridge.
“Honestly, everyone knows because you never send gifts for your cousins’ weddings or the baby showers. And, everyoneasks me if you have a boyfriend and when you’re getting married. You should freeze your eggs. Why don’t you just move back home and get a job here in Detroit? It’s like you don’t even think about us and we’re your family,” her words now hitting a nerve.
“Mom, I’m going to hang up the phone to try to find that pot to piss in, OK?” I said as I hit “End Call.”
My new lifestyle post-MBA wasn’t going over well with my parents and, lately, every phone call, like today’s, was a tightrope balancing act. To try to justify my decision again to get my MBA or attempt to explain why I didn’t have a job to my mother was pointless since the emotional currency of our family was finance, not feelings. What’s more is she didn’t know how far in debt I was and even I was losing track of how much I owed.
I missed my parents and I wanted a healthy relationship with them that did not revolve around my lack of money. I was confused as to why they didn’t help me by telling me what the real world would be like. They would always say that if I had to move back home as a grown up, I would need to pay them rent. I knew it was their way of encouraging me to be self-sufficient. But, I was so broke and in debt now, the money I borrowed from my parents paid my rent and I didn’t have to deal with living under their roof. Under all the tension about finances, I know they missed me which added to their filial disappointment in some way because now they were paying me to stay away from them instead of me paying rent to see them.
Coming from a conservative, upper-middle class family where my father was lead engineer at a car parts factory and my mother didn’t have to work, my younger sister Lexie and I grew up comfortably in a big house just outside of Detroit. Dad was the typical introverted engineer who didn’t say much while my Mom was outspoken and focused on family, food and who I was going to marry. She wanted desperately for me or my sister to marry some Italian man who was Catholic so she could re-connect with her lost roots.
I knew I needed to hang up before she asked again how my Italian ex-boyfriend Matteo was and if we would ever get back together. Marriage was the solution to her own problems which she projected onto my sister and I along with the Midwestern values of integrity, honesty and working hard. Although my father was the cornerstone of her life, and they still loved each other very much after twenty eight years of marriage, I thought sometimes by looking at my parents that their marriage was just co-dependency inertia and I never wanted that.
Besides, I thought, marriage was something I would do after I was established. I wanted something different in my life than the women in my family. I chose to make my career my top priority by pursuing my MBA and moving from Detroit to Washington, D.C. three years ago.
Everything seemed more hopeful when I arrived in D.C., even though the sewage system had a small issue and the back patio to my new basement apartment in Glover Park was covered with raw sewage the day my Mom was helping me move in. Tired from the car ride and appalled that her daughter chose to live in a basement and, now, a basement that smelled like sewage, she went up the stairs to the backdoor, knocked and after a few pleasantries blasted my new landlord with, “Listen, I don’t care if you are some kind of lawyer get your ass in gear and clean up your shit so my daughter doesn’t have to live like this.”
It was just like her then and today to be offensive to get her point across. The last thing I needed was to know thateveryone in my conservative family was passing judgement on me because I was an unemployed, single woman living in a basement with my MBA and although I had a toilet, I couldn’t afford a pot to piss in that was acceptable.
The bright future post-MBA that was sold to me was paid for in loans and left me incredibly in debt. Emotionally, I was numb. I kept on applying for jobs online and going to networking events to sell myself to get a foot in the door, pay my dues, work my way up. At this point, I really didn’t care what job I was going to get. Settling for the mediocrity of that imaginary employee lifestyle would be one step above the emotional numbness of my current situation. Any full-time job with health benefits was all I needed.
To make ends meet, I started working part-time as a cashier at Whole Foods in March. I was one step away from moving back to my parent’s house in Detroit or going on public assistance. I had not been able to pay off any of my debt and had gotten into more debt because I couldn’t find a real job. Too afraid to apply for health insurance and unsure if I could pay for it, I also didn’t have that either. I was falling through the cracks of society with an advanced degree.