Monday, April 22, 2019

She's skipping the salon!

I saw Joanna Saturday night for the first time in ages. I knew that she's been crazy busy. Self-employed, she lost her longest-standing and most lucrative client and has been scrambling for a replacement. I also knew her kid brother is dying of cancer and is in hospice somewhere down south, which naturally has been weighing on her.

I was surprised when I saw her. Her normally lustrous dark brown hair was stringy and the gray was visible at 20 paces. It's the first time I've ever seen her without an armful of bangles or a decorative clip in her hair. She suddenly looked like what she is -- a 60-something woman who is tired and weighed down by the circumstances of her life.

After our movie group movie (Lost Weekend), we went to the tapas restaurant next door. All she had was water. She said she was stuffed from the Passover Seder she'd just attended at her neighbor's apartment I didn't believe her and offered to buy her a drink. She said after watching Ray Milland's portrayal of an alcoholic, she's never drinking again. Color me unconvinced. She just didn't have the money.

She spoke enthusiastically about the project she's working on with my a former coworker of mine. I brought them together, and I'm pleased and proud it's working out. Especially now that I know how much it means to Joanna. They haven't paid her yet -- that's not how it works; freelancers bill when the project is done and then have to wait weeks (sometimes up to two months!) to be paid -- but she is really depending on the money they will give her. She confessed that she had to dip into her life insurance policy to pay her rent, and has negotiated a two-month extension with her landlord. Her rent was going to be raised on May 1, but she convinced him to wait until July 1. She sold her brand-new pressure cooker (still in the box) to a neighbor for $80. The neighbor gave her a $100 bill and told her not to bother with the change. She said without that $20, she wasn't sure she'd be able to put gas in her car.

No wonder she's not getting her done! 

This is not the first time she's been here. She previously told me that, years ago, she filed for bankruptcy while still living in New Orleans. At that time, she viewed it as just a bump in the road. She was confident that she could bounce back from it. But now, she worries that she'll never be able to retire.

That was Saturday. Sunday was Easter, the day of rebirth.

I hope she had a good holiday. I hope she believes that she can turn it around professionally, that she believes in the good things in her life.

I want to help. But I don't have a lot of extra cash right now, and when I do I've been sending it to Henry and Reg. Still, I want her to feel supported.

I put a $20 Walgreens gift card in an envelope with a note: telling her to hang onto it because we all have those moments when our budget won't budge but we still suddenly need fabric softener, or trouser socks, or something else incidental, and you can always find that stuff at Walgreens.

I tried to word it as though it's no big deal, that we all find ourselves where she is now. I hope she takes it in the spirit its meant.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

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