Years ago, I became friends with a co-worker whose life was very unlike my Ozzie and Harriet existence.
Especially in the boyfriend arena. I had no boyfriend of record. Karen had a boyfriend with a record.
And I don’t mean he was churning out hits like Ozzie’s son Ricky.
No. He was an ex-con.
Jeff had been in and out of prison a couple of times. Mostly drug charges and larceny. Can I say that this criminal was at heart a gentle soul? He seemed so to me.
Karen and I worked in a small office, upstairs from a liquor store (which was very convenient for everyone). Given that we were a small nonprofit agency, there wasn’t a lot of money for things like cleaning services, so Karen boosted her income by cleaning the office twice a week.
But most of the time, it wasn’t Karen who was doing the cleaning. She sent her boyfriend, Jeff, who almost always owed her money, and so he would do her maintenance job to pay her off.
I was an up-and-coming young executive, by which I mean I was a kid who was working my ass off hoping someone would notice and pay me more than minimum wage. So I often worked evenings.
Mostly I was alone in the evening. And although there was a lot of traffic going in and out of the liquor store, few people knew there was even an office up there, so it seemed safe to me, working in the quiet solitude.
On Tuesday and Thursday nights, Jeff would show up. He’d clean the restrooms and take out the trash and vacuum. We’d chat while he went about his chores. Mostly about music. I think at one time he was a decent musician.
Once when Jeff was finishing up for the night, and I was still balancing reports, he said that I shouldn’t be working there all alone. It was dangerous, he said.
How Strange, I thought. Most people would think it more dangerous to be there with him.
Jeff talked a little bit about his troubles with the law.
“Sometimes when I think about stealing something,” he said, “I think about the chances I could get caught. Whether it would be worth taking the risk that I could go back to jail. And you know… sometimes it is.”
I was astounded, but tried not to show it. I’m sure I looked like a kitten being confronted by a python.
“No shit,” Jeff said. “Prison isn’t that bad. I’m not so good at doing the right thing -getting up and going to work, or eating right, or cleaning up after myself. In prison, you don’t have to even think about anything. You do what they tell you and you work and eat and sleep and it’s okay.”
There’s a lot of truth there.
When I think about my childhood, it’s one of the things I miss most: NOT making decisions.
Life was so much easier when I didn’t have to choose. I just did what Mom and Dad said, and there was a meal on the table and clothes in the closet and gas in the car and heat and electricity and sometimes even a vacation.
Now I am faced with so many decisions, and I don’t find it agreeable at all.
Little ones, like today, when I had to decide whether to stay home sick or go to work sick. Infect everyone? Or look like a shirker?
And our old reliable SUV needs a major, expensive repair. Do we pay the exorbitant sum to fix it and hope it stays reliable? Or do we trade it in, and add another car payment to our monthly expenses? And if we do trade it in, what do we buy? New? Used? Do we lease?
On top of that, my retirement is now fast-approaching. My soon-to-be-diminished income isn’t helped by either a big car repair or a big car payment. And even more critical, where do we even want to live? Do we head south, where costs are lower and the weather suits our temperament, or do we stay north,where our friends and family provide the warmth?
I just can’t decide.
I want someone to decide for me.
I need someone to decide for me.
Except my husband, of course.
I resent that.