Submitted for Flash Fiction Friday Cycle 16
I stepped out into the frigid cold, instinctively I cowered into the depth of my heavy coat, shoving bare hands deep into its pockets. My fingers found the seams as I clasped the fabric and pulled it taught across my dry, cracked knuckles. I turned away from the courthouse and started walking toward the parking garage.
It's gone. I'm done. I've given the house back to the bank and now I'm free. Free of the collection agencies and the stacks of bills piling up like murder victims on my mantle piece. I felt so bad for so long. I couldn't catch up and I couldn't stop paying my bills. I also had to use credit to sustain myself, paying for groceries and gas at +20%, compounding the problem.
I kept thinking I'd turn it around with my ambition and grit. There was no reason I wouldn't eventually have enough money to pay my bills and have some left over. I kept saying why not when banks were standing in line to hand out money. There was a certain point when I got credit when I wouldn't have given it to me if I were them. And now I am left with this stack of things, these slightly dented mementos that they let me keep.
I tried to work with my creditors, but they wouldn't wiggle until I missed a payment. And I'll tell you this much: I didn't really miss paying my bills. But even when I stopped paying, they didn't really want to lift a finger to work it out with me. I even tried to get help from a credit agency, but they just kept jacking up my monthly payment. I was screwed.
But bankruptcy isn't so bad. It isn't like the cold bite of this wintry mix I found myself in. There is a relief and I can smell it like coffee around the corner. I've still got my car; no one would want it and it's not worth the trouble to repossess. I've also still got a job, which is what gives me hope that I won't slip on this sidewalk and end up in the middle of skid row. For now.
But it feels like divorce. It's nasty and divisive. The creditors and me, we fight over what's their's, what's mine. In the end, it's the one who fucked up the worst that ends up with the least. We both got roughed over in the process and neither of us were left with much to be proud of. And the lawyers laughed all the way to the bank.
And now, it's me and all this stuff. We're jammed into a studio apartment that smells like ramen noodles and mildew. But the nagging is over. And I am setting my jaw out into the biting wind. I've still got my grit, after all. That could be me, though, that guy asleep in the stairwell of a downtown parking garage. I could be holed up for shelter any old where. I could have nothing.
I have known temptation and I have seized it's promise like a rube in a casino. I couldn't help myself. I fell for every line, bought every story and the item to go with it. I was confident that I'd come out ahead. The things I bought were supposed to help me get organized, make my environment better, help me lose weight, share profits with the poor, make people happy, and save the world. Obtaining these posessions gave my life meaning. But when I opened the bill my heart stopped and I saw the wolf for what he was: Hungry.
Left with my bones and my coat I'm on my way home, such as it is, with no one dogging my steps anymore. I've got my scars and they'll be there forever. They will hopefully serve as a reminder of my folly and a warning to my future self. They certainly haven't had any effect on lenders. Everyday since I filed my case, I have received sympathetic letters about my situation from the same fuckers who got me here in the first place. So far, I've torn the offers up, every one of them.
In the meantime, I'll look for my car in the parking deck. And when I find it, I'll drive home. I'll park it in my allotted space in the parking lot and trudge into my cinder block home sweet home. I will sit on my threadbare couch and have a can of soup. And I'll wonder what the hell I'm going to do now.