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We got off to a pretty bad start once mom was out of the picture. I'd been moved around quite a lot in my youth and Kingston (where we lived with mom) was the city I'd lived at the longest. I wasn't exactly good with making friends until Kingston because there really wasn't any point; we'd be moving to another military base soon enough. But Kingston was different. We didn't move the next year. I made a best friend. Then, mom left and there we were on the highway, leaving the life I could have had for a new city I didn't want to move to, but preferred to move to over Ottawa. We started arguing a lot. Well, we had been arguing a lot in Kingston too - as soon as I reached adolescence and I stopped being his little princess, and started talking back. In the suburbs of Montreal, I was talking back all the time. To him, to the teachers. I'd been a straight-A student until then but I purposely started screwing up on exams like he was screwing around with all the new girls he was meeting. I wasn't studying. I wasn't making friends. Then dad must have said something and I just blew my fuse. 'You're not my dad'. Door slammed. Something about failing chemistry. How the hell could I fail chemistry? The same question I had for him, with respect to me. I started looking for jobs in the paper. The first place I called, mentioned when I first started this blog, was a strip-club. I never went to the interview. The second was a company that sold encyclopedias door to door. I didn't know that when I went to the interview, but when I learned that I could make 400$ per encyclopedia sold, and that that only involved going door to door everywhere across the province, except Montreal, I took the job, packed my bags and didn't tell dad. I'm pretty sure he was pissed. Which was the point.
I met a girl on the road. She'd also answered the ad and she also hadn't a clue what the job entailed, but took it anyway, lured, like me, by those 400$. About a month in, having gone door to door in the most secluded cities up North and being left with less money, after expenses - hotels and food - than we had before signing on, she suggested we run away back to Montreal. We were in Matagami. If you look at a map of Canada, you'll see a huge bay up North, about 2/3's Est. That's the James Bay. If you look at that map again and look right under James Bay, thatís Matagami, but you won't see it though because it's not actually a city. It's a ghost town of 800. Maybe you can Google Earth it.
When we arrived there, there was only one motel; and only one bar attached to it. One main road. One liquor store on one end of it and one grocery store on the other. The first night we went over to the bar. Turns out it wasn't just any bar. It was a strip club. I remember a guy (the owner?) asking if we were the girls from Montreal. 'Yeah, how did you know that?' And then I saw the mirrors, and in those mirrors I saw figures of women. Naked women. Dancing. And in front of those women, men comfortably seated. I didn't see it as my chance to go through with that interview I'd backed out of in Montreal. We ran out of there. Found out there was another 'real' bar on the other side of the motel. We went there, got drunk. The next morning we sold no encyclopedias. The morning after we crossed the street to the truck stop and asked the first guy we saw if he could give us a ride to Montreal. 12 hours later, we were back at square one.
Mika was her name. She said she had an appartment and I could go live with her. I'd just have to pay 300$. It was a huge appartment but it could have been a janitorís closet and I'd have taken the deal. No way I was going back to my dad's.
The problem is, when you're 17, when you've never had a concept about what it costs to live on your own, you run into problem. 300$? That was nothing. I got another job. But that other job wasn't enough, so I picked up the paper again and saw the ad that led me to where my life stopped: escort, 70$ an hour. 400$ per encyclopedia sold. 600$ for books and cegep (a sort of pre-university college we're forced to attend here in Quebec) fees. And we've not yet paid for food. Or furniture to sleep and sit on. Numbers. I used to love numbers. I won all the high-school math contests, but after highschool, numbers stopped having meaning. Money I mean. Money doesn't have any value for me. It's just numbers.
Today, 16 years later, I've stopped counting altogether. For the better part of those 16 years I've never needed to count because there were always 70$ an hour ads in the paper. And then I moved up ranks. I ran the agency. And then I left him and finally went to university. And then I couldn't figure out how to pay for university, so I stopped looking for 70$ an hour ads and put up my own for 160$ an hour, then 200. And it worked. Build it and they will come. I did it many times throughout my studies, but I'm too tired to do it again. But I must.
I'm at war with numbers. Numbers on my credit card statement (statements). Numbers on the credit line I got from the bank when I couldn't make sense of the credit card statements. Numbers in my bank account: below 1000. Less than two rents. And that's exactly how I count money: in terms of numbers of rent.
- 12 000$ on credit line
- 4000$ on Master Card
- 5000$ on Visa
- lets forget about the student loan because that number is too big for me to conceive. A lifetime of rent and I donít know how you tally that up when you planned to one day own a house.
The reason I keep going back to it is because I've never learned to manage money. I've never learned to count outside of class. I've only learned that money was easy to make and when it's easy to make you don't need to count, reinforcing your inability to make sense of what numbers, in terms of money, mean. And that I made more money than dad.
Prostitution is a 17 year old's solution to paying rent.
As a 33 year old, it's a solution that makes me want to cry. And I have. Cried, I mean. Cried because I canít do it.
Less than 1000$. Less than 2 monthís rent. And that's just the rent. We haven't paid the tuition yet, or bought groceries or paid one single f-ing bill.
The bills are piling up because when you don't know how to count, you also lose the ability to open envelopes, especially in times of non-prostitution. You lose the ability to call up the bank and say Ďhey, why are you charging me interest on the student loans since Iím still registered full time?í You lose the ability to write up your hours for the part-time job youíre lucky to have at school and go for six weeks without a paycheck. You lose the ability to take care of yourself.
So you start paying groceries with Visa and Mastercard, alternately, like you go to different corner stores to buy the beer you use to cry yourself to sleep so the owner doesn't think you're a drunk for passing by every night your bank account says there's almost no money left.
You give up. And you wonder: how is it that a girl who used to deliver newspapers when she was 10, babysat from 11 to 13, worked at the grocery store at 14, and worked all sorts of other odd jobs until 17 end up not being able to be responsible as that kind of background fortells: a life of being a hard-worker. Of finding other solutions.
As opposed to choosing easy money.
But all those years, dad was paying the rent.
He never remortgaged the house. He denies ever having suggested he'd do such a thing. And he thinks university was my best stupid idea.
I tend to think I was his and my mom's best stupid idea.