Thursday, October 29, 2009


When Geoff and I moved to RI last September we didn't know a single person down here. We spent most of our first several months here holed up in our apartment, enjoying only each other's company. Eventually, we got to know the upstairs neighbors and began hanging out with them regularly.

Tony is in his mid-thirties, Italian-American (like most of the Providence area) and kind of a badass. Really nice guy, always welcoming, offering us food, drink, cable television (we don't have cable in our apartment), etc. Mel is also in her mid-thirties, Portugese-American (I think) and has an eighteen year old daughter and a ten year old son. Their apartment is on the 3rd floor of our 3 apartment building and there is NOT enough space for all of them. They still manage somehow.

It started out during the Super Bowl last year when they had us up to watch the game. After that we came up to watch several different sporting events (mostly baseball and football games), drink beers, watch random television shows, and stay up until all hours of the night. We even began playing poker every Saturday night with them and their family/friends last winter. Lots of fun...seriously. With us being too broke to go out much and not knowing many other people it gave us something to look forward to every week.

Whenever me or Mel bake, we send some of the goodies up to the other one. When either of us needs to borrow or use something, we simply knock on each other's doors to ask. It's been nice. They are pretty different from us. Tony has been in jail on more than one occassion for minor offenses. He hasn't worked or seemed to be looking for work since we've known them. He actually almost never leaves the apartment. He acted kind of like a teenager in many ways, kind of immature humor/personality. He and Mel seemed more like roommates than a couple. But they are always welcoming and invite us up for this and that all the time. Tony especially has always been a really fun person to hang out with.

A few weeks ago, when we were in Maine, Tony left for Florida to visit friends. It's been pretty quiet since he left as he was the one that most often came down to invite us up and was always making noise laughing, etc upstairs. He was supposed to return on Saturday by bus, but never arrived. Yesterday after I arrived home from work I was just finishing changing into more comfortable clothes when there was a knock at the door. It was Mel.

"Do you guys have any super glue?"

"No sorry...just tape."

"Oh that won't work...I broke my glasses."

"That sucks...sorry we can't help!"

She stood there for a moment in silence.

"Tony's not coming back."


"Nope. He called me yesterday to say he's staying down there."

"Oh my gosh Mel...come in."

We stood in my kitchen while she talked. She's a mother of two children living in a cramped apartment having trouble holding onto jobs in the state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. She's behind on her bills. I already knew all of those things. Tony was a nice guy, but was never affectionate to her. No hugs, no kisses...rarely anything more. He helped out with the bills he helped accumulate by donating his unemployment checks to the household each month...but that was it. He never left the apartment to help her with anything. This stuff I kind of knew too. But I didn't really know how bad it was.

Tony liked to gamble. That was the only thing he left the house to do. "I don't know what I was thinking being with him" she said. "I've always been smarter than this. I haven't been happy since we've been together." They'd go to the track from time to time with the little money they did have and come back more broke than before. She owes our landlord a lot of money. And the gas company. And the electric company. Her car is toast (we knew that part too). He basically was a lump in her apartment who never lent a helping hand, never contributed to the household by looking for a job, and invited friends and family over all the time without consulting her. And she never confronted him about it. "That's not me," she said. "I honestly don't understand what I was thinking."

When he left for Florida he told her it was to pick up an inheritance from his aunt who had died: $32,000. He told her when he got back they'd get caught up on all the bills, get a better car, and start getting everything on track...the way it hadn't been since she took him in. She wasn't happy, but she felt pretty stuck. She had wanted to end the relationship a few times as she wasn't getting much out of it, but for some reason she didn't. Then she got the call. "I'm staying in Florida."

"I don't know how to start figuring out what to do," she said. "I don't want my kids and I on the street, but I have no money, and now even the little income he was bringing in won't be here anymore." She's hoping she can keep the gas on until November 1st when in New England they can't shut it off until spring, but that won't do her much good if she can't figure something out with the landlord.

"The Mel you guys know isn't me," she said. "You'll see the real me now. I smile sometimes you know. I'm not always flat and sad. I can be really happy. I can also be a demanding bitch. You haven't even met me. I wasn't myself with him. I'm not so upset about the relationship ending, but while he's down there basking in the sunshine, he's left me and the kids in this situation. I gotta figure something out."

I hope she does. I feel so bad for her and for her little son especially. I'm pretty angry with Tony, even though he was "fun". I knew he was childish and had no sense of responsibility, but I'm so disappointed in him. Mel is better off without him, I know that. I just hope that she is able to pull out of this financial mess sooner rather than later. For her sake and the kids. I wish there was something I could do.

Geoff and I have our own share of financial troubles, and crazy dysfunctional families too. But I am so lucky. I'm with a good man. A real man, and we both come from families who would do anything to help us if we ever couldn't make it on our own. For this, I am thankful. For so much in my life, I am thankful.


kathryn said...

Oh, I feel so bad for Mel and her children! I hope that she can work something out with the ppl that she owes money to....with so much of the country in dire straits, maybe they'll be more likely to work with her.

It's always something, right? Hopefully, she'll look back on this someday and know she's better off without the bum.

Áine said...

Poor Mel! Her story makes me even more thankful for all the good things in my life :)

Sami said...

Oh wow, what a shocking and sad story! Poor Mel, hopefully she can stay on track and work things out for her and her kids. She's on her way to a better life, even though it may suck now.

Meg said...

I thought that story was going to end differently, but I'm glad it didn't. Poor Mel though, that's really tough stuff. Hopefully she is able to get through it and come out stronger!

Allison said...

I am thankful every single day that I have a good guy. I've been in both situations and you really learn to appreciate a good partner.

So sad for her...

JD at I Do Things said...

Wow, what a story.

I started out feeling really envious of your "cool" neighbors. We have nice neighbors, but we aren't very close.

But now I feel bad. Poor Mel. Still, it sounds like she's better off, despite having to work her way thru a tough patch. She's lucky to have you for a friend and neighbor.

Thanks for sharing this story. I, too, feel very grateful for what I have.

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Debbie said...

That is so terrible. She'll be better off once things get sorted out. I hate jerk bums like him.

.:*aMbAr*:. said...

Oh well, things always happen for a reason. I do hope she manages to keep afloat [is that how you say that?]

Jen T said...

Kathryn - I think she already knows that she's better off without's just a hard situation to deal with. Sucky!

Smileyfreak - Me too.

Sami - I know, I hope things work out soon.

Meg - I feel so bad for her, but she's definitely better off.

Allison - I'm glad you have a good guy too. At least we've learned from past mistakes.

JD - We were lucky to have them to hang out with. I hate to say it now, but Tony was fun. Hopefully she pulls through this.

Debbie - I hate jerk bums like him too.

*aMbAr* - Yes, in the long run this is good for her.

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