I graduated from Windsor University two years ago with my Bachelors in Interpersonal Communication with a minor in Marketing. Somehow, Malcolm Henderson Jr. High School thought I was more than qualified to serve as their guidance counselor, a cushier job than I expected fresh from college. I didn’t realize the reason behind my hiring was the fact that the school was nearly broke and they could only afford a “guidance counselor” who didn’t think to go into negotiation concerning salary. So when we received the mass memo that the school would not be reopening for the 2015-2016 school year, my jaw hit the floor.
I coasted through the summer: spending my days hand delivering my resume to anyone who had an open door policy and my saving account making sure my bills were covered and I stayed alive. As August loomed and my credit card nearly maxed, I had to make a decision. Either I would be reduced to flipping burgers (my application was denied: I was overqualified) or move back to the small town of Hansworth and stay with my parents until I got back on my feet.
I swallowed hard as the phone rang. Please don’t answer. Please don’t answer.
“Hello?” Her voice chiming through the phone. “Hiya, Mom?”‘
“Erica! Hi baby, how are you? I miss you! I thought you were coming by last month for the cookout. Oh, you missed a shindig! Your father almost set Mr. Robertson on fire…”
My mother felt the need to say everything that had transpired in the past 28 days since I had seen her. I didn’t visit home as much as I had promised: things there were…intense.
After she caught her breath (4 minutes later), I broke the news. “I lost my job, Mom.”
“Oh my goodness! What happened??”
“The school couldn’t afford to stay open anymore and anyone who wasn’t a teacher was laid off.”
“Well wait, didn’t the school year end in June? How come you didn’t call us before?”
“I didn’t realize it would take me so long to find a job. I survived off my savings mostly but that’s dwindling and I can’t afford to stay here anymore. So I was wondering…if you and Dad would maybe…”
“Oh, of course you can come home! Your father will be thrilled to see you! Ken! Kenneth!”
I can hear Dad’s gruff voice in the background. It’s 2pm. There’s a game on and she’s distracting him. She breaks the news and he agrees with her, his voice lighter at the idea of me living with them again. They are a little too happy I’m coming home. It’s an unnerving feeling.
The 30th falls on a Sunday and Juice and I are throwing the last of my things into the Penske van. James “Juice” Wallace was my best friend in Chicago, the first person I met while I was here. He manages the coffee shop around the corner from the school, a refuge from the oversized playground. “I can’t believe you have to go back to Michigan. You sure you don’t want to work at the coffee shop. I can definitely get you in,” he says, sitting on the back of the truck. I sit next to him, my feet swinging a few inches from the ground. “No. It would ruin the experience for me. Plus my parents are really excited that I’m coming home.”
It’s taken me two weeks to talk myself into this. The truck is rented, my things are packed and Mr. Strohwitz has already shown the place to two potential renters already. I’m doing this. I’m going home.