The meeting of trustees – essentially, “bankruptcy court” – was anticlimactic.
I wanted to answer so many more questions than she asked. I wanted to explain myself. I want to tell a sob story, MY sob story. I wanted there to be creditors lined up, looking empathetic when I apologized for not being able to pay them and asked for their forgiveness.
The actual affair was none of that. No drama, no fanfare, no sob stories. A tan room with small windows and laminated posters with FBI warnings in a nondescript city office building. A dozen cheap hotel ballroom-type beige chairs in somewhat orderly rows. My lawyer and I sat on one side of a folding conference table, the trustee on the other. She recorded her questions and my answers on a 10-year-old audio recorder.
She asked about the house. She offered to have someone call my ex about selling and I politely told her it was worth trying. She pointed out, without pointing out, that I should abandon my car and purchase something cheaper. She asked if I’d ever had a business, and I told her about a few years of on-again, off-again freelancing.
She didn’t ask what I was going to do in the future. She didn’t ask if I had learned anything from my mistakes. She didn’t ask me how I ended up here.
I didn’t get to tell her how hard I tried, how hard I’ve worked. I didn’t get to tell her about the two beautiful boys that I struggle moment to moment to love and protect and provide for the best that I can. I didn’t get to tell her about the expensive ivory tower of an apartment that I escaped to, and the fear that kept us locked there. I didn’t get to tell her about the pride I have in my small, disheveled yard with trees and grass and room for little boys to run. I didn’t get to tell her about all of my cleverness, my solutions. The hours of pawing through Freecycle and Ebay and Facebook to find us cheap, suitable things. Hauling a 200-lb. second-hand futon up a flight of stairs by myself to build a warm upstairs living room for the winter in a house so cold I was afraid the pipes downstairs might freeze in the night. Driving by the food pantry every day and thinking about stopping. Counting out groceries in the basket, dollar by dollar until every penny was spent. Looking at the terribly small piles of cheap Christmas presents I had for the boys, and wishing that I could do so much more.
They don’t care. She’s not paid to care. The system is not paid to care. The system is made to extract – to steal – anything worth stealing, and pawn it for cash. I had nothing to steal.
On the other hand, they left me my pride.