On Wednesday afternoon, I got a call from a former acquaintance of my sister's, M., who asked if she could stop by to say hi since she'd be in the neighborhood. We haven't seen each other for many years and never even knew each other very well.
I tell her, "Fine," but emphasize that I have a very important project to edit--"the most important book in the world"--so I won't be able to visit with her for much more than half an hour or so. I said I hope she understands that I need to work. She says she understands. And I believe her when she says she understands.
M. arrives at my home at 7:15 p.m. and tells me she's very hungry--do I have anything to eat?--and I wind up making her a 3-course dinner because she says she hasn't eaten all day. As I'm cooking dinner for her, I tell her again that I must start work on my project very soon. She says she understands. I still believe she understands.
She eats dinner ravenously but VERY SLOWLY and it's now 9 p.m. And she just keeps talking and asking questions--and I keep saying every 20 minutes "I need to get started working. You're going to have to leave soon." She says she understands, but I no longer believe she understands--or is even listening.
It's now 10:55 and I say "Look, I'm sorry but you're really going to have to go NOW." IT IS HERE SHE SAYS: "I have nowhere to stay tonight."
What??????!! She says that she's been out of work, and she's been staying at various homes of friends for short stays, but tonight she has nowhere to stay and could she stay HERE??
IT ALL COMES BACK TO ME NOW. This is the woman who gave my now-deceased sister an on and off headache for years. My sister told me M. would show up and ask to stay in her home for weeks at a time. M. had her own bedroom, full use of the house, would eat my sister's food, use the phone, drive my sister's car, etc., etc., and never once contributed a dime.
At one point M. stayed there for months until my sister finally asked her to leave. I remember it took a while to get M. out of there, because she kept saying she had "nowhere to go" but she eventually moved on after lots of pushing and persuasion. Apparently she never works, freeloads off of others, and presents it as everyone else's problem: "But I don't know where to go. I don't have any money." Of course you don't have money--you don't work! GO GET A JOB ALREADY!
Well, here it is years later, my sister is no longer alive, and M. still has no job. She's well educated and says she's tried a few jobs but "didn't really like them." They didn't "suit" her. Now at 49 she signed up at a "talent agency" that took a large sum of money to represent her and she hopes to act in commercials. Oh brother.
I admit I got very angry last night. I said, "You wait until 11 p.m. to tell me you don't have a place to stay?? If I had no place to stay, I'd be on the phone all night seaching for one. I'd make phone calls!! I wouldn't be sitting in a virtual stranger's home chitchatting and eating their dinner and expecting them to put me up!" I was speaking with a raised voice, absolutely livid. It was then she said, "Well, I could sleep in some parking lot in my car I suppose ..."
Guilt. Just what I need. It was then that I got tough ... and told her she could stay. But wait ... don't give up on me yet.
I put her on the couch in my home office (meaning I couldn't work for the rest of the evening because SHE was in there), but I didn't tell her that the couch she slept on TOP OF was a convertible that opened up. Me BAD. He-he. Then I turned up the air conditioning in the apartment so much so that she must have been chilled throughout the night, but I gave her only a thin blanket to cover her. I was THAT mad.
I didn't want her to get too comfortable--I wanted her UNcomfortable. I didn't want her to like it here. I was very bad. Very bad. I admit it. Sue me.
I did not offer to make her breakfast in the morning, which would be my usual style with a guest. But I got up exactly at 8:00 to make sure she was leaving. I followed her from room to room to make sure she was packing, and I repeated my mantra "I need to start working" over and over again. I still didn't make breakfast or start coffee. When she asked if I would, I said I had no time to do that "because I need to start working." Finally I found her standing at the front door, ready to go. I think she was ready to run through it at that point. Yes, I was bad. Very very bad. But I was thrilled when she finally left.
Here's the note she left me, with a big hand-drawn heart in the center: "Dear Z, It was such a sweet time connecting w. you again. Plse, don't be a stranger. Love, Love, Love, M."
Lord, I hate guilt.