Coronatine, Day Forty-seven (Land of the Free)

Should I continue to measure quarantine in days, or should this new life be measured in weeks now? Weeks since we’ve been to work. To school. Weeks since I went to the grocery store without spending $300-$500 trying to stock up for when we’re really going to need it.

Weeks since I made it through one day without crying.

Let’s try a countdown of weeks. Weeks until his job ends: three. Weeks until I have to spend 24% of my take-home pay on health insurance: four. Weeks until we run out of money based on this: twenty. Weeks until I will feel safe about seeing and kissing my husband, as he will no longer be an essential worker and risking his life every day: five.

Weeks until I make it one day without crying: zero.

But I thought I was done crying! I was writing gratitude posts, 10×10, one hundred goddamn things to be grateful for! On the final day, I spent hours reviewing our budget, stupidly thinking we could manage for up to a year on our savings, our tenant money, and my salary.

Because I saw this and did the math:

And what is $260×2, the bottom left plan, the only one we could afford? It’s $520. And add in dental and vision, it was going to be $650 a month, and we could just. Barely. Manage.

But it was a lie, a lie to myself, a bait-and-switch chart from the school district, a slap in the face at 5:00am this morning when I decided to open enroll. No, not $260 per paycheck. Here is the real price:

For the cheapest plan for my family. The plan with a $7000 deductible. So… other than a singular wellness-check visit to the doctor (should I be grateful this is included?), we will pay $12,000 a year in monthly premiums and then another $7000 if anything happens, and then 30% of the rest until we reach the out-of-pocket max of $12,700. Ummmm… shouldn’t the out-of-pocket max INCLUDE the $12,000 a year already spent on monthly premiums?  (Asking for a friend).

What could I do? What could I possibly do? I looked on the Colorado Marketplace website. On the initial page, I experienced another bait-and-switch: Let me tell you, we’re between tiers 2 and 3, and we have a family of five, not 3-4 like in the picture. Yay! It was looking good! We could get a premium tax credit!

So I started to fill out the application. And guess what?

Do I need to tell you? Or have you lived in the Land of the Free for all of your life and already know what a FUCKING LIE THAT IS?

Here’s the summary:

And here is what it costs without the premium tax benefit for the cheapest plan:

$1409 per month with an $8200 deductible. I couldn’t even make up these prices if I tried!

Dear Colorado and Billionaire Health Insurance CEOs: Would I be ON THIS FUCKING PAGE if I were shopping for health insurance for MYSELF ONLY? Because of COURSE it’s affordable for myself only! And of course, for myself only, according to my beautiful school district blue and green chart, I would be MAKING $11 a month, so yeah, it meets your goddamn threshold of “9.78%.” (But don’t you love how, even on their website, they put the word “Affordable” in quotes because they know it’s a fucking joke?)

Let’s return to the beautiful school district chart that shows “DPS Contributions” and I STUPIDLY thought that meant that DPS was footing part of the bill, but what they REALLY mean is the $422/month on my paycheck labeled “Cash for Benefits” which is unofficially part of my take-home salary. So their contribution is really MY contribution, or, in laymen’s terms, MY FUCKING MONEY.

And if we don’t pay? If we don’t give in to this bullshit in the midst of a pandemic?

You guessed it. We’d lose everything. Because we all know that in the Land of the Free, all it takes is one emergency room visit, one contraction of a deadly virus, one broken bone, to lead the uninsured straight to bankruptcy.

So, after seventeen years of teaching, two degrees, one advanced certification, and having seriously ONE form of debt (a mortgage, not a single student loan, not even a car payment), after working my way and paying my way through those degrees, after keeping my children out of daycare and living on a way-less teacher’s salary for eight years, after EVERYTHING…

We still can’t live on my salary.

How many weeks has it been that we’ve been trapped at home? That my husband has been going to work, entering businesses and homes and fucking medical clinics without a mask (because his company doesn’t provide masks) or any form of PPE, risking his and all of our lives before being laid off?

How many more fucking weeks will it be before he can find a job in this market?

Coronatine, Day Forty-seven. Week 7, almost 8.

Why does it feel like day one thousand, week ninety?

Because we live in the Land of the Free, where every life costs a fortune.

Happy Angry Hour

Do you know why he makes me so angry? Do you know why I screamed at him (during passing period) in front of the entire class? Why I was still yelling after the last bell, spilling the whole story to my two unwilling-to-listen-but-forced-to daughters, cuss words and all?

Because I love him.

And I want him to think of me, of all of us, when he doesn’t clean the cat litter or mop the floor. When he pours all the creamer I just bought into one cup of coffee. When he changes his doctor’s appointment that I rearranged my entire day around and had my mother drive across town to bring him to, and doesn’t tell me until two minutes after class STARTS.

I want him to stop running the damn space heater all night long (with the door to his room open) and costing us $100 extra a month.

I want him to care about learning English.

I want him to be my son, to be like my daughters who absolutely drive me crazy in every way and refuse to do chores and forget to turn in work and to tell their boss they can’t work when we have a ski weekend and rearrange their weekends with friends when ski weekends get canceled and then whine about having missed most of the ski season without actually skiing… And get near-perfect grades and would never change a doctor’s appointment without asking me or checking the calendar first.

Alas, I have four teenagers in my house, and one of them is a boy whom I barely know and  from a culture I barely understand and from a not-more-than-a-day-in-advance plan that I didn’t take into account when I asked him to move out of the homeless shelter and into my home.

Alas, that $100 a month on electricity matters to me right now because my husband just got laid off from his job and we have until May 21 to live like kings and the rest of our lives to figure out how we’re going to pay for our mortgage and our health insurance, and Bernie lost Super Tuesday and the stock market shot up 1,100 points the very next day because investors care more about health insurance profits than HUMAN LIVES.

Alas, just when things couldn’t be worse at work or anywhere else, the 1998 Camry died, and now I have another weight to carry each day: the shuffling of more teens to every last event from track practice that he (at the last minute) signed up for to musical rehearsal to never-ending-hours of fast-food employment to driving them to school each day.

Alas, I did not raise this boy to check calendars.

And I want him to listen to me. I want him to think about how each phone call and acting-up-in-class-joke and putting-his-head-down-shutdown is a punch into every last dark hollow of my teacher-mother soul.

But it is almost 5 o’clock. And I am going to walk seven blocks and sell tickets to my baby girl’s musical because, yes, I needed one of my tickets comp’ed so I can pay for the space heater and not spend another $12.

And I am going to smile and wear this shirt in front of all the racist white people at her school.

And that is my happy hour for today.

Inquilinos

My Rohingya refugee who could not read or write in Burmese (but learned somewhat decent verbal English from the militia who murdered his parents) had to quit school, after just three months, to work full time at a chocolate factory.

My Honduran and Salvadoran refugees live lives in limbo waiting for court hearings that are mostly clouded in misery with threats of deportation.

My son awaits the opportunity to work while his cousin, his only nearby family, has to move from state to state working roofing jobs with no options for permanency because of his lack of papers and English skills.

Meanwhile, 20,000 people stood in line in 8-degree weather this morning to support our president, just down the road from my house, claiming his stance on immigration is one of the most important policies they support.

These white people (it’s always fucking white people) are simply fulfilling their American dream: If it works for me, it’s fine. Fuck everyone else.

And he isn’t my son. I was reminded of this last night when DHS came and told me that we can’t send so much money home to his destitute family, that he cannot leave the state for more than seven days (forget our three-week family vacation), that he must take extra English classes and study a vocation and be an independent tenant.

Not an eighteen-year-old boy whose vision was so focused on running for a train to escape abuse and poverty that he couldn’t see much beyond that journey. He just knew that here was the goal, here with all the money in the world… here with all the opportunities in the world… and screaming, raging racists waiting behind every third door, anxious to keep those things from people like him.

I didn’t know the Spanish word for tenant, so after the meeting, when I was explaining all the depressing news to him, I pulled up Google Translate and couldn’t help but be immediately disturbed by its interpretation: inquilino.

The word sounds wrong to me, like a sour slice of lime in my mouth, a cottony accusation. So similar to inquietude. On the same list as inquiline: an animal that lives habitually in the nest or abode of some other species. Its origins in Chile speak of servitude… submission… slavery.

“We can’t have you taking our money for a vacation. This isn’t a handout.”

I’m not asking for a handout. I already had the entire trip booked and paid for, and he could easily fit in the backseat of my Honda Pilot and lay his eyes on Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, and Puget Sound, places he may never be able to see otherwise, but… OK.

I won’t use your fucking handout to take a sliver of his summer for three weeks of adventure and joy.

I won’t ever see my Rohingya refugee again because he will be working twelve-hour shifts for minimum wage for the rest of his life so that people can buy a box of chocolates for their Valentine.

My husband could lose his job at any moment because he works for a corporation, like all other corporations that are part of the white American dream, that overpays its CEOs and lays off its workers to cut costs.

But the economy is great, right? And with Democratic infighting led by billionaire Bloomberg, it sure feels like that crowd of 20,000 standing in the cold is going to win this election. So we are in for another four years of heartbreak.

We are all inquilinos. Tenants in houses not owned by us, in jobs not guaranteed to us, in a country that owns us because we are not allowed to own it.

Inquilinos. Inquietude. Indefinite. Inmigrantes.

And it would be nice if we could just be human.

 

 

 

 

Snowed Day

So Steamboat didn’t happen. They closed I-70 right after we bought chains, and closed 285 right when we’d gathered our courage to leave.

The roads are atrocious, the highways are closed, and it took so much planning and money and sub plans and my entire car packed for six people… And it’s heartbreaking.

And our Airbnb hostess tried to argue with me about going the Walden route and not refunding me.

Bitch, I’m a Taurus, and I WILL spend an hour on hold and send links to every damn CDOT warning ever made to get my money back.

So now I have a snowy weekend with this snow-loving Pomapoo, my money, and my family safe at home.

I love you snow, but you’re kind of killing me right now. Time to get out the Nordic skis.