The Kind of Set-Up This Is

There are times when you get a sinking feeling in your stomach, and your general, vague sense of unease suddenly becomes sharper, more definite in its discomfort. Like, say, a moment when you describe a situation to some financial professionals, they say, that’s impossible, no-one would do that, and you have to tell them that, not only is it not impossible, it’s something that’s already happened to you just a few months ago.

2020 has been, to be blunt, a brutal year for me financially. If 2019 was a year where I found my feet during and after the divorce — and it was, on every level; emotionally, practically, financially— then this has been the year that laughed at all of that and tried to cut my legs off. I lost work, I lost more than half of my income and have found no easy way to replace it as my industry got wrecked by a pandemic that undermined its already shaky foundations.

During all of this, an outstanding debt owed to me magically reappeared and was offered to me in the middle of the year. Something that wasn’t technically due for another few years was, in my hour of need, offered in full: a genuinely unexpected but entirely welcome lifeline to save what little hair I had left. All I needed to do was sign the paperwork and get it notarized and submitted, and everything would be fine.

Except, as it turned out, it wasn’t. I signed,notarized, and submitted the paperwork in July, and nothing happened. In September, weeks after the promised deadline, I found out why: the party owing me the money had ghosted the obligation, but was now offering it a second time through a new third party. So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut put it. All I needed to do, again, was sign the paperwork and get it notarized and submitted.

That, then, was how I spent part of my birthday this year. After signing, I asked the representatives present what would happen next, and how real everything was. Well, they said, now that you’ve signed this, it’s essentially a done deal. Yes, I told them, but I’ve already signed this paperwork in July and nothing happened. Could that happen again?

Their faces fell, as they asked me to confirm: I’d really signed and notarized and submitted these forms before? And nothing happened? I said yes. That was unheard of, they said, no-one would just abandon the process at that point. But that’s what happened, I repeated, and they frowned, before telling me they now understood my concern. They ushered me out of the office, telling me I could expect a phone call if everything fell apart again, repeating their disbelief that it could have happened before, but refusing to say that it couldn’t happen again.

Happy 2020 birthday: here’s your sinking feeling, stronger than before.

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