45. Fearful Fare

Image Source: Amanda Hirsch via Flickr/Creative Commons

I dumped ten roughly chopped jalapenos and one #10 can of crushed tomatoes into a hotel pan of brown rice for 200 when an ominous electrical shock shot through my backside in the form of an email. It was from my neighbor and president of my condo association.

“Hi Brooks,

Please give me a call on my cell phone when you get a chance.



When was the last mortgage payment I made, I asked myself. Four months. That was a heavy thought: I hadn’t made a mortgage payment in four months. There was no reason for me to freak out, but the perfectionist in me panicked. Before addressing the email, I texted Isabella to ask her what her living situation was — her roommate was moving out and she wasn’t sure if she’d stay or not. I wanted to make sure that I had a place to go in case I was forced to leave the building. This was an irrational reaction, I reminded myself. I knew that even in the worst-case scenario, I couldn’t possibly be kicked out of my apartment for at least a year.

I texted Marty and told him about the email.

“You need to call him,” he said. “Just get it taken care of.”

“It makes me nervous,” I wrote.

“You have to do this.”

Coward that I was, I sent an email instead of making the call that was requested.

“What’s up?” I wrote to Brad.

He sent a curt message back, “Got served a foreclosure notice for your unit, just wanted to chat about it.”

“I don’t know that I can provide any more information on it other than that this was a last resort decision,” I wrote, just as curtly.

And then he got serious.


I realize that you may be reluctant to talk to me about this, but please understand that I’m obligated to share it with the rest of the association as it will significantly and negatively impact everyone’s property values in the building if your unit is foreclosed upon. It will be especially detrimental to anyone that is currently planning to refinance or sell their units. It would help to have as much information as possible when I do notify the rest of the owners so that they have a full understanding and can act accordingly if they are refinancing or planning to sell.

First, have you sought out and received any professional advice or input? If you haven’t, you definitely should. I’d be happy to recommend someone that could help you make an informed decision with no pressure or obligations. Illinois also has a foreclosure assistance program that may be able to help.

Have you looked into doing a short sale? The advice that I’ve received is that just walking away and letting the bank foreclose is unnecessary and will hurt your credit more in the long run.

Again, I’m truly sorry that you are in this situation. A lot of people are, including friends of mine. Take care.


I had done exhaustive research on this matter and I knew that foreclosure was my only option if I were to salvage any of the money I had originally put into it, which was — now — next to nothing. The only thing I could hope for is to stay in my apartment without making payments for as long as possible to balance out what I had already lost.

“Oh I understand. I didn’t think I could move out unnoticed. And I realize that it puts the whole building in a bind, but I did everything I could to prevent this and I am at the end of my financial rope.

I’ve gotten conflicting advice on short sale versus foreclosure. If there’s someone you trust that you would like to put me in touch with, it couldn’t hurt.

I really don’t know what other information I can give you.



The anxiety over the emails made me work much faster and I left work early so I could pack up my stuff and get to Marty’s before any of my neighbors got home.

“I’m anxious,” I texted. “And fat, Marty. I’m fat.” It seemed the marathon training was doing little to chip away at the extra layer flesh that I’d developed over the last few months, adding to the crushing anxiety over my mortgage.

“You’re not fat. Your body is just adjusting to the lack of booze. We can talk about the other stuff tonight,” he responded.

Image Source: atramos via Flickr/Creative Commons

The weather was finally nice enough to wear shorts while running and the grass was green and lofty enough to sit in the park with a good book. It also made avoiding the process server and my neighbors easy. I would get home from work at 2pm, pack my running clothes and a book and be out at the park before anyone was aware I’d been home. I could read until Marty got home from work and then we could run.

I set up camp at the park by Marty’s apartment. I laid my bike down under a tree and lined up a blanket next to it so that I could prop my feet up on it and use my bag as a pillow. I strategically set my stuff down so that no matter where the sun was in the sky, the tree wouldn’t obstruct the rays and I could absorb the month of May. I read my book but didn’t resist the urge to doze off.

I woke up with the sound of my phone buzzing with another anxiety-inducing email. It was from Lucy. With the winter clouds parting to make room for summer sun, she wanted to get my opinion on what kind of bike she should acquire for riding season.


I want to get a decent bike this summer, for a change, and take care of it. You were the first person I thought to ask, hope that’s OK. I have no idea what to look for or what’s good. I think I would like handlebars w/the brakes/gears in them (the turn kind).  I was thinking I’d need to spent about $300–am I low or high?

Any thoughts or suggestions are welcome.


I responded:

“That’s low, but I don’t think you need gears because Chicago is flat and bikes without gears are cheaper. Single speeds are generally low maintenance. Look at Schwinn. I don’t know if they’re still making the Schwinn Madison, but if I was in the market for a single speed, that’s what I would get. Particularly the 2008 model in sky blue. It’s beautiful.

Redline also makes good ones that are pretty nice. I would like one of those.  

I hope that helps.

I’m not drinking these days, but if you’re up for it, I’d like to get lemonade or tea with you some time.”bike

She responded positively. It was a scary proposition, but I barreled through the negative feelings to agree to brunch that Sunday at the Trenchermen. It was on the Eater 38 list so I could tick it off and we’d follow the meal with bike shopping. It felt good, mature — like I was making adult decisions about relationships after decades of sandbagging friendships and haphazardly dismantling connections that I had taken for granted.

After we got brunch sorted, I met Marty at his house armed with pre-run bananas. I told him about avoiding the process server.

“You need to face that sooner rather than later. Just get it taken care of,” he lectured me, again.

“I’m not ready to do that yet,” I said.

“Well, get ready,” he said with a hint of irritation in his voice. “There’s something else I wanted to talk to you about.”

“What?” I said in a way that could have been mistaken for mad, but it was anxiety taking over my tone.

“I purposely haven’t brought this up because you seem OK, but I just wanted to suggest maybe going to a meeting,” he said.

“That only adds to my anxiety,” I said.

“But they help with anxiety,” he said. “You don’t have to talk. It might make you feel better.”

I changed the subject. “Lucy emailed me,” I said.

“That’s great!” he said. “What’d she say?”

“She wanted my opinion on a bike. We’re going to get brunch on Sunday and go bike shopping.”

“I’m glad,” he said. “It’s silly for you not to be friends.”


On Sunday, I arrived at Trenchermen promptly at 11:30am. Lucy was already there, blindsiding me with her newfound devotion to schedules.

I sat down awkwardly. It was uncomfortable. There was no natural way to pretend that we had spent the last six months without each other.

“So you’re still not drinking?” Lucy eased into conversation with all the subtlety of a Clydesdale.

“Nope,” I said.

“Do you mind if I get a bloody mary?” she asked.

“Not at all.” That was one thing I missed about drinking: Sunday bloody marys. But those bloody marys usually progressed into beers and then whiskey sodas and a hangover on Monday morning.

I ordered the mandazi donut to start with a pour over coffee. I didn’t know what “mandazi donut” meant, but from what I later learned, “mandazi donut” was redundant. A mandazi is Kenyan in origin and basically, it’s semi-sweet dough lightly fried in oil. This particular dough didn’t include enough yeast to make it fluffy and light so it was disappointing to me. It was more like a cake donut which my palate immediately dismissed as plebeian.

For my entree, I went with the duck pastrami ramen; I had high hopes for this one, but it was just OK. I couldn’t figure out what wasn’t right — did it need ginger? Did the broth need pork belly? Was duck pastrami too ambitious? Lucy lucked out with the breakfast sandwich with bacon stuffed bacon, fried egg, tomato, cheddar, and potatoes. She was more satisfied than I was.

As we worked our way through the meal, we started ripping off conversation bandaids. Lucy started off with a bit on how her relationship had just ended. He lived in the suburbs, was divorced with a teenage daughter. She was still a little raw from what had clearly been an important relationship.

“He’s damaged and he couldn’t fully commit to me,” she said. “I’m still a little uneasy about it. We liked each other. We always had a good time, he was smart and probably the best looking guy I’ve ever dated.” It was strange that she pointed out his attractiveness. Her previous boyfriends didn’t fall into the category of conventionally attractive, but it never occurred to me that they were or weren’t attractive.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Breakups never get easier.”

“Thanks,” she said making a sad smile. “What about you? Are you seeing anyone?”

I told her about Marty and that we were training for the marathon.

“I thought there was something going on when I saw him at the fundraiser,” she said. “That’s great. And the marathon sounds like a great sober activity to do together.”

“I like him,” I said. “We get along well.”

“He makes you laugh?” she asked. “I know how important that is to you.”

“All the time. It’s… refreshing,” I said.

“And the sex is good?” she asked.

Image Source: Matt Stratton via Flickr/Creative Commons

“Yes,” I lied. Not even when we have it is it good, I thought, leaving off the fact that encounters were about as frequent as summer descending upon Chicago. And I glossed over the endowment issues I had with him. I was not ready to reveal any vulnerabilities in our relationship.

“I’m happy,” I stretched out the untruth. “But I am afraid that his enthusiasm for the marathon is waning. I have to figure out a way to get him excited about it.”

We closed out our tab on a good note and moved on to bike shopping. We went to The Bike Lane on Milwaukee across from the Congress Theater. She had already picked out something that she liked. It was a black KHS commuter bike. There was a single speed and one with nine gears, but the difference in price was negligible so I urged her to get the one with gears. We spent the rest of the afternoon goofing around on our bikes under the glorious glare of the spring sunshine. It wasn’t just like Old Times but I wasn’t Old Brooks and she wasn’t Old Lucy; we were improved versions of ourselves.



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