Shivering, you quietly lower a brown extension cord (three, actually, each plugged into the other, end-to-end) out your second-floor bedroom window. You hope the other end will reach the utility outlet, which is strictly off-limits to tenants, on the exterior of the apartment building.
It’s about 11:45 pm on Friday, December 1, 1989. It’s clear, breezy, and about 36 degrees in Little Rock.
You had ample warnings, of course, being six weeks behind on the electric bill. Still, coming home after working two of your five jobs, this jolt of reality is as bitter as the wind. After removing the eviction notice taped to your door, you stepped inside, flipped the kitchen light switch up, then down. Up. Down. Then rapidly up, down, up, down, up, down. Shit.
What to do? Then, remembering the outlet outside the building, you stumbled through the dark apartment searching for extension cords…
You need to sleep but there’s no heat in the apartment. You have an electric blanket.
You need to wake up at 6:30 am to make an 8:00 am rehearsal call. You have an electric alarm clock.
Now, with three cords patched together, the blanket and clock plugged into its three-way socket inside, the other end dangling out the window, you race down the fire escape stairs to see if the plug reaches the outlet. It does! You plug it in and race back upstairs, greeted by the amber glow of the alarm clock. It works!
The blanket won’t reach the bed, so you push the bed to the blanket. Still fully clothed, you wrap yourself in electric warmth trying not to think about the cold shower you’ll take in the morning. At least there’s running water.
Six days later, still without electricity, you come home to find the locks have been changed. The landlord lets you in to gather your clothes. You arrange to pay her the back rent in tiny installments to avoid prosecution. You nap in your car between rehearsals and performances with your head resting on a bag of dirty laundry. At night, you crash on a friend’s floor, grateful for the kindness and a warm shower.
But this isn’t the first time you lost your home. It’s the second. A year and a half later, there is a third.
And didn’t it happen to you (at least I hope not)...
So, why am I writing in the second person?
I have money issues.
More than 30 years have passed and I still can’t write about the first or the third time I lost my home—not even using the second person. Those stories include stressful words like bankruptcy, foreclosure, repossession. Those stories involve family members who’ll likely read this, and not talking about money has been woven into our family’s heritage for decades.
As suggested by the traditional red curtain, proscenium stage, and old typewriter on our cover, money issues have plagued this industry for decades as well. So, I’m grateful Emmanuel Wilson insisted on (and guest edited) this issue where we try demystifying finances, taxes, contracts, and in so doing, begin to dissolve the silence, stigma, misinformation—maybe even trauma and shame—around money.
This is as brave and bold as I can be right now. If you have money issues too, I hope this edition helps.
Let the legacy stop here.