My heart skipped a beat when I received the third phone call. It had only been a few hours since the second, maybe an hour or so before the first.
It had to have been Wells Fargo again. They were angry, wondering where the hell I was. Was I dead? I hadn’t been responding to bill notices for the last few months, which were now a motley coffee-stained pile on my kitchen table. Had I forgotten about the remaining 10k I owed?
I couldn’t bear to glance at the Caller ID again. Maybe it wasn’t Wells Fargo. It could have been my sister giving me a ring regarding the big family dinner Friday. I didn’t care.
I slipped my on my ragged pair of Nikes and briskly walked out of my apartment door. I can’t do this.
I paced aimlessly down the street in hopes of grabbing a breath of fresh air, yet my steps were continually staggered and forced. I had been living in my apartment since my late undergrad days, but something was different. The carefree bounce in my step that once belonged to an innovative young man was gone. My college days were over.
The creditors that had screwed my life over acted as if they were sensitive to the common man’s issues, as if they understood and cared—six years ago, my eyes lit up upon reading the message “You don’t have to pay back your loans while you’re in school!” Great.
Then came the interest rates. Then came the need for me to get a car, so that I could reach my crappy $800-a-month job. I was 10k deep with car loans, 40k deep with some mediocre state schooling. Was it worth it? I was better off taking my chances with and dodging a loan shark from the Mafia than signing my life away with these big-name bamboozlers…
I moved to the right side of the sidewalk to let a few young kids sprint by, chasing each other with Nerf guns. I felt half-tempted to stop them and tell them to enjoy themselves while they could, and to avoid the adult world as much as possible. Never grow up; be innovative and don’t take loans from anyone. If you have to, though, buy your kids a car as soon as possible. Pretend to have no assets when your kids reach college-age, so they can receive full-funding grants…or else the cost will chase them for the rest of their lives.
It was only year two of paying back my loans, and I felt as though I’d been enslaved my entire life with no hope to come—the financial advisors I’d talked to over the phone suggested twenty-eight more years to go…if I gave the creditors an ungodly portion of my paycheck, that is.
I stopped in my tracks down the road, fists balled as the running kids screeched and giggled in delight behind me. I didn’t blame them, nor was I angry with them…but envious. They were so lucky to have the opportunity to turn at any point and change the way things were. Adults can never have that luxury.
Or can they? A risky yet brilliant idea hit. Perhaps I could have what those children were entitled upon birth. A fresh name, a lack of reputation, a fresh mind and motive…sure, children didn’t have all the options in the world, but they had enough. They have an opportunity.
A few hours later, I paced around in my room feverishly. I was restless, stimulated, but downright frightened and filled to the brim with uncertainty. What did I have to lose? My liberal-minded family was expecting me at any moment to fly out to the other side of the world and “go do big things” anyhow, they wouldn’t notice the fact that the old me, Richard, was technically longer Richard. I’d have to cut them off, but it wouldn’t hurt them.
I sat upon my hard, cot-like bed. If I cut this life of mine short, I could start over and someday have a better bed. I thought, bemused. Cutting life short…
Was faking my own death the answer to get out of this debt? No, it couldn’t be. I fretted at the idea of erasing my name from records by feigning death, devastating my family, and going through the lengths to steal someone else’s identity. Then again, what did I truly have to lose? My family would be mortified, but they’d always been a small and distant entity in my adult life. It wasn’t as though I had a wife, either. A few crazy mistakes of girlfriends peppered my college life, but no wife…
Another brilliant idea hit. Crazy…girlfriends…
I was aware that one changing one’s identity didn’t always have to be in vain of the law. Many well-known crime witnesses and law-protected individuals could change their names in cases of media shielding and abuse. The government permitted them to do it out of protection. Perhaps I could manipulate a situation of someone crazy coming after me…
The next morning, I drove out to the DMV with the last droplets of gas I had…what did it matter, anyhow? Changing my identity meant that I had to quit my job. One of my buddies worked at the DMV, and he could help initiate the name changing case. I wouldn’t give him the real reason as to why I was changing my identity; he was too good a guy. I could manipulate him into setting up a court case and I was nervous, but determined. Nothing to lose, nothing to lose…
I cut an angry line of permit-pining teens and their parents to reach Rob’s office. I skipped out on feeling tempted to talk to them this time; I’d soon become luckier than they.
Rob looked up at me when he noticed my presence, concerned. “Dude, c’mon. I’ve got a lot of people here right now. Can we talk later? We’ll do lunch on Wednesday.” His voice was hushed and a bit aggravated, but he smiled forgiving all the while.
I swallowed, building up my act. I forced my normally big, soft brown eyes to become shinier, hardened, smaller. Frightened. “No, dude. It’s serious this time. I need your help. She’s really after me this time.”
“She said she’ll kill me. I need to get out. I need to change my name, and you need to help me erase the real me behind it. Sh-she has ways, dude.” Though I was sputtering nonsense, real fear quickly swept over my body. This was for real. I was selling my soul as my familiar world knew it.
“Someone’s stalking and threatening you? I need a name—“
“Just tell me how I can change my name. My hair, my clothes, my entire person. I need out, Rob. You have to help me. Get Joe at the Social Security Office to erase my record, we’ll set up a case. She gave me the name of ‘Beth’. She’ll stop at nothing. It’s an emergency, we need to do this as quickly as possible.”
Rob looked uncertain, but he never had made me out to be a liar. His eyes were now widened, and he nodded seriously. He now disregarded the cheated queues behind me. At that point, I knew I had him. “A-alright. We’ll talk later, man, I’ll get a few phone calls on the roll.”
“You’re a life saver.”
“Yeah. Let’s get started.”