Well, boy has it been a year. I guess the year of the Appalachian Trail. They say that hiking the AT will change your life forever, wow is that an understatement. I have met some amazing people and made some new lifelong friends this year as well as losing what I thought was a lifelong friend. I need to get the loss off my chest, so I can move on.
So here is the story of my being evicted and losing what I thought was a lifelong friend. I met R in 2002/2003 racing motorcycles with WERA. R and I have never had any sort of a romantic relationship, we were just friends and Army buddies. In 2004 R joined the Army as an 18X and went on to become an 18E. In the fall of 2004, I was still living in Atlanta, so when R graduated Basic Training and Airborne Schoool at Ft. Benning, I went down to Benning for his Airborne School graduation and pinned his Airborne wings on him, giving him blood wings of course. We were best of friends from then on.
In 2009, after 2 combat deployments I was not doing well in Atlanta and needed a change. R said his current roommate had moved out and offered for me to move to Fayetteville and be his roomie. I accepted and relocated to Fayetteville, excited to be back around my own kind. It took me just 2 months to find a great job, and R graciously covered my expenses during that time because he said he knew I would pay him back and it was what friends did for friends. Of course, I paid back every penny he had covered me for the first few months after I moved in.
The agreement was we would split the mortgage and utilities, it worked great. Due to the nature of R's job as a Special Forces soldier he was gone alot working, deploying and going to schools. Because of this, R, decided to give me a General Power of Attorney and I took care of EVERTHING when he was gone. There were several renovations R wanted to do to his house, which he discussed and explained to me in detail. However, do to the nature of being gone often, he wasnt around to do the renovations, so he said i was happy to work on them if i wanted to. So i did, i enjoy doing renovations around the house and i loved seeing how pleased R was with my finished projects when he returned from his adventures. Again it's what friends and army buddies do, we help each other out. R's instructions were for me to subtract from my rent any money i spent on renovations, just keep track and keep the receipts. And i did, i kept meticulous records and receipts from 2010 to Dec 2014 when i moved out.
In 2011, R was away at Ranger school when the house was hit by a tornado. I tracked him down at Ranger school and let him know that I had everything under control and he needed to stay and finish school and not come home. R's parents lived only 4 hours away in Savannah, GA but never came up to help with the clean up and repairs. My mom however, was visiting me when the tornado hit and stayed for 6 weeks, helping me clean up all the downed trees, get tarps on the damaged roof, clean up the destroyed shed out back and find a contractor to get it all repaired. Why did I take care of all of this for R, because that is what battle buddies do, and I know how hard and frustrating it can be to be single and deployed, etc. I got everyththing fixed and back together, R got back from school and then in July 2011 R moved to Florida when his unit moved to Eglin AFB, Florida. R said I was welcome to continue living at the house, I continued to pay half of the mortgage and started paying all of the utilities.
Now mind you, all rent and utility agreements were verbal and there were no issues. R moved to Florida, I remained in Fayetteville and continued to take care of everything.
R continued to pay his half of the mortgage as he was expecting to get a new assignement and return to Ft. Bragg in the Spring of 2012. R's plans to return to Ft Bragg did not pan out and he contacted me in June 2012 regarding his new plan. R said he was beginning to feel the pinch of having to pay half the mortgage in Fayetteville and having to pay rent for a room in Florida. R said he had looked into things and found he could get a break on taxes by siging a lease with me so he could carry the house as a rental property. He said that since I had most of the renovations completed, he was also going to refinance the house and asked if I could make sure it was all cleaned up for an appraiser. Again, wanting to help a friend out I gladly agreed to both. In July 2012, I signed a lease with R.
R explained that the lease was for the full mortgage amount but he understood that I would be paying the same amount I had been paying all along. He also stated I could get roommates to move in to cover the remaining amount of the full mortgage. He said he was most concerned with keeping me happy and at the house as he knew he couldn't find anyone else to take care of his stuff as well as I did. So I signed the lease, continued paying what I had been paying for rent, and found a roommate to move in to cover the remainder of the mortgage. I found a roommate to move in, but as is with military folks people come and go rather frequently. But when one moved out I tirelessly looked to find another to move in. Anytime that I didn't have a roommate and R only received my part of the rent, R never said anything to me about being short or late with rent. I kept meticulous records of what I paid him, what I spent on renovations/maintenance and the roommate's rent paid. I emailed R monthly statements and kept hard copies of the statements and receipts. R never had anything but great things to say to me about how thankful he was for all that I was doing for him. Mom comes into the picture as she moved in with me in the winter of 2012 when her housing situation changed and she needed a place to stay. I notified R and he had no issue with mom moving in with me.
In the summer of 2013 I told R about my plan to hike the AT. We discussed my paying rent while I was gone or my moving out and putting my belongings in storage so R could rent out the whole house. Since I had a roommate at the time, and R was receiving the roommate's rent, R said he would float my rent while I was gone hiking and I could pay him back later, because R wanted to keep me in the house and happy. So all was good, I had a roommate who would be paying rent while I was gone hiking and I would pay R back for my rent when I returned and got a job. It was good until my roommate unexpectedly moved out 2 weeks before I was to begin my hike. I immediately contacted R and let him know what happened. I asked R if he wanted me and mom to move our belongings into storage so he could rent the whole house while we were gone. R again said no, he wanted to keep me happy and in the house. I said ok and mom and I left our stuff in the house. However, I knew that since there wasn't a roommate and I wasn't paying rent that R would really be feelinhg the pinch, so I did what I could to make the most of the situation.
I wrote up a household operations manual which I gave to R, the neighbor, who is a close friend of R's, and my friend C who lives down the street. C said she would keep an eye on the house, pick up the mail each day and try and find a roommate to move in. I left C with a power of attorney to take care of any roommate leases. I briefed R on all of my coordinations with C, made sure he had her contact info and headed off on my hike. I regularly had phone and email contact with R while I have been gone hiking and he was always very supportive and never mentioned that their were any issues. In October, R and his brother came and hiked with Mom and I for 2 days while we were still in the Whites. R was not the the best of moods when he visited, but I attributed his pissiness to the crappy weather and terrain. R did not mention that there was any issues with the rent or the house. R left and Mom and I continued hiking.
I didn't hear anything from R until 6 December. Mom and I had gone into town to resupply and I happened to check my email and received an email from R stating that he was suddenly getting out of the Army, financially broke, had to sell everything he owned to include the house and was moving my and mom's belongings into storage. I immediately tried to call him, but it went to voicemail, so I text him and told him not to move our belongings, that mom and I were headed to Fayetteville and we would move out our belongings. Mom and I drove through the night Saturday, arriving in Fayetteville on Sunday at 1100hours. We immediately secured a storage unit and began packing and moving out. R came by on Monday, acting as though he had only known me for 10 months not 10 years and was completely irrational, stating I owed him $29,000 in back rent. R was completely insane, he could not be reasoned with. I don't know what had happened since I had left in March and since I had seen him in October, but he was not the same person I had known for the last 10 years. I was crushed, everything that I had done for him through the years and he acted as though we had just met and was accusing me of swindling him out of $29,000.
What did I do wrong in all of this.... I didn't get any of our verbal agreements in writing, the only thing in writing was the lease for $1100 per month and that is what R was now wanting to hold me to and collect back rent on. We had verbally agreed that I would pay $500 per month and deduct renovation/maintenance expenses and that is what I did and kept records of. But all of a sudden R just kept throwing in my face that I signed the lease agreeing to pay $1100 per month and so I owed him $1100 permonth all the way back to June 2012. Insane, he had lost his mind and could not be reasoned with. I asked why he didn't say something sooner and his response was that he had been too busy to check his bank account to see what I and the roommates were paying him. Seriously?? I emailed him monthly statements of what was paid, etc. But there was no reasoning with him and he left. Mom and I continued packing and moving out. Tuesday night I was served a civil summons by the county sherrif to appear before the Magistrate, for owing R $10,000 in back rent.
Seriously, this is what this has come to?? So I gathered together all the receipts, monthly statements and bank statements and headed to the Magistrate. R went so far as to get a lawyer, I didn't know and couldn't begin to think about paying for a lawyer, I didn't have a chance. Outcome, Magistrate said I signed the lease, maximum R could ask for in the Magistrate court was $10,000, so the Magistrate ruled in R's favor for $10,000.
This is one of the lowest points I have ever found myself in. I feel pretty defeated right now. I am 40 years old, havent been able to find a man who loves and appreciates me, dont have a job, am homeless, have lost some weight but am still overweight, lost what I thought was a lifelong friend, am supposed to suddenly make $10,000 appear out of thin air and am knee deep in an AT thru-hike that has turned out to he far more enveloping than I ever could have imagined. What I feel like doing is crawling in a corner with a bottle of Jack Daniels and crying, but that won't really fix anything.
I have wallowed for about two weeks and have wondered what to do and what I keep coming back to is to finish my hike. I have given so much of myself to R supporting him and taking care of his house and belongins and now I am supposed to give him $10,000...fine, but he is not going to get my hike, I am going to finish my hike, it is mine and not for his taking.
Where do I go from here, my belongings are secure, mom is on board to keep following me along the trail so I may as well go back and finish the trail. That is what I am doin
I find myself wondering where exactly do I fit in now. The only place I really feel like I belong is on the trail.
I have experienced such amazing support from people during my hike and it reminds me that there is a lot of good still in the world. And this support spurs me on as well, I don't want to let everyone down. I will work on writing up and posting next time all the trail angels who have crossed our path during our journey.
So I am going to keep on hiking and hopefully somewhere out there on the remaining section of the trail I have to finish I can figure out evertything, let my bitterness and anger go, lose some more weight and figure out/find my place in the world. I have been through a lot so far in life, so I guess I can make it through this as well.
There you have it, Hendo's end of the year wrap up, what a year it has been.