I found this story in my files today, embedded a very ancient document with a barely recognizable Microsoft Word icon that was last seen circa 1995. I now bring its (unedited) crumbling treasures to light in a scandalous new series entitled I Shall Never Live With a Female Again.
Part One: Screams, Embezzlement, and Cheap Red Wine
My second roommate was a sullen, drunken girl with a face as big as a pumpkin. She insisted on wearing leather pants, at least two sizes too small, and they tugged at the crotch in an unflattering manner. I once caught her with my electric toothbrush in hand, trying to apply it in an unkind fashion to her cat's anus--out of some spite for me, and not the hapless cat. I did not like her.
|Poor little innocent mite!|
We lived in Stuyvesant Town, a housing development in New York built in the 1940s by the MetLife company. Stretching from 14th Street to 20th, and east of 1st avenue, a series of dull, 20-story brick buildings extend toward the river. Carefully tended and fenced plots of grass, amid circuitous pathways, lends the whole place a parklike air. Walking on the grass is unacceptable. The best thing about Stuy Town is the cheap, decently large apartments.
The roommate, Jessica (not her real name), had lived in this depressing joint since a skinny brat of 13. She had inherited the apartment from her mother and to her, it was home. There she had lived and swollen in the dark for many a year, nursing her own brand of poisonous hatred. When we met, she had reached a nadir of fat and bitterness.
She seemed fine at first glance--as all the evil ones generally do. Personable, funny, even charming. I imagined we would become great friends. She asked if I liked cats. I replied that I did. We laughed a bit over this and that. This was, in sum, the extent of our interview. Feckless naivete! Rule One of roommate relations: don't move in with a female. Ever.
I moved into the smaller of the two rooms in the apartment with new hope for the future. It was a narrow little cave, but I thought I could make something of it. The rent was $600--half of the total for the apartment, although Jessica's room was easily three times the size of mine.
I lacked a bed, but the former roommate had left a thin futon behind, along with a cracked wooden frame, broken during an athletic sexual session. Necessity forced me to claim it. The futon mattress was so thin that I felt every gap and grain in the wood beneath. Perhaps this nasty pallet exacerbated my ill humor.
The first signs of trouble came quickly. It was near Christmas, and Jessica indulged in the commercial aspects of that holiday with a sickening fervor. She purchased a tree, brewed vats of mulled wine, and bedizened the apartment with Santa icons. In addition, the perky and infuriating song "Santa Baby" warbled through the apartment incessantly.
Her tree-trimming party eased my qualms somewhat; her friends seemed pleasant enough. Jessica's boyfriend was a nice enough guy, even though he had chunks of plaster and grit in his hair from his construction job. But at the night's end, Jessica retired, with the boyfriend, to her bedroom at the end of the hall. A friend and I sat talking under the blinking Christmas lights. Without warning, we heard an unearthly caterwauling coming from Jessica's bedroom. Her screams were so vivid, punctuated with grunting, throaty gasps, that we were forced to raise our voices to match the noise. The shrieks grew louder, more forced. The din was almost unnatural. We fled the apartment, the sounds of Jessica's monstrous cries following us down the hall. Stuy Town, I learned, was not known for soundproof walls.
Pretty soon the undernourished and perenially filthy boyfriend got wise and slipped away. Jessica responded by slugging back big shots of Vodka and passing out on the rug repeatedly. "He's a rat bastard, but I love 'im!" she wept.
The daily routine was quite grim. Jessica lost her job not many months after I had moved in. The real reason was unclear, but she said that they had falsely accused her of dishonesty. I was suspicious. After applying for unemployment, she spent her days lounging on the sofa in a tattered terrycloth robe, spearing cold Chinese food out of the carton and swilling cheap red wine. It was not a pretty, welcoming sight. At night, she ventured out in search of booze and unwary boys. Occasionally, she would drag some hapless post-adolescent back to the apartment, and repeat the faux-orgasmic routine on into the night. The men she found were predictably runty, unshaven types.
Things got progressively more gruesome. Jessica took up an aerobics routine in the living room, and sweated and slogged back and forth to some Jane Fonda workout. After about 15 minutes of this dreary exercise, she collapsed on the floor and lit a cigarette. When she wasn't out on the prowl, she spent the evenings hunched in front of the television set. More and more, I retired to my room to escape her drunken rantings and tearful remembrances of her unduly hairy ex-boyfriend. When Jessica wasn't pie-eyed, she was darkly, dismally hungover.
Normally, such a depressing lifestyle would inspire pity. But Jessica was so surly and resentful that my dislike for her blossomed every day. She clearly hated everything about me. When I had friends over, she would march into the living room and turn on the television at full blast, driving us out into the night to get away from her depressing influence. She also employed musical torture, blasting Alanis Morrissette's "You Oughta Know" all night, until the thin walls shook.
For some time, I had wondered how Jessica managed to survive, month after month, on only her unemployment checks. She had enough for the rent, I was sure, but her feeding and boozing habits had to cost something. Every month, I wrote her a rent check, which she then combined with her own and passed on to the Stuy Town administration. The reason for this was that her name was on the lease, not mine. I suspected that Stuy Town didn't look kindly on sublets and roommates, but said nothing. I was glad to have a place to live.
One day I noticed that she'd left her rent check out on the table. The amount: $924. How strange, I thought, when my share of that was $600. Jessica's enormous room amounted to $324 per month. I decided to beard the gargoyle in her den.
Jessica quickly fashioned a lie about overpaying the rent for the previous month, "by accident." What kind of fool overpays her rent by accident? She turned ugly when pressed.
"It's none of your goddamn business," was her final, guttural statement.
I didn't like this one bit, but Jessica had a gleam in her eyes that suggested she might have dark thoughts in mind. Best not to press an enraged sloth such as she. I decided to do a bit of amateur detective work, and found the apartment lease amongst her piles of foul plus-sized clothing. Indeed, the total rent for the apartment was $924--rent stabilized. The lease also clearly stated that extra tenants were forbidden. I kept the information to myself.
After a few more unpleasant months had passed, I was leaving the apartment one morning and made a startling discovery. Jessica still lay tangled in her sheets, hungover and bloated, as she did most mornings. There, under the door, was an eviction notice. It insisted, in rather forceful terms, that Jessica report to court, as this was her third eviction notice, and eviction would come sooner rather than later. The cause of eviction? Non-payment of rent. Where, then, were my rent checks? Clearly, they had gone to feed Jessica's unwholesome appetites. And I was about to be evicted into the cold, New York winter.
After another quick search, I located the other two eviction notices, carelessly tossed on her desk. I knew that eviction didn't happen overnight, but apparently, this situation was about to approach its unholy climax. Action must be taken, and quickly.
I broached the matter delicately with Jessica, who flew into an unsightly rage. Again, I was informed that the matter was "none of my business."
"I beg to differ," I suggested, but she told me I was unused to the ways of the world--a country bumpkin who had to learn a thing or two.
"This is New York, honey," she snarled. "Get used to it."
She then informed me that she had two other tenants ready to move in, and that I should get out as soon as possible.
"You're going to stiff two more fools out of their money?" I asked. "How much will you charge them?"
"It's none of your business!" she screamed again.
I decided it was best to let the matter lie, as I had to leave for Christmas vacation in a couple of days, and I didn't want all my possessions destroyed while I was away. This girl was dangerous. I told her that we'd work it all out in some mutually pleasing way. She calmed down, and I planned my escape.
After vacation, I arranged for my brother to arrive with a truck, and loaded up everything I owned while Jessica lay struck by another hangover. She didn't even hear me leave.
As we loaded up the truck, one of Stuy Town's ubiquitous security vehicles pulled up, and the driver got out and asked what I was up to. I told him the whole sorry tale. "You're glad you got out," he said. "That tenant owes more than 5 grand in back rent. We've been trying to get her out forever. Eviction should happen any day now."
After I left, I heard from several friends who had called, looking for me, that Jessica had shouted at them and told them if she ever called them again, she'd set the cops on them. "This is harassment!" she would scream, before slamming down the phone. I never learned what happened to her, but I did call several months later just to see if she was still living there. An angry male answered and told me he'd never heard of Jessica, and that he didn't want to be bothered again. The alarming reality: she's loose somewhere out there.