With Madeline and her four children away for nearly two months on vacation, it was like a huge weight I didn’t even know was there immediately lifted off my shoulders.

I’ve always been fiercely independent. I also don’t enjoy being watched, or feeling like someone is watching my ins and outs (who the hell does?). Having five sets of eyes potentially watching me whenever I came home, whenever I went into the kitchen or the bathroom was stressful in a way I hadn’t realized, and it was nice to finally move around the apartment without worrying about anyone else.

The first order of business was to forgo all pants. I had forgotten how fun it was to walk out of my room-and leave the door open!- without caring to get dressed.

The second order of business was to call an exterminator. The mouse and roach population in that apartment was out of control. Yes, it’s New York, and some of those roaches had more claim to that apartment than I did. Didn’t stop it from being disgusting. So I called a friend.

I waited for Madeline to be gone for a number of reasons. She was the responsible party. I didn’t want to usurp her authority. And I didn’t want to make her feel bad by calling an exterminator into her home after only being there a few months. But the moment she was gone, I called one of the few old friends I still had from my first time living in the Bronx, and he sprayed the entire kitchen down.

Even with a visit from a professional didn’t rid the apartment of all vermin. I set down mouse traps all over the kitchen and found them full in the morning for weeks. And there were still roaches. I bought a roach bomb, but my friend told me to not overdo it and just to spray Raid. So I did with abandon.

Fuck with me, bitch. 

I wanted for Madeline to come back to her home in better shape than she’d left it. It was my way of showing that I did care. That I respected her home. That I’d want someone to do the same for me.

This didn’t mean that her presence was completely gone. She still messaged me almost every day on Facebook. She was waiting for a few letters from The Housing Authority and the kids’ schools. The refrigerator had also broken down before she’d gone, and there were still problems.

She had also left Shorty the Chihuahua with a friend for the duration of her vacation, and reached out to me to get me to go get the dog because she wasn’t eating.

I refused. I had thrown out the dog food because the mice had ripped through the bag, and I had just exterminated the kitchen and laid down Boric acid all over the apartment, something the dog couldn’t be around, and told Madeline so. Shorty also wasn’t properly trained and needed lots of attention.

When I wasn’t killing roaches, I was writing and applying for jobs, sometimes disappearing for entire days with Todd without a return time. I simply couldn’t take care of a dog. I was too busy being free.

So was my hair, and guessing from this picture, my boobs.

Todd made good on his promise and showed me around. He took me to City Island for shrimp and we ate it at the twins, whom I remember I had dubbed The Wonder Twins even before we met. Todd took me to different places to eat, but some of the best times we had were driving around in his car which he’d named Tabitha, eating Arthur Ave pastries and watching the city go by.

One time, Todd took me to Brooklyn for an event called TropFest, an Australian film festival of short films. Todd brought picnic style foods and laid out a blanket for myself and a few friends. I had a blast.


One of the contestants was Todd’s friend, Nick Petrie. Nick was also one of the people Todd had taken under his wing, and Todd was excited to introduce us. Todd told me how nervous Nick had been the night before at the cocktail reception for the finalists and how he had coached Nick to work the room.

I swear, he only looks like a douche. 
It was some of the best times I’ve had since my arrival. But there was one downside to coming home to an empty apartment: I was reminded, every night, that I was alone. If I was homesick before, I was damn near catatonic at this point. One email exchange with Dan sent me into a fit of sobs so bad Todd had to hold my arms above my head. And something happened that not many people know: I fainted.

It was a combination of grief, Madeline-induced stress, and pilfered medication I was taking to focus on job applications. I remember being at the twins, getting up and clutching the wall because I was dizzy, and being consumed by a sea of black, and then white noise. I didn’t want to come back.

I woke up to Rob holding my head steady and checking my pupils, while three other faces stared at me with so much concern I was immediately embarrassed, but Rob wouldn’t let me go until he had thoroughly inspected me. He could tell it wasn’t just a fainting spell.

And then I sealed my embarrassment more by throwing up everything I’d had to eat that day. If you’ve ever eaten at the twins, you know that’s a lot. They weren’t able to get a bucket to me in time.

Between convulsions I apologized profusely. They brushed me off. It wasn’t the first time someone had thrown up on that floor and it wouldn’t be the last. And then Todd told me something that still resonates to this day: it’s okay to show weakness in front of your friends.

That night Aaron walked me to the elevator and let me lean on his shoulder on the ride down, and Todd picked me up at the door. During the drive home Todd made me promise to always be honest about my experimentations, even if he didn’t approve. I told him how I didn’t want to come back while I had been under, how I felt better then, like my brain had literally restarted.

He told me it made sense. He and Rob didn’t believe I had just fainted. Todd believed I had a seizure.

I was fucking with my brain.