Because her original method of getting me out didn’t work, Tati tried other tactics. Her first was to call my aunt Thelma in Puerto Rico. I don’t know exactly what Tati said to Thelma, but I did get a call from my mother about the whole thing. She told me that Thelma had immediately sided with Tati because ella tiene que defender su sobrina.
So I called Thelma, and went off about the whole issue, from beginning to end. I told her how I had gotten the job at The Big Fancy, how I had planned to get my own place but my mother suggested living with someone I knew instead.
I told Thelma about living with Madeline, how Tati left me behind within the week. How she had invited me to live with her again, only to leave me behind once again.
I told her how I made plans to design my room. Yo me emocione, I told her, and how I had even drawn up plans for my room.
|Not to scale
I told Thelma how I had pleaded with Tati to compromise, how even after we fought I asked her to leave me the apartment and she could go wherever she please. But she countered that she wouldn’t leave me the apartment with the deposit, and I didn’t have the cash to buy her out.
I also told Thelma that I had just gotten a part-time job, that I was fighting with unemployment for the months I was without work, and that I had just needed more time. And then after I was done, I told her to butt the fuck out. This wasn’t her problem. I wasn’t calling Puerto Rico to whine about the shit I had gone through. For Tati to call about me after she complained so much about her family leaving her was laughable, and Thelma had no business in it.
The whole thing was stressful. The apartment had rats, something I’m sure had a part in Tati’s desire to leave, and there were nights that I was all alone and I could hear them in the kitchen, loud and clear. I poured a bottle of bleach on the bread they were eating, and they ate it anyways.
Thanksgiving was right around the corner, and I had considered not going home to Connecticut. In fact, I had invited Tati to come with me before, which I see now was the beginning of the end. She had, at first, agreed to go. Then she said she had to work the next day, and by the time Thanksgiving came were not even on speaking terms.
But my mother was not okay with me spending the holidays alone and got all Dominican on me, so I went. My car was in Bridgeport, and I had very little money. So I took a train (first time the wrong way) to Grand Central, then the Metro North to Bridgeport, a cab to pick up my car, and then drove 40 MPH on the highway to get home with my hazard lights on the entire time.
I had to put the car on cruise control the closer I got to Hartford because every time I saw the sings pointing for home, I would forget myself and start speeding.
I made a stop at my storage space and got $20 I had hidden in a teddy bear. Then I went home. Once there, I was safe.
|And clearly a bit malnourished.
I talked to my mother and gave her a run through of the things that Tati had said during our argument, how she justified separating herself from us. I told her what Tati had said about my grandfather. My mother told me it was a blatant lie.
She told me how Tati lied so much she landed in the hospital from a beating some girls gave her. She wasn’t happy that I had told my aunt to butt out, neither was my sister, but I stood my ground. No one in Puerto Rico knows the person Tati had been to me.
On my first night home I was so hungry I stuffed myself with gas station chicken and got super sick. I barely ate Thanksgiving dinner, but I was so happy to be home and have the opportunity to recharge emotionally that it didn’t matter.
That Sunday I drove back to New York with a new tire and a bag full of canned food my mother put together. I came home and breathed a sigh of relief to see the locks had not been changed in my absence and everything in my room was seemingly the way I had left it.
I put the bag of food down on the kitchen floor, and I went to sleep.
The next day I came home from work and Tati had removed all the pots from the kitchen. She forgot a small black one that was all the way in the corner in a cabinet, so I took it and hid it in my room.
The day after that, she took all the plates cups and utensils. After that, the soap out of the bathroom. Even the used stuff. I replaced what I could with paper items.
She removed everything she could, even taking a couple of cups that belonged to me.
One day, I was at work at Dance Manhattan, and I didn’t feel well. I asked Farah if she could let me go home early. It was a Thursday. I wasn’t sick, just felt off. Farah told me I could go when the next shift came in.
I left, and when I got home, I flicked the lights on. There wasn’t any electricity. I called the electricity company and asked them to turn it back on. I told them I was happy to pay the due balance, but they told me there was nothing wrong on their end.
I went to the store where Tati worked since that was the only phone number listed for any maintenance or emergencies. The guy behind the counter was the most unhelpful creature on this planet, claimed not to know who the maintenance person was.
I went back to him twice and gave him a line of questioning that, no lie, a little old lady who had been standing there kissed my hand.
Do you know who it is?
Do you have a name?
Do you have a phone number?
Do you know what day it is?
Do you even know your own name?
I called Tati but of course, she didn’t answer. And then I called Thelma and told her what had been going on since Thansgiving. And then I told her: esta es tu sobrina.
Thelma told me as I was buying candles that I didn’t have until the end of December to leave. I barely had until the end of the week. Tati and the landlord were working together to get me out since she had turned in her keys. Tati also gave Thelma the excuse that she was taking her things bit by bit and that’s why she had cleared the kitchen out.
Andreina has a car, she explained. I don’t.
I told Thelma that it still didn’t justify removing the used soap and toilet paper. But the writing was on the wall.
I packed a small bag and camped out at the twins for the night. Poor Al had to share his bed with me, which is barely big enough for him. And then the next morning I went to Tati directly and told her I was leaving.
She could keep her apartment. This was becoming too stressful for me, and I promised to leave by the end of the day. She of course denied having anything to do with the electricity, but as I went around the corner and brought my car around, I saw her outside the store talking on the phone, with a little grin on her face.
Todd helped me pack that night. He reminded me that I had every right to stay, but the stress of it all was giving me heart palpitations. Todd’s friend Harlan had to give me a shot of whiskey or something to calm me down.
That was a shitty night. I remember I had to finish packing in the dark. It rained, and I was desperate to settle down. I did not want to depend on the few friends I had made here. I didn’t want to wear out my welcome with Todd and almost gave a really shady guy money to rent a room.
Todd told me to calm down. He opened his doors to me and asked me to wait at least the weekend to make a better decision.
With him, I was safe.