There was a complication when it came to living with Todd.
Todd at this point had moved into a two bedroom apartment in Manhattan with Nick, and Nick was not cool with me staying there even if I promised to stay out of the way and in Todd’s room. He gave us the weekend for me to find something else.
|Still not a douche. Seriously.
I spent the entire weekend looking for other arrangements, but I still only had a part-time job and didn’t have much money to spare for rent. I looked on craigslist. I found a couple of leads, but many more scams.
I spoke to one guy who explained that his uncle had an empty apartment building in the Bronx and needed tenants desperately. The building, he told me, was more of a tax write off than anything, and I’d be doing them a favor by living there, and I didn’t have to worry about paying rent.
I’m still waiting for him to call back.
There was another guy who I wasn’t so sure about. He called himself The DJ, and when I spoke to him on the phone, he told me if I liked the “situation” I could stay with him. I was a little suspicious about what the “situation” was so I decided not to call back.
Then there was Jay on Willis Avenue. Jay advertised his rooms in Spanish on Craigslist. When I spoke to him on the phone he explained that the apartment was his mother’s and he was managing it for her. He explained that he just wanted to rent the apartment to women, as he surmised that women would be cleaner and more respectful of the space.
I was completely honest: I know how to respect common areas but my room is mine, and I reserve the right to keep it as I wish.
We set a time to talk later that day. I drove to Willis Avenue and met him. The apartment, I noticed immediately, had cameras in all the common areas. Jay explained that he had the cameras set up because the previous renters had wild parties in the apartment without him knowing, but there were no cameras in the rooms.
The apartment was also unfinished. It was clearly under renovation, and looked like it had been that way for some time. The bathroom for example had a lamp for electricity and the door didn’t have a handle, only a hole and blue tape.
Jay showed me the rooms for rent. There were two, one with a full sized bed, and one with a twin. I picked the smaller room. It was cheaper, but the windows also faced the roof, and I was enamored with the idea of being able to climb out the window and hang out on the roof.
|The phrase “Twinkle Lights” also came to mind.
Jay also showed me exactly what he meant about respecting the common areas. He was very particular about cleanliness, and demanded that the toilet seat be left up at all times so he could inspect it, and showed me how he wanted me to wipe down the kitchen sink whenever I used it.
The kitchen faucet leaked, and he showed me exactly how he wanted me to wipe down the sink and how he wanted me to hang the dishtowel afterwards.
This was a huge red flag to me. I have always believed that there’s a very thin line between Clean Freak and Control Freak, and Jay struck me as a Control Freak Du Jour. Still, the apartment was cheap and I didn’t plan on spending that much time outside my bedroom.
We agreed to let me move in that day. I drove back to Harlem to pack my things and to pick up Todd. Jay needed me to pay a week’s deposit and a week’s rent, about $300. It was money I didn’t have, so Todd offered to to lend it to me if I would only drop him off at this legal talk he had downtown.
We packed my car and I drove. I dropped Todd off downtown and he gave me the money, and just as I was driving away, I was pulled over by the police. They pulled up behind me as I waited at the red light. I knew that it’s illegal to make a right turn at a red light in New York and I always waited for green. Still, the cop followed me to another light, and after it turned green he turned on his lights and pulled me over.
He told me I had driven straight through a stop sign. I didn’t remember seeing one, but I wasn’t exactly having the best day and didn’t argue. I told him that I was lost. I was moving that day and I was looking for the Bronx expressway. I showed him my car with all my things packed in the backseat. He gave me a ticket and stopped traffic to let me take an U-turn.
I moved into the apartment on Willis avenue that Sunday. Jay was nice enough to help me unpack my car and help me bring my things inside. I settled in.
The apartment was right by the Bronx 40th precinct, and it was a very congested area, so parking became more of a hassle. It took me more than 15 minutes to find a parking spot that night even further from the apartment, and I worried about my car being so far in an area I barely knew.
I went back inside and settled in to go to sleep. I had left my blankets behind in Jackson Avenue, so that night I slept in a hoodie to stay warm. I had started to depend on Antonio, my mother’s friend to lend me money and spot me food once in a while. I asked him if he could buy me a blanket.
Over the next couple of days Jay introduced me to his girlfriend Sandra who was a little less welcoming. They both offered me a plate of food whenever they cooked which I’m super grateful for but she barely spoke three sentences to me the entire time I was there.
During my stay , the makers of Cezanne reached out to me to conduct a review of their product. Part of the article included a phone interview of the president of Cezanne, and I asked if I could use the house phone so I wouldn’t run up my minutes. Jay suggested I speak to Sandra.
I asked, and she gave me the runaround, first told me to ask Jay, and then when I replied that he had already told me to speak to her, she replied that the house phone was private. When I told Jay that Sandra had said no, he offered to lend me his cell phone.
But then something weird went down. Jay had a little problem with boundaries. Every morning I would wake up on time to go to work, and every morning he would chat me up outside my room for about 20 minutes. It was very hard to walk away without being rude, and I was perpetually late for work.
One day he texted me while I was at work that he heard noises coming from the roof outside my window. He asked if I was sure I had closed my bedroom window before I left for work, and I assured him that I did. He didn’t text me again, but when I came home that day he was upset, claimed he had gone into my room to investigate the noise and was angry that my room was a mess.
I was livid. He had no right to go into my room in my absence, and even though he was constantly preaching to me about keeping my bedroom door locked, it obviously didn’t mean anything if he just let himself in whenever he wanted. Still, I didn’t argue, I needed the place and it was clear that privacy was going to be a luxury.
That night Jay and Sandra got into a nasty fight. From what I can guess, Sandra wanted Jay to be more forceful with me, and wouldn’t let the issue drop. I could hear the fight from my room, and it was clear that Jay hit Sandra. He admitted as much when he got on the phone with friends a few minutes later.
It was super uncomfortable. I couldn’t call the police, not without guaranteeing that I would get kicked out, and I lost any residual comfort I felt around Jay. He tried to talk to me about the argument a couple of times, but I just didn’t want to be involved with any of it.
When the day of the interview came, I used my phone.
Jay also watched me on the cameras. The holiday party for Dance Manhattan came, and I got dressed up for the occasion.
I left early and came back late. And while neither Jay nor Sandra was home either time to see me, Jay made comments about the way I was dressed and how I had come back home drunk that night. I stumbled because the apartment was dark, not because I had been drinking.
Christmas was a few days later. I had to work on the 24th so I wasn’t sure about going to Connecticut, but decided to head out anyways. It was on my way to my mother’s that I remembered it was my turn to clean the bathroom. Jay and I had decided I would clean it once a week, and I had to buy cleaning products and forgot to stop at the dollar store.
The bathroom however was constantly being cleaned. Every time I took a shower Jay would knock on my bedroom door to clean up the bathroom, and I had to explain each time that I wasn’t done cleaning the bathroom because I wasn’t dressed, and I was pretty sure Sandra would not have appreciated it if I had stopped to clean the bathroom still naked.
Can you please give me a few minutes to get dressed? I would ask, but each time when Sandra was home, that knock came. Once she threw a fit because I had washed my hair and left two hair strands in the tub. I actually had to stare at the tub for about five minutes to find the strands.
Again, I know clean freaks. My mother, my sister and Charmaine all have nightmares about dust mites and I lived with all three of them for years. This was a little less about cleanliness and more about constantly reminding me that this was not my place.
When I came back that Christmas night, everything seemed fine. I said hello, went back outside to park my car somewhere safer, and said goodnight before we all retired for bed.
And then Ceasar called me. Ceasar can call me at any time of day and I will always pick up, mostly because I never know if it’s his one phone call. I also hadn’t spoken to Ceasar on the phone since that summer, and I was elated to hear from him.
We got on Skype and started catching up, and within 20 minutes, Jay banged on my door. I opened, and he told me that I was being too fucking loud and that Sandra had to go to work in the morning. And then he told me to pack my things and get ready to leave in the morning because he was tired of having me there. All this as Ceasar witnessed it through my computer.
I stared at Ceasar through the camera.
“Well that was unnecessary,” he said. I got off Skype and went to the kitchen to apologize to Jay. He was standing there, posturing and still in a huff. I told him I was no idea I was being that loud, and it was still Christmas day. I was talking to someone I loved and he had embarrassed me. And then I promised to be out by the end of that week.
Earlier that day I had gotten a text from The DJ wishing me a Merry Christmas, and I asked him if he still had space to rent. With Jay blowing up at me, I decided to meet with The DJ and see what the space looked like.
Jay gave me his speeches. It turned out that he was seething over me not cleaning the bathroom and instead of saying something he chose to blow up. I explained that I had simply forgotten to buy cleaning products, and since my money was limited, it seemed unfair for me to pay for detergent even though it was his rule.
But the damage was done. I told him I would start to pack my things. Jay tried to get me to change my mind. It seemed that, “Get The Fuck Out” had been his opening bargaining chip, and he did not mean for me to leave as much as me wanted me to abide by his rules to the letter. Jay, in fact, was having trouble getting someone to rent the second bedroom. One girl came while I was there and left within the week, and other people who had shown interest had disappeared without a word.
I didn’t want to feel like I could be thrown out at any time, and told Jay so from the beginning. It felt like he had hit me exactly where he knew it would hurt, and I was not going to let it happen again, and I told him so.
That night, I got back on Skype, and I spoke to Ceasar through whispers and gestures. I told him everything that happened and assured him that I was sure there was more to come.