My 30th birthday was coming up. I wanted to celebrate by having a glass of champagne outside where Grand Central and Park Avenue meet, and toasting to the next 30 years that I was working to create.
A couple of weeks before my birthday I discovered that The Center For Fiction offers a fellowship every year for emerging writers living in New York, and I had to work on my submission. I informed The DJ that I’d be working as a backhanded way to get him to tone down his erratic behavior, which was getting worse.
Although when I met him The DJ assured me that he wanted to work on our respective business goals as a team, I quickly realized that this wasn’t true. I couldn’t talk to him like a normal person. For example, there were bugs in the apartment and soon enough, I was waking up daily with new bite marks all over my arms, neck and back. I told The DJ at first, but all he did was freak out and find people to blame.
Then he claimed that he was bitten too, and pointed to a bunion on his left foot. When I told him that was not a bite make, he then decided to clean the apartment by shredding paper at 5 AM while I was trying to sleep. He never actually tried to come up with a solution.
And it was like every day he was beefing with someone, and I knew that it would be a matter of time before he would focus on me. So to avoid the bugs and his craziness and to stay sane, I explored the city late at night.
|At night, the city was mine
I didn’t have much money so I walked everywhere I could, which wasn’t a big deal since I was so close to work. When I would visit the twins, I’d take a stroll weaving through Madison and Park Avenue, enjoying the sights, and it was wonderful.
A couple of weeks before my birthday, we had another girl living with us. Her name was Angel, a college student who arrived in town a few days before her semester was due to begin, and she needed a place to stay in the meantime. She too slept on The DJ’s bed while he slept on the floor. She too had to deal with his incessant need to stir up conflict out of thin air. He accused her of not getting along with him, or something equally dumb, and wouldn’t drop the subject.
This time I intervened. At one point, Angel and I were on our respective sides of the room when we heard The DJ mumble something stupid, so we both spoke to him to settle the issue. His response was that he felt like Tupac, because he felt like it was him against the world.
Angel and I looked at each other and stifled a laugh, and tried to talk the matter out. The next morning I woke up to the familiar sound of The DJ going off on a rant. Angel and I both thought the matter had been settled, but all The DJ did was stew on it overnight, so that in the morning, arguing with Angel was the first thing on his mind.
He was telling Angel that he wanted her out that day and handed her her money. I jumped out of bed and pretended to not know what was going on and asked what he was talking about, and then I pulled him aside and repeated the words, “Angel is a good girl. Stop, please. Angel is a good girl,” until they sunk in.
I wanted Angel around. She was nice, and it made me feel better having another sane person in the apartment. That night she suggested we go out together, just for a walk to bond and just put the drama behind us. We walked up to Times Square and back, and everything seemed fine.
That Friday The DJ invited Angel and me to a party he was deejaying out in Fort Hamilton. I didn’t work on Fridays, so I planned on sleeping a little late that day and getting something to eat. I was working on my submission for The Center For Fiction, and needed all the time I could spare. The DJ got into the shower at about noon that day, and spent the next four hours locked in the bathroom.
I couldn’t go out to get something to eat because I couldn’t get back in the building without his escort, and he was luxuriating in the shower. By the time he came out, it was time to start getting ready. Angel went in, and I showered last. Then we rode in a black cab out to Brooklyn. The DJ told storied about his career while I stared out the window. By the time we arrived, I was famished.
Angel and I hung out together and took pictures. We were both confused because we thought we were there for a big open party, but it was a private event instead, and we both felt like we were crashing. Still, we had a good time, and I got plenty of pictures.
When the party was over, The DJ informed us that we would be taking a train back. We walked from the base to the train station in the bitter cold, and from the train to the apartment. It was past 4 AM by the time we arrived, and I was pissed.
We argued about it the next morning while Angel slept. He accused me of not participating the night before. Of not mingling and being dismissive of his art, because I had stared out the window during the cab ride while he talked about his previous work. He took that as disrespect, when I just really wanted to stare out into the lights.
I pointed out all the times he’d lied to us the night before, how he’d misled us about the party, and how he’d flat out fucking lied on the way home, assuring us we were, “almost there” the entire time when it was really an hour long trip, a big chunk of which was on foot and on heels.
There was another party that night, the one that we originally thought we were going to the night before, and Angel and I both decided to stay behind. After that, The DJ became sullen.
He knew that Angel and I stood united, so his shit-starting wasn’t going to fly. During the weekend before my birthday, he was downright morose. And then Angel moved out.
A couple of things happened at the same time. He had asked to borrow money and I said I didn’t have it. Exactly five days later I went out to get something to eat and came back with a half roasted chicken and a bag of chips. He confronted me at the door immediately and said, “I thought you didn’t have any money?” I reminded him that I still had to eat. He started to go off on a rant about how I had declined to loan him money, and I reminded him that he’d asked me a week before, and asked him, “So I’m not supposed to eat?”
Then one morning, I woke up to him shouting down the hallway like a maniac. He had been talking to a neighbor and the guy asking him something seemingly benign, and The DJ went off. The entire floor heard it, and I was sure we were going to be kicked out, and he reinforced this misconception.
I spent the entire day looking for apartments, reaching out to anyone who could possibly help me. It wasn’t until the end of the day that I realized that it was just his usual shit-starting, and by then I was stressed. I was covered in bite marks that hurt so bad I cried in the shower. I couldn’t deal with his craziness, and I had lost a day of writing to his bullshit.
The Center For Fiction submission was due on the 31st of January, and he spent almost the entire day interrupting me, still ranting about the hallway incident. I’d had enough, so I captured his rant on video.
I sent it to a couple of people. They all advised me to get the hell out of there, but I had nowhere to go. Still, I managed to complete my piece in time, and submitted it. When he confronted me again about how, “we didn’t get along,” I told him how crazy he comes off sometimes. He denied all of it, so I showed him the video. Instead of talking about it or acknowledge his behavior, he had me delete the video and clean out the recycling bin, but it didn’t matter. I had already made several copies that were saved in my email.
The next day, two days before my 30th birthday, I was invited to go to a swingers club by someone I’d me through Craigslist. He assured me that I’d be safe, that nothing would happen unless I wanted it, and that I might as well have an adventure before my birthday. I went, and, well, I will tell you that story some other time, but lets just say I was a very popular girl that night.
When I came back, The DJ took about 45 minutes to tell the building to let me up. I knew he was up. 4 AM was his rant time. He was punishing me for leaving, so I made a point of not acknowledging it.
Then night before my birthday, Angel was home. We toasted at midnight, and I thanked them both for celebrating with me. The DJ made a snide comment about keeping his mouth shut and we both ignored him. That morning, it snowed.
I took the day off from work but I didn’t want to stay inside all day. I walked around, stopped inside a Starbucks and called a few people. But then I had no choice and I went back to the apartment. As I sat there on my futon, I could hear him typing away on his computer and stifled a laugh. He was pissed that I had asked him for a calm birthday so he was typing his frustrations out. And then the questions came.
“Hey, how much do you make?” He asked through our diving foam wall, after I had pointedly tried and failed to not hear him through my headphones. I told him how much I made.
“You know that’s better than most people.” No it wasn’t, but OK.
“You know, you should be real grateful of where you are.”
And then, “I’m just saying, you should be really grateful I let you stay here. Other people would ask for more money or even ask for sex. You should be real grateful of all I’ve done for you.” I couldn’t believe the balls on him. It was my birthday, and he just couldn’t give me peace.
I texted Todd. He’d had enough. He told me he was tired of worrying about my safety and to pack my things to come live with him.
I told The DJ I was leaving hesitantly because I never knew how he would react. He told me to leave then, going off on a fresh rant about how little he cared, and I started to pack immediately. I was out of there, I was free, and I couldn’t wait to get the fuck out.
He kept on talking, and it wasn’t until I started to stack my things by the door that he realized I was for real. Then he completely changed his tune. He started to tell me not to go. He tried to talk me into staying, and then, in all earnest, he looked up at me with nothing but sincerity in his eyes and said:
“You’re going to ruin your birthday.”
I laughed in his face. I finished packing and took whatever I could with me that night. He had to walk me out and offered to help me to the train, and spent the entire time asking to talk about it, but I didn’t owe him a dammed thing. I spent the night of my birthday with Todd in Harlem, and I’ve lived with him ever since.
That is, for the most part.