This is the part that hurts.
Tati offered me to live with her after Madeline kicked me out for not being able to pay rent. Once at Tati’s apartment, she pointed out that she had offered me to live with her before, and I refused.
I reminded her that I was working in White Plains at the time, and couldn’t add more time to my commute. Tati lived closer to Manhattan and further from White Plains. I also couldn’t afford to pay her half of the $1,200 that she was paying for that apartment. I was only there because I wasn’t able to pay Madeline.
I didn’t mention that when she first wanted the apartment, she wanted to share it with some dude she kept calling her older brother, even though I’m sure, that 1. Tati does not have any older brothers and 2. I’m the oldest cousin.
Still, I had tried to make the situation with Madeline work. If I hate being alone, I hate instability more. Madeline and I may have not seen eye to eye, the area may have been poor as shit, but I had a roof over my head and I was around people who recognized me. That mattered to me more.
When I spoke to my mother, she was glad that Tati had offered me to live with her, but gave me her usual warning: do not trust Tati. Do not let your guard down and get comfortable. Get on your feet and get the hell out of there as soon as you can. I understood but I had nowhere else to go, and I didn’t think, for a second, that she’d betray me the way she did.
A day or so after arriving at Tati’s, Madeline sent me a text asking if I wanted to go to work that night. “Work”, of course, meant me driving us both to the bar. I told her no. Driving from Tati’s, to pick her up to then turn back around to drive to Brooklyn would’ve added 40 minutes to my commute each way. That was assuming she’d be ready on time. I also didn’t want to be part of that life anymore, and considering Madeline never once offered me gas, the choice was simple.
I never heard from her again.
Tati’s building was closer to what I associated with the Bronx. It didn’t smell like pee, but the steps were of worn marble that curved down in the middle, and each landing was small with multiple apartment doors. And there were firescapes. My bedroom window faced another building, which was quintessential Bronx.
The building was owned by Tati’s boss at the store right around the corner from the apartment. His daughter, Amanda, was also a good friend of Tati’s, who herself told me, “Amanda es mala.“
When I arrived at Tati’s, she had a legitimate stripper with an infant son living in her bedroom. Tati had moved her things into what was the living room area, which had been converted into a second bedroom, and we shared the space. Except it was immediately clear that Tati was never home. She did spend the first night with me, slept on the floor of her own apartment even though she was the only one paying rent.
Tati complained that the stripper had been living with her for months but had never once paid her rent. She took me out to dinner that week with her girlfriend Esther, and we caught up. I told her all about living with Madeline, and she continued that her home was always open to me and sounded surprised that I hadn’t reached out sooner.
I told her about Madeline’s constant online stalking, that I knew she was living with someone else. In part, I hadn’t reached out because I was getting information that made me hesitate. Tati continued that she wished to live with me, not the stripper, and wanted the girl out.
Three days later her wish came true. Tati asked the stripper when she planned to move out, and she left the same night, offended. We rejoiced. Once the stripper left, Tati moved back into her bedroom, and I turned the space into my own bedroom.
|The couch was my bed
And decorated any way I could.
|And hung the three outfits I had
Once Tati had her room back, she once again left with her friends for the night. I realized, very quickly, that even with her own space Tati was never home. I can count on both hands the nights she spent there in the time I lived with her.
I spent most days looking for work. The area was much more congested than Madeline’s so looking for parking became a bit more of a challenge, but I learned that the small street behind our building, away from the main streets, were easier for parking.
We were right off the subway exit to Jackson Ave, however, so it became clearer that taking the train was smarter. At first, I resisted. I didn’t have that much money to spare, so when I had to go downtown to NYPD headquarters to get finger printed for a job a few weeks later, it was either spend the little money I had in the bank to get a Metro Card and take the train into the city, or drive the car that already had gas in it.
I drove, and I got a ticket because I had no idea that there were certain areas of Manhattan that do not allow civilian parking. However, having a car was becoming more of a burden. I suffered a flat tire after I pinched it on the sidewalk parking, and had to learn how to change the spare pretty much on the spot. I decided, finally, to drop off my car in Bridgeport with friends than keep it longer with me in the Bronx.
I was driving on a spare, and I was so worried about the tire that I drove back roads the entire time, doubling my commute. I then dropped the car off and took the Metro North back home.
The next couple of times I took the train. I had several job interviews that October, and every time I left, I stopped at Tati’s store and said goodbye. She introduced me to her co-workers as her cousin, and I mentioned that I was living with her.
Tati didn’t like that, and scolded me not to tell people my business. I didn’t realize it was some sort of secret that I was living with her, and told her she should’ve said something to me beforehand. She said that everytime she invited someone to live with her, her landlord/boss would raise the rent.
One of her co-workers, however, was incredibly amused about us living together, and made some comment about los primos se esprimen. I got the hell out of there. Later that day texted Tati and told her that it was illegal for a landlord to raise the rent at will, and if he did, we could fight him on it. She replied that she already had a lease so it wasn’t a problem anymore.
Out of my many interviews, I got a part-time job with Dance Manhattan within the week. They were looking for someone to work three days a week, and I still had dreams of writing freelance, and wanted the flexibility. I remember going to the interview, my first time in Chelsea, and realizing that there were other people looking to interview ahead of me. Sure that I wasn’t going to get the job, I hammed it up and made Farah laugh the entire time. They called me a week later.
I told Tati almost immediately, and was elated. I got my first paycheck on the first of November. I spoke to Tati, asking her if she could give me the month of December to get my car in order and pay my multiple parking tickets, and starting January I would pay her half the rent.
She agreed and said that was fine. Then I joked to please not to kick me out because it was getting cold. She replied that she would never do that to me. I was her cousin.
A week later she kicked me out.
One night, the cable was cut off. I texted Tati about it, and also told her I had made spaghetti. The next day while at work I received a series of text messages from Tati, telling me she knew about the cable and that she had decided to go live on her own because of her medical conditions and that she wanted to get her immigration papers together.
I was beyond shocked and tried calling her several times. She didn’t respond, so I tried Esther, who I thought, honestly, was my friend too. I asked her to talk to Tati and point out that it was seriously fucked up to kick someone out over text. Esther replied that it was not her job to tell a grown woman how to behave.
I demanded a conversation face to face. Tati replied that there was nothing I could do to change her mind. When I came home last night Tati and Esther were waiting for me. We argued. I reminded her that less than a week before, she had assured me that things were fine, that we had a deal that I would pay her rent starting January. She told me that she was giving me until January to get my own place, so why was I so upset?
I begged her to compromise with me. I begged her not to leave me behind. I told her I needed her. I only had a part-time job. I didn’t know New York as well as she did. I needed her. If she wanted to same money, we could find a smaller place together. She had left me with Madeline for this apartment in the first place, so why was she changing her mind again? I tried to come up with any option that meant her staying with me. She wasn’t having any of it.
And then we got into the topic of family. I had noticed since I started living with her that Tati had gotten into the habit of claiming that her family had left her behind, that she was all alone in the world, which was the furthest thing from the truth, and I called her out on it multiple times. She constantly mentioned that it was my grandmother’s fault her immigration papers were not in order, and I asked her to please let the woman rest in peace already.
She said that once she set foot in this country, she had been all alone. She choked out that no one ever called her on her birthday, that we’d forgotten about her.
You lived with me, I said to her. You’re the one who left. La que se fue fuistes tu! You’re the one who changed her number so much we couldn’t keep track. And then she repeated a lie so nasty about my grandfather that we fought over it. It was nasty.
After they left I called everyone I knew. I told my mom, my sister, Charmaine. No one was surprised. It’s what Tati does. She runs away and blames everyone else. And then a half an hour later I received a series of text messages from Esther telling me I had to be out the next morning.
I had given Tati the ammunition to do what she had already planned. She gave the landlord the keys to the apartment and said I had to be out. I told Esther they couldn’t do that. I had legal rights, and I had already lived in that apartment for over a month. If Tati tried to forcibly move me out of the apartment, I could have her arrested.
It seemed I was safe for a couple of days. I apologized to Tati for what I said the next morning, and tried to get her to reason with me. I wasn’t, and still am not sorry for hitting her. But it didn’t matter. Tati was never going to forgive me. Yo la offendi.
A couple of days later I came home, and Tati, Esther and Amanda were all there. Tati refused to even look at me. I just went to my room. As they were leaving Esther politely handed me a letter.
A letter riddled with threats and lies. I especially love this part:
|Because sharing milk bottles and a last name don’t count.
Still, I was willing to sign, except I had just gotten a legal transcription job, and didn’t want anything on paper that implied I had committed a crime, and told Esther so. She reassured me that the letter would not go into effect unless I didn’t comply, but that wasn’t good enough. I tried to reason with her to take that paragraph out, told her that I had nowhere to go, that I just wanted for Tati to talk to me directly without hiding behind her cell phone and her friends.
Esther did not budge and told me I should’ve thought of that before and that it was in my best interest to sign or else.
And that’s when I shut down. I sent Esther a last message to send all further communications to my lawyer. The next morning I received a very well written text from Tati that had been clearly drafted by Esther, telling me she’d take the paragraph out because she didn’t want to sabotage my job. I referred her to Todd as well. That was the last time she communicated with me directly. I was alone once again.
If this reads as rushed, and angry, it’s because it is. This post took me weeks to get out. I regret, wholeheartedly that we fought. But I believed in her. I made plans with her. I ignored my mother for her. Instead, Tatiana Obaez betrayed me. She left me alone in a city of strangers and hid behind her vindictive bullshit and her friends to do it. She is dead to me.