That Whole Thing About My Old Apartment

No matter how hard I try to not talk about myself, sometimes other people force my hand. So here we go again.

During the Valentine’s Day weekend of 2016, my apartment at 537 W 147th St Apt 1 was flooded. My  apartment was and is managed by Aizer Realty, specifically by Joseph Aizer. I am making this information public because I have just found out today that Joseph Aizer and 147 Hamilton LLC have taken me to small claims court for unpaid rent, and at this point, there is no reason to be quiet.


On the surface, my apartment was perfect. It had a washer/dryer unit, hardwood floors, dishwasher and a backyard.


And it was home. The only problem was that during the cold months, the apartment was nearly uninhabitable.

We had central air, but it was so expensive to run, between $1200-$1500 monthly during the cold months. We had been in long tern talks with Joseph Aizer about the fact that the apartment was so cold, even despite the HVAC system, and we desperately needed an alternative. I insulated the windows, my roommate cooked frequently to keep the apartment warm, but during those cold months, the electric bill was so high that we were going broke. 

That first summer, my roommate and I made the decision to have the central air system shut down from the unit, to lower costs. During the warmer months, the  difference was significant. The electric bill went down to an average of $100-$200 a month. During the winter months we resolved to use space heaters instead, which lowered our bills to about $900-$1200, better, but still leaving us looking for alternatives. 

My room specifically was known as the freezer. With three of the four walls facing the garden, my room was often colder than the outside. I mentioned repeatedly that my room seemed badly insulated, something Mr. Aizer scoffed at. But I could feel the cold coming in through my feet, and I never went without socks between September and May.

Sometimes, I had to leave the space heater on in my bedroom all day to get it warm enough in time for bed, and while it was hard on the wallet, it made it easier to sleep.

That Valentine’s Day weekend, I spent it with friends. when I came back that Monday night, I started to warm up the apartment before bed, per usual. What I didn’t know is that the sprinkler pipes in my room froze, and when I came back and warmed up the apartment, they burst. I was able to catch the very moment it all went from a drip to a complete flood. 

Within minutes, I lost 300 books. I tried to protect what I could, but the water just kept going and going, and even though I tried going to the basement and shut the water off with one of his men on the phone, I could not figure out what to do.

I spent the next hour knee deep in water, on the phone with  my roommate, with Joe and his flunkies, waiting for someone to show up. One of his men, Ezra, tried to make me take the blame for the pipes freezing, telling me I should have never turned off the heat when I left. I kept reminding him, no matter how hard he tried to pin the blame on me, that keeping the pipes clear was not part of my skill set or my job.

When Mike arrived an hour later, I was standing right next to him when he informed Erza and Joe over the phone that there was no way I could have anticipated this, and that it was unreasonable for them to expect me to be the one to shut the water off, something that I do not know how to do and had never done before, and something that was their job. 

They offered to put me up in a hotel but I refused, too afraid to leave everything to rot overnight. Instead, I didn’t sleep. I cleaned until dawn. I washed the clothes that had gotten wet. I mopped the floors with towels and dumped water in the sink. I tried to save some of my books, mostly journals and signed copies, but the majority were lost.

The next morning when Joseph’s help came, I had done most of the work. I tried to sleep while they cleaned up the rest, dumped my mattress (not covering it according to NY code) and ripped up the carpet. I was livid because just like i had suspected, the carpet had been glued directly onto the floor, proving that my room was badly insulated like I’d told them.

In person, Joseph was super apologetic. we agreed to two things in person: that my roommate and I were going to break that lease, and that Joe would help me find another place to live.

Over email or over the phone, Joseph was different. He continued to blame me for the flood because I didn’t leave the heat on while I was away, despite what Mike had said, and denied any fault because I didn’t have any renter’s insurance. He got convenient amnesia. He admitted to nothing, kept saying he was going to reach out to the owners for us but never did, and kept jumping off conversation threads and creating new ones, I’m sure to keep us off balance.

He made some attempts to find me another place, but left it to me to contact the brokers. No one responded after I disclosed that I was out of a home because the sprinkler system in my apartment burst, and Joe stopped bothering. For a split-second, I considered staying in the apartment, but he took this as an opportunity to keep my roommate’s deposit (money that did not belong to me and that I  did not have) instead for allowing for a break to fix up the apartment and give me time to get a deposit, a new roommate, and enter into a new lease with him. 

I  moved out on March 1st and Joe’s people were in the apartment hours later, with our written permission. Two weeks later, I saw my apartment listed on for $3,000 a month. 


Two weeks after that, the apartment was taken off the market, meaning that within a month and a half, Joseph had re-rented the apartment, upped the rent, and collected a fee. Meaning that due to his negligence, he poised himself to make even more money.

I have fought the urge to contact the current tenants and warn them about what we went through in that apartment. The idea that space is limited in the city is a myth, but the predatory nature of the real estate system is very real. It was in Joe’s financial interest to be negligible about that apartment. It has been in mine to keep quiet, for fear of being put on a blacklist. But to believe that I  should keep quiet after Joseph Aizer has had the nerve to take me me to small claims court for an apartment he was slow in maintaining is absurd. If he had been as diligent about maintaining the property as he is about trying gain financially, we would not  be in this situation. Specifically, I would not be out of a home.

I did not want to leave my apartment. Financially, I had no choice. Joe gained more by my departure. This behavior is not only predatory, it is unethical, and New Yorkers are constantly being pushed out of their homes because of people looking out for the bottom line. I will not be silent about that any longer.


Here’s video I took as I stood in the dark waiting for someone to show. I shut off the circut breakers to keep from getting electrocuted.


A picture of the pipes that could have helped me but were chained:


And more of the aftermath.

The 7 People You’ll Probably Argue With Online Now That Trump Has Been Elected President (And You’re A Liberal)

It’s been little over a week since the presidential election. I feel like I’ve aged five years. After it was clear on Wednesday morning that Trump had in fact gotten the electoral vote, New York was in mourning. No one could look at each other on the train. I cried twice in public, and still now I keep trying to think of upsides.

(“There is no upside!” My  roommate tells me as I  type this. “It’s just terrible!”)

Even though I can barely wrap my head  around what has happened, I’d rather not reiterate anything Vice, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and New York Mag have already said. Instead, I am going to do what I do best: analyze what I see.

I spend a lot of time online, mostly arguing with people in the comments section. It tightens up my writing, but it also makes me feel like I am reclaiming that space. Unless regularly moderated, the comments section on almost every website can be a petri dish of the worst of humanity; I for one think that the fragile anonymity that the internet provides should not be an excuse to indulge the worst in ourselves, and I like to use my powers of persuasion for the greater good.

But some people can’t help themselves. While they may think they’re being edgy or counterculture, or just expressing their opinion, man, the way that humans argue still follow certain patterns. And if you’re the type to loves to argue for arguments sake, then there’s a really good chance your arguments commit certain logical fallacies.

The truth is, there really is no one way to argue with these people.

1. The Move On’er 

“The election is over, man. Why don’t you just move on?” Admit it, even reading the title of this post you were thinking it. We’ve been in election mode for the past year and a half, and now a lot of people just want to move on with their lives.

Except the result of the election is not normal. Somehow we managed to elect a man who ran several businesses into the ground and is so unprepared for a presidency that he doesn’t even have a transition team in place.

It’s difficult to move on when your rights might be in danger. I live in a nice little blue bubble of democracy, and I am still worried about my reproductive rights being decided by the alt-right. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for those who woke up still black, Muslim, LGBTQ, or Mexican in a red state. People are afraid because there is real reason to be.

The best way to talk to the Move On’er is to point out the real reasons why you’re afraid, and the very real things Trump has said to make you afraid of his presidency. If they come back with something along the lines of, “Trump didn’t really mean that,” remind them that there really is no way to be 100% sure of that until it happens, and you have every right to be wary.

2. The Couple Tag Team 

You argue with one and you inherit an argument with the other. It doesn’t matter what the topic is, or if you’re being naive, confrontational, cynical, or snide. If you’re arguing with Thing 1, Thing 2 is bound to come in to defend their honor.

The problem with The Couple Tag Team is that they come at you as an united front but you’re still arguing with two people. When one taps out, the other taps in. When you’re responding to one, the other asks another question. It’s exhausting, and completely unfair. How can you possibly make your point when it’s two-on-one, at least?

The Couple Tag Team is tough because real relationships are on the line. If you are having a disagreement with a friend and their other half joins in guns blazing, it might be easier to back off to preserve your friendship. But if its someone you barely interacted with and then their spouse is being obnoxious? Fuck ’em. Make your point and then hit that block button when you’re done.

3. The Attention Starved Troll (Or The Troll You Know Would Never Say Anything of The Things They Post Online Out loud)

They don’t make any sense. Any time you try to respond to one of their points, they throw three more at you at the same time. They change the subject, they move the goal post, they criticize your sources as”lamestream media” and then they turn around and quote The Washington Post. And then, just when you think you’ve got them cornered, they go to another thread and start the whole fucking thing again.

But look into The Attention Starved Troll (Or The Troll You Know Would Never Say Anything of The Things They Post Online Out loud), and you’ll find someone with a family and children. They may even have high powered positions and college degrees, and you might actually consider being friends with them if they weren’t so horrible on social media.

You might start to think, why would otherwise will read and learned person say such horrible things online? Well, some people, hear me out, think that the things they say online has no real-world consequences. Other people feel so insignificant in their daily lives that trolling online is the only way they feel important. And then there’s the type of person that has really damaging opinions and sees the internet as a safe place to be hateful.

One thing we often overlook when dealing with conflict is that humans feel things. One of those feelings can be anger, and socially, we discourage people from expressing their anger. Often, this is well-intentioned: anger is volatile, unpredictable, and destructive. There really is no safe, public place where to express and expel undiluted anger, and for many, the internet has been an outlet.

The thing about The Attention Starved Troll (Or The Troll You Know Would Never Say Anything of The Things They Post Online Out loud) is that they see the internet as a no-consequence space to  vent their anger. While anger is a perfectly valid emotion, there is a difference between venting and indulging. What they don’t see is that opinions influence media and ideas. Remind them. My favorite thing to tell people: everything is sociology. Everything. Nothing exists in a vacuum. Everything has a footprint. The quality of the footprint is up to us.

4. The “It’s in God’s Hands Now” Philosopher

God knows all. God will protect us. God has a plan. God knows your ass didn’t vote.

The “It’s in God’s Hands Now” Philosopher sees their own inaction as part as some mysterious greater plan. Didn’t wear a condom? God will know what to do. Got pregnant? God wanted it to happen. Criticize their decisions? God will protect them from your negativity.

The hard part about arguing with The “It’s in God’s Hands Now” Philosopher is that they really believe God is pulling the strings. Call it a form of comfortable ennui. On one hand, it keeps them from feeling insignificant and giving up hope. But on the other hand, it can be a very passive existence, comfortable in the idea that there’s a higher power living their life for them.

I have a huge problem with “It’s in God’s Hands Now” Philosophers. I grew up in the same type of skirt-only-wearing, girls-should-be-pure-preaching, used-to-be-a-bodega kind of Pentecostal church that used to preach that the Apocalypse was going to happen and it was only a matter of when. As an adult, I now have anxiety.

But part of the reason I am okay with leaving the church is that often, The “It’s in God’s Hands Now” Philosophy is often used to excuse bad behavior or inaction, because God knows what’s in their heart. It doesn’t matter what they do or don’t do, because God knows what’s in their heart. 

When I argue with The “It’s in God’s Hands Now” Philosopher, I’m usually brutal. I’m not saying take my lead on this one, I am saying, I hate this type of person specifically and I am probably not the best person to take advice from on this one. When I do argue with  The”It’s in God’s Hands Now” Philosopher, it looks something like this:


5. The Conspiracy Theorist

They think Clinton should be in jail. They share statistics about black on black crime. They think 9/11 was an inside job. Something something Illuminati. And if you disagree with them, you’ve clearly have been brainwashed by the establishment.

The Conspiracy Theorist thinks they know a higher truth than you. How did they learn this higher truth? Probably on the internet.

The Conspiracy Theorist is usually trying to fill a void in their life, and it can be really difficult to convince them otherwise. The answer, however, seems to be empathy. From the linked article:

“So what’s the key to stopping conspiracy theorists? It’s like a wise dog once said: “Empathy, empathy, put yourself in place of me.” It was his conversation with Mark Bingham’s grieving mother (and his disgust at how his fellow conspiracy theorists were treating her with utter contempt) which pushed Charlie back into sanity.

There’s a belief that fighting conspiracy theories is a simple matter of bludgeoning people over the head with facts and waiting for everything to sink in. But that’s like arguing that Christianity will eventually defeat atheism by finding the right combination of Bible verses. Every one of us has near-constant access to the greatest information archive in history, and conspiracy theories are flourishing like never before.”

The Conspiracy Theorist, like literally everyone else, is trying to find meaning in this world, just through a really harmful outlet. If you have to argue with The Conspiracy Theorist, try to get them up on the conspiracy that private corporations have been trying to buy our democracy through the Republican party for over a century. It’s scary stuff.

6. The Over The Top Guns Rights Activist

Didn’t you hear? Obama has been coming for our guns since 2008! Did he get yours yet? Huh? He hasn’t? No, he hasn’t gotten mine either. But he’s coming for our guns!!! Any day now!!

The Over The Top Guns Rights Activist always makes me thinks of this quote in Good Omens. Crowley, a demon, is describing how he feels about the people who worship the Prince of Darkness:

“Crowley always found them embarrassing. You couldn’t actually be rude to them, but you couldn’t help feeling about them the same way that, say, a Vietnam veteran would feel about someone who wears combat gear to Neighborhood Watch meetings.”

The Over The Top Guns Rights Activist has probably never seen active combat. They’re probably not even fit to be on a police force. They’re probably white, very likely male, and  they’re very afraid that “those people” will come take their rights (i.e. privileges) away.

They also don’t represent they average gun owner:

Don’t argue with The Over The Top Guns Rights Activist, but keep a wary eye on them. If they post something that even hints at a threat, call the police, pronto.

7. The Diet Racist

They just want to make America Great Again, ya’ll. They want to protect the border and bring back our jobs! What’s wrong with that?

Well, The Diet Racist is the reason the United States has immigration laws after 90% of the native population died off. The Diet Racist is the reason redlining is still a thing, and why the quality of education you get depends on where you live.

The Diet Racist uses coded language to obscure what they really mean. They’re not racist, you see, they’re just trying to keep the ones they love safe from ‘those other people’:

Othering, of course, is the root of the problem. From the link:

“By “othering”, we mean any action by which an individual or group becomes mentally classified in somebody’s mind as “not one of us”. Rather than always remembering that every person is a complex bundle of emotions, ideas, motivations, reflexes, priorities, and many other subtle aspects, it’s sometimes easier to dismiss them as being in some way less human, and less worthy of respect and dignity, than we are.

This psychological tactic may have had its uses in our tribal past. Group cohesion was crucially important in the early days of human civilisation, and required strong demarcation between our allies and our enemies. To thrive, we needed to be part of a close-knit tribe who’d look out for us, in exchange for knowing that we’d help to look out for them in kind. People in your tribe, who live in the same community as you, are more likely to be closely related to you and consequently share your genes.

As a result, there’s a powerful evolutionary drive to identify in some way with a tribe of people who are “like you”, and to feel a stronger connection and allegiance to them than to anyone else. Today, this tribe might not be a local and insular community you grew up with, but can be, for instance, fellow supporters of a sports team or political party.”

Understanding this, your best tool when arguing online is to remind your opposition that you are a person. Not a name on a screen, not a profile on social media, but a person who lives and breathes and has people in their corner. How you decide to get that message across, however, is entirely up to you.



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.

Living with The DJ

When you live in an environment where picking up and leaving in a moment’s notice is normal, you have to learn to carry just enough. Just enough to get by and settle in. Just enough so that you can still survive. Just enough so you don’t break your back.

Trinkets and mementos become optional. Keeping clothes “just in case” is no longer an option. That pile of When I Was Skinny clothing that’s sitting in the back of your closet goes in the trash, because it’s taking up space and there’s no point in carrying it around. You get used to keeping only what you need.

This is a complete 180 degrees from the way I was raised. Although we moved a bit, my mother kept everything she could. The space under the stairs of our basement is filled with nothing but decorations, mementos, and trinkets that we’ve accumulated as a family over the years. I’m sure if I asked, I could find an uncle who has my old atari, a young cousin who still plays with my old Barbies, and an aunt who still holds all my Disney books. And I know exactly who has my Barbie Dream House.

I prepared myself to carry light when I came to New York. Most of my things were in storage, including shoes, jewelry and trinkets. I had a few things I still carried with me, under the excuse that I would need them but were mostly keepsakes: A Konica FT-1 that belonged to my father, a leather Juicy Couture handbag my mother gave me for my 27th birthday, a few pieces of costume jewelry from Nordstrom, and a canopy that once belonged to my sister.

And then belonged to me

Even my laundry bag had a connection for me. After a while, everything did. and I started to see them for what they represented. It was the laundry bag my mother bought me for Girl Scout camp. The blue trunk she bought me after I became obsessed with anything vintage. The Kindle and laptop she’d gifted me, the jean jacket I bought when I worked for LOFT. The purple scarf from visiting my sister in Boston. The boots and flat iron I’d bought while living with Ceasar. Every once in a while I’d also find calico cat hair in my luggage.

Everything had a connection. Everything was a way to keep sane.

The DJ went out of his way to make me feel comfortable in the apartment. He hung my canopy and added hooks to the walls for me to have some sort of storage. He even bought me a futon so I’d have somewhere to sleep.

That weekend, I had a hair appointment in Midtown. The makers of Cezanne wanted me to review their product, and I got a free haircut out of it. After that, I once again packed everything in my car and moved. Jay was kind enough to help me. He knew he’d fucked up, and he was trying to at least be cordial, which is more than I can say for Sandra, who refused to be the one to hand me my deposit money back.

When I arrived at The DJ’s, he made me pull over a little further away from the building entrance while he brought my things in little by little. It was the first hint I had that something was wrong. That night I barely slept because my car was parked on 28th, and they were very strict about parking regulations. I had to move the car sometime around 6 AM to be safe.

Over the next several days, I parked my car in the Bronx by where Jay lived, and took the train back into the city. This, of course, was unsustainable. It made me late for work, and I had to keep going back to the Bronx to move my car on alternate parking days. I had to bring the car to Bridgeport, where I could park it longer with friends. But I was broke, and barely had the money to take the metro back into the city.

I drove out one night, and left my car with V. She wasn’t home, so I took the bus back to the metro. It was during one of those cold snap days in late December in 2013, and I got brain freeze just from stepping outside. I took a train from Bridgeport to Stanford, and one from Stanford to Grand Central.

I had an old pass from when I used to live by Fordham that was due to expire that night, and tried to use that to pay my way. But it was only worth half the trip, and when the conductor saw it, he got really annoyed and charged me for the rest of the trip. It was still money I didn’t have, but I arrived back into the city safely, if a little cold.

It was the last time I saw my car, my most favorite trinket of all. My car was my freedom. It was my escape. It was the symbol of how far I had come, how far I could go. I bought my car after years of  taking the bus, after years of believing I couldn’t drive, that I didn’t need to.

Including my original arrival, I had already packed my things inside my car four separate times. I had been living in NY for eight months, and if I planned to stay longer, it would mean moving again sometime in the future. Leaving my car meant I could no longer pack it up and leave. When I finally accepted that I could no longer afford to keep it, that I had to turn it back into the bank, I was heartbroken. And I’m still not over it.

I contacted my mother after leaving my car and settling in. I didn’t want to stress her out after I had to leave Jay’s so quickly, so she didn’t know I had moved again. I learned that in the time I didn’t contact her, she’d had heart surgery again.

Before I left Connecticut, my mother had a pacemaker put in her chest. While she was healing, she complained that she could feel it moving. The doctors found that not only had the pacemaker moved, but it has completely turned itself around inside her chest. She had to get surgery again to have it readjusted.

And I apparently have no survival instinct

I scolded her. My mother the clean freak could not drop the mop even if it affected her health, and I begged her to get others to help her with the house cleaning, and to take care of herself. She promised she would.

The second hint that something was wrong with The DJ came that New Year’s Eve. It was the winter before my 30th birthday, and I dreamed of greeting the new year in Madison Square Park. But the bitter cold hadn’t lifted, and The DJ kept talking about how crazy it was outside, so I stayed indoors.

I went to sleep, only to be woken up around 4 AM to the sound of The DJ ranting on the phone, and it was the most hateful, homophobic rant I had heard in years. I listened. And when it got to be too much, I put in ear plugs and roller over, shocked. He bemoaned, for example, that he could no longer throw around the term ‘faggot’ anymore, because people obviously get offended.

A few days later, he asked me how I liked living with him. I tiptoed around the issue, but his late night rant had scared me, and I was starting to notice signs of severe mental health issues in him.

By that time, another girl had stayed with us for a few days while he slept on the floor. The DJ had found a way to pick a fight with her that culminated into a pile of nothing. She had simply left her things behind while she partied with friends, and he kept blowing up her phone asking when she would come back. I understood why she got frustrated, and as they bickered over nothing, I got a front row seat for the whole show. After she left, he tried to relate with me on it, but we were clearly not on the same page.

I felt that he had instigated the situation, that he found excuses to pick fights with her. I had seen that behavior before: people who create drama out of nothing as a way to pass the time. Day in and day out, there was always something new to create a big stink over, and I had no need to participate in that.

As he tried to call her names in front of me, I pointed out that as a man of nearly 50, he should know better than to call a woman half his age derogatory names. Someone had to be the adult, I told him, but he tried to defend his actions. He tried to call her a Head Hat Wearing Nappy Headed Hoe to me because she wore a wig, and I thought it was completely inappropriate of him.

Later, he came back to me and said that he had only only called her Beastly because he had heard other girls calling themselves that, completely unaware that it was something else entirely that I had called him out for. I jokingly told him that one day I would record him in the middle of one of his rants. He brushed me off an told me to go ahead. That he didn’t care.

So I did. And boy, was it a doozy.

Bye Jay

Let’s recap shall we? Since my arrival in New York I was put in a shitty, no-money making job, transferred to another department, quit because I wasn’t making any money, danced at bars for cash and got a part-time job at Dance Manhattan.

In the meantime I lived with a lady named Madeline and her four kids her many roaches and mice, was left behind by my cousin Tati, was kicked out by Madeline and taken in by my cousin, who again left me first alone in a rat infested apartment and then kicked me out in earnest because it was, “her decision”.

At this point I was renting from a guy named Jay and his girlfriend Sandra. They never missed an opportunity to remind me that I was there by their good graces and I had to respect their rules to the letter, reasonable or not.

The last incident involved me being kicked out for being too loud on the phone on Christmas night. No, “Hey can you talk a little lower?” or “Or we can hear you in the next room” or even, “Hey, you’re being mad loud right now.” Nope. It was pack your bags, I don’t want you living here anymore.

You might wonder why by this time I didn’t just pack my things and drove right back to Hartford. The short answer is, there was nothing to go back to. I had left everything. Yes, my job at Nord- er, The Big Fancy was waiting for me, and I could’ve gotten my old apartment back (the landlord loved me) but then I would’ve been stepping back in time instead of going forward.

And going back would’ve been giving up all the good things that had happened too. Todd had invested a lot of time and money on helping me build a life here. I had made friends with the twins and got a job at Dance Manhattan. Also: baklava, all you can eat sushi, Kalustyan’s, Arthur ave. cannolis, Indian takeout and fresh homemade dal… I just couldn’t turn my back on all that.

Leaving simply wasn’t an option.

On the morning after Christmas I had an appointment to see The DJ to view his apartment. I knew that continuing to live with Jay was going to bring more problems. He had issues with boundaries, constantly roping me into long conversations when I was supposed to get ready for work and going into my room when I wasn’t around and without my permission.

To say that I had no privacy was an understatement, the cameras guaranteed that, but I had no rights. Every violation of privacy, every outburst was a reminder that I didn’t belong. That while my money was good and Jay needed to fill the rooms in order to make the rent, he didn’t particularly like having other people living there.

I wasn’t even allowed to get mail there and Sandra rarely communicated directly with me. The environment was tense for no reason and while I preferred to stay locked in my room anyways, it didn’t shield me from their crap.

I stepped out of my room that morning to get ready for work. Jay was already waiting for me. He was all apologies, but that wasn’t the significant part of the conversation. Apparently, Jay’s idea of apologizing was to stand in front of me in an untied bathrobe with no clothing on underneath. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Jay believed that the best way to show he was sorry was to offer me his cock.

It made it really difficult to have a serious conversation. At first, he did make some effort to at least cover his package, even though grabbing his dick through the cloth of his bathrobe and leaving everything else uncovered still drew the attention directly to his dick. I didn’t even peek. I talked about how his outburst was completely inappropriate and how he had embarrassed me in front of Ceasar.

But as the conversation continued he made less and less effort to cover himself, until he was standing in front of me in the kitchen giving me a full frontal. I stated up at the ceiling. I had absolutely no curiosity over his package and quite frankly the entire ploy was making me nauseous.

He mentioned that Sandra wanted to make it a rule that I should clean my room three times a week to their satisfaction.I laughed at his face and told him I wasn’t their child. My room was the only place in that apartment where I could retreat, and as long as I wasn’t inviting vermin in, they had no right to dictate how I decided to live in it, let alone set foot inside without my permission.

But Jay wasn’t listening. He was so focused on convincing me that he wasn’t paying attention that I’d made up my mind. It didn’t matter that he was all apologies. He was dead serious the night before when he kicked me out. It was only because I was making it clear that I wasn’t going to put up with that crap that he decided to backtrack.

He didn’t want me to leave. He wanted me to grovel.

After I was done trying to make it clear that I was leaving I went back to my room to get ready for work. Jay knocked on my door.

Can I eat your pussy?

No, thank you.

It’s just that I haven’t eaten pussy in so long, ma.

I’m not interested.

This girl man, she’s so uptight she won’t even let me go down on her.

Umm that’s too bad.

So can I go down on you?

No thanks.

(More begging, and then finally) I guess I’ll leave you alone then.

Once he was back in his room I got the hell out of there.

That night after work I met with The DJ at a Subway sandwich place near his apartment. We talked for a little bit and he showed me the building, first the terrace and then the gym, both selling points for me, and then the apartment.

The apartment was small and dark, the size of my bedroom in my mother’s basement. My room would really be a section of the room partitioned by curtains and foam. It didn’t look like an upgrade, In fact, it looked like rock bottom, but it was cheaper, it was walking distance from work, and I would be between 5th and Madison Avenue. Simply put, the apartment was shit, but the area was gorgeous beyond belief, and most importantly, The DJ seemed nice and he wasn’t “offering” to fuck me.

I didn’t have much else to lose at this point.

I agreed to move in and told Jay that night. He took it in stride and agreed that it would be cheaper for me. When he started mourning that I was leaving again, I reminded him that it had been him who kicked me out.

He cut me off with an, “I know, I know,” and asked me to at least keep his phone number in case I needed anything in the future.

I agreed.

The Room on Willis Avenue

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. 

Alone and Nowhere to Go

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.