I had saved up money working at a craft store and was going to spend the next year writing fiction (in my later years, I intend to begin this story with “I had saved up money working as headlining exotic dancer, Eduardo Da Beef, at Madame Chao’s Club Exotica” but I’m still piecing that lie together). I was 23, when being a struggling artist had an air of romanticism to it, and believed that the misunderstood, angst-y BS I was about to write would be defining of myself and my generation, that my job at the craft store would no doubt be my last working for someone else. Financial independence was right around the corner!
My intentions were to write and become famous (SPOILER: It didn’t happen), but I also needed a new place in which to do it.
Now, the story begins…
Through a friend of a friend, I heard about a girl, M, who was looking for housemates. Her ex-girlfriend, whose grandmother actually owned the house, had moved out, requiring M to fill the other rooms in order to meet rent. She found two guys quickly, John and Chris, and I successfully interviewed as the 4th person to fill one of the 5 rooms. Well, technically, it was a 4-bedroom house, but the garage had been converted into its own space and a second garage built on the other side of the house. For this, I offered to pay a little more in order to have the large space with its own door.
I refer to it as a “space” because of the fact that, while, yes, it had been converted, it was as a beauty salon, not a bedroom. Half-linoleum, half-carpet, two pink walls, one of which had a door (for the clients), a third wall made entirely of mirrored closet doors and a pink rinsing sink that shared a wall with the door leading into the house (employees only). The small square of glass in the client door was the only window in the entire room. Like its garish brethren the Vegas casinos, this room was devoid of natural light, and any evidence of the outside world or the time of day. It’s decor was outdated-but-not-yet-kitsch, it had isolation and solitude, it had big dreams (re: writing)–It was only short the gambling license required in order to become a full-fledged den of sorrow and desperation. I loved that room.
After a few months, I got an old co-worker, Frank, to move into the remaining bedroom, so now we all had even lower rent and got along famously. We had movie nights most every night, shared food readily, looked out for one another as best we could and looked forward to being home.
I have some really fond memories of that period: I had my first ever girlfriend (I was Michael XXII, King of the Late Bloomers), I had money in the bank, I had an opossum that began to wait by my door for me to feed it and, best of all, I had housemates I trusted and liked. With several of us on anti-depressants at the time, we had dubbed the house Prozac Nation.
Then, in early December, everything took a turn.
A very, very dark turn. With bad hair.
M’s ex, the one whose grandmother owned the house, moved back in. Disregarding the confused looks of the five other people there, she just showed up and started moving her stuff into the master bedroom, bringing with her the cold and joyless air that surrounded her very being. If this had been a movie, the viewer would see the door fly open, showing her illuminated by furious lightning. Then, just as she crosses the threshold, every mouse that is in, under or around the house goes fleeing for their lives, preferring to take their chances with the elements and predators. I would have envied such mice.
Ghosts got chills when she walked in the room.
Serial killers would commit suicide rather than stalk her.
Chickens became infertile at the thought of her eating their eggs.
You get the idea.
Quickly, the dynamic of the house changed. We each began to spend more time in our rooms, movie nights were non-existent, conversations and laughter were rare. In short, living there sucked.
One day, M informed each of us that we had to be out in two weeks, the Dark One had decided the house was going to be strictly gay. “Frank’s gay,” I reminded her. “Why is he getting kicked out?”
M shrugged. “She said he’s a weird gay.”
To say we were pissed would be an understatement. Livid and vindictive would be more accurate. Our happy dynamic was changed without our having any say, our choice of housemates was no longer our choice and then it was all ended on a moment’s notice without our input. In a matter of days, everything we loved was taken away from us. Prozac Nation had been conquered, the Prozacians forced to become refugees. By the two week mark, we had all found someone’s couch or floor to crash on.
Our last night worked out perfectly. The Dark One was gone until the following day (my guess is that she was out sucking the essence from children whom she accused of being gleeful. None of that on her watch!) and we had the house to ourselves. We all shared a toast to what had been, then put the finishing touches on our “goodbye message”. *evil grin*
First, we canceled all of our rent checks that still had not been cashed.
Upon receiving his eviction notice, Frank, a chain smoker, had begun putting all of his butts and ashes into a jar of water. After two weeks, this became a thick, dark, filthy mixture that would’ve closed down any beach for safety reasons. This jar was emptied into the Dark One’s closet.
Several packages of Rit’s Cherry Red powder dye were emptied into the washer that contained a load of clothing that the Dark One planned on running when she returned.
Lightbulbs were unscrewed, glue added, then screwed back into their respective homes.
A large bottle of vegetable oil was emptied into the hot tub that sat on the back porch.
The house phone was made available to all friends for any of their long distance or 1-900 number needs.
For two weeks, we had encouraged every male guest to “accidentally miss” the toilet in the bathroom (termed the Boys Bathroom because it was the one the four of us shared), urinating instead into the corner where the wall and floor met. I should probably note that the bathroom was carpeted. Asparagus and black coffee became dietary staples, each fulfilling their desired results.
The package of catfish that we’d purchased the day before had been cut up into pieces. A few pieces ended up behind the refrigerator, one or two into the carton of orange juice we knew to be the Dark One’s and one under the cushion of a chair.
The rest went…elsewhere.
An incision, about the size of, say, a piece of catfish, was made into the pillow on which the Dark One’s frizzy, dried out, dead weed colored head dreamed the unimaginable dreams of the joyless. Then, lifting the mattress, more catfish, as well as the packaging, was laid to rest centered on the bed spring.
Goodnight, sweet catfish pieces. Rest thy weary, fishy self.
The final PS to our love letter requried a screwdriver. With this, we opened the large heating vent in the living room. To insure that a few catfish pieces would not be lonely, we added all we had. Placed gently at the front of the vent or thrown back as far as we could get by squeezing our bodies into the hole, every last piece of fish was accounted for. Waste not want not.
As we left, someone (not me) broke toothpicks off into the front door locks, then sealed them with Super Glue. No forwarding addresses, no bills under any of our names, we were gone for good.
With that, we all went our separate ways.
“Aren’t you worried about incriminating yourself?” my wife just asked as I sat writing this.
You mean, the story that I, like, completely made up and is, like, sooooo not based on any actual event whatsoever? No, I’m not worried. *evil grin*