A Rat in the House


I asked Abe to come with me back to my apartment after the flooding. I didn’t want to look at it alone.

Dora said the Landlord sent people in to drain and clean it, and now it was livable again.

When we arrived, the smell of mildew was suffocating and rat feces was on the bed.

Livable by whose standards?

They drained most of the water, but pools of mud remained under furniture they were too lazy to remove. Even the Vittle Vault (the dog food container that weighed about 10-20 lbs at the time) was left to hide a puddle of dirty water.

I even felt guilty just leaving the dogs in the apartment with the stifling odor of mold and dirty water. We kept as far away from there as we could.

I only had two weeks left in the apartment, so I spent as little time there as possible. The dogs spent a lot of time with Frank, and I spent a lot of time with Abe and Frank, drifting around, avoiding Sylmar.

***

Abe and I were spending a lot of time together. I was calling it a long goodbye.

We drove to the beach and, in a marijuana haze, would discuss obscure thoughts that struck us seemingly out of the blue. We were talking about high school, college, jobs I once had and lovers from our past.

I said, “When I worked for that website, I was going through my porn period.”

Abe, “Porn period? You liked watching porn?”

Me, “No. I was fascinated by it. I couldn’t figure out why men liked it so much so I watched a lot of it in a small period of time. Then I discussed it with my co-workers. (It was a entertainment website that was financially floated by its sister site, featuring only adult content.)

Men would love certain porn flicks, and I would watch them and see how uncomfortable the girls looked in their faces. The men never noticed the expression in their faces.”

Silence.

Me, “There was a porn franchise called ‘Screw My Wife, Please’ and that one was especially disturbing because you would see these couples enter into a scene, thinking they signed up for the fantasy. The husband wanted to watch his wife with another man. And once it got started, you would see the women starting to look conflicted and even the husbands, too. But they didn’t want to turn back once things got started because they agreed to be there . . . I don’t know, whatever that thing is people do where they are pressured to follow through once cameras are on them.

The one I saw, there was a young wife who had only ever been with her husband sexually. She was a virgin when they married. So the filmmaker set her up with two black guys to “make up for time.” She looked terrified.”

Abe, “That’s terrible.”

Me, “I could just see the marriage wasn’t going to recover from it. It was all in their eyes. She felt betrayed by him, and he felt helpless watching it happen. They still went through the motions. And there was another one where the wife is being nailed by another guy, and she lays her head in her husband’s lap while this other dude is pounding into her. And the husband starts stroking her hair as they look into each other’s eyes. Its . . . traumatic.”

Abe, “Sounds like it.”

Me, “Once the fantasy comes true, it loses the appeal. Maybe that’s the difference between men and women. Women have more sexual experience, so the fantasy doesn’t hold weight anymore.”

Abe, “So, you’re saying that because women have had more sex, and lived the fantasy, they better understand the difference between fantasy and reality. But men don’t have nearly as many sexual partners, or sexual experiences, and keep looking for the fantasy.”

Me, “I think that’s exactly what I am saying. Hm.”

He parked his car, extended the dash sun shade across the windshield, pulled out his pipe and loaded it. We took turns in silence. The heat in the cab got heavy just before we were done with the bowl. When we stumbled out in a fog of THC, the cool wind off the ocean fell over us.

As we walked from the car, he chuckled at something I said then mumbled, “I don’t know why I am laughing like that now. It sounds so stupid.”

I said, “I tickled your perineum in the kitchen this morning, I don’t think you have to worry about your laugh.”

We got to the beach. It became a ritual for us to head over to an empty portion of Huntington Beach. He asked me to walk with him.

He said, “When you are in France, I don’t want you to resonate to other people there. There will be men who will try to get what they want from you.”

Me, “I won’t do anything I don’t want to do.”

Abe, “You are going to be good, right?”

Me, “In what aspect?”

Abe, “You won’t let a Frenchman come and take you away.”

Me, “You told me to go away, so away I go. You can’t expect me to behave like a wife when you don’t behave like a husband. Commitment isn’t something that happens when it’s convenient for the other person. It happens when it’s inconvenient. It wasn’t convenient for you when I needed to move out, and now its not convenient for me.”

Abe, “Well, that’s just great.”

Me, “You made the decision, Abe. It has to go both ways. I am not going to commit to you just before a trip to France after you broke up with me just before your cousin’s wedding. That’s not how life works. I am going to France as a single woman.”

Abe hung his head over his dead cigarette butt.

The fantasy is that I would feel vindicated, electric, empowered . . . but I just felt like shit. He was giving me what I wanted but for the wrong reasons. And it wasn’t real.

***

On the way back to the car, I told him about how the more I wanted the France gig, the further it got from me. Only when I surrendered the idea, was the position offered to me.

Abe, “Maybe when you think too hard, it doesn’t manifest itself.”

At the same time, we both said in synch, “Huh. That’s interesting. Yeah.”

Abe, “I have to get my brother a birthday gift. I remember that one year I got him 6 exotic beers. He really liked that.”

Me, “That’s a great story, because I was the one that got that for him and you were the one bitching that you had to pay for your girlfriend’s christmas gifts to his family.”

Abe, “Oh yeah.”

Me, “That’s ok, I don’t exist at all. Nothing I do gets any credit.”

Abe, “Sorry.”

Me, “Your birthday gift to me this year was unforgettable, though.”

Abe, “Remind me?”

Me, “Nothing.”

Abe shook his head, “Yeah but I got you a Christmas gift and chocolates on Valentine’s Day.”

Me, “Valentine’s Day was good but the Christmas gifts were a coffee mug your Mom gave you, I know because you told me, and a mens’ scarf. Its a nice scarf, but I know a regift when I get one. Especially when its meant for a man.”

Abe smiled.

Me, “Its ok. I don’t care about the gifts. I just want time with you.”

We smoked in silence.

The more time we spent, the more precious it felt. We were running out of time.

When I get back, who knows who I will be?

***

Back at Doggie Daycare, Dora told me that we were refunded half the rent to compensate for damage. She texted me “$250, baby!”

I said I was shocked that the landlord actually came through with that when he hadn’t come through with anything really. The place was falling apart; a leaking septic tank, rats, broken washing machine. It really was a dump.

Dora offered to write me a check at work, I said that was ok, I would wait til we were home.

Since I wasn’t spending a lot of time at home, I texted her:

Me: “Hey Dora, can you leave the check out on the table for me? I need to pay for my train ticket to Paris.”

Dora: “No problem, I need money for a new mattress. The one downstairs is no good. At least just pay half of what its going to cost me please, $60?”

*I should state here, I have been borrowing Dora’s bed since I moved in. It was a brand new bed from IKEA with new mattresses. Leaving the dogs in one room, the mattress got scuffed up a little from play. Maggie wet the bed once the entire time we lived there. Other than that- the mattresses just needed to be cleaned. I, of course, offered to compensate her what was fair a week before this conversation.

I didn’t respond to her text. Then:

Dora: “The utilities are also due but I am not paying the electric, just the internet so just $20.

So $250 60-20=170”

Me: “Please leave me the full amount. My apt was flooded and I would like what is owed to me please. Do not dip in and manage my funds.

I have paid $50 extra a month for the entire time I have been there. Consider that payment for the mattress. I will contact John for a separate check if you do not give me what is owed for this months rent.”

Dora: “You can call John . . . But I already have the money and wrote a separate check.”

“Come on, my bed I let you borrow got pissed and shit on and I’m not even asking the full amount.”

“My glass table I had out on the patio area got destroyed too and you never paid me back for it . . . I’m not even asking for that back . . . all I want is my mattress to be replaced . . . I was very nice and let you borrow it.”

(Esther tipped over her wicker patio table and the glass top broke, since it wasn’t glued down or otherwise attached to the table, it just slipped off and shattered. She left the furniture out in the rain for the rats to eat through- so I never followed up for offering more money to replace the glass. I mean . . . it would be foolish of her to just expect me to buy a completely new patio set because the glass top fell off and broke  . . . right?)

Dora: “You never paid extra . . . 500 was agreed upon and you paid it every month. If there was a problem and you didn’t want to pay it you could’ve left.”

(That’s right, Dora, I should have looked at your crying, crazy ass after Danny hung himself and said, ‘Sorry, $50 more is just more than I can handle. I am moving out.’)

Dora: “Consider the 250 a deposit which you never paid. And I am giving you $170 back for damages to my mattress and internet bill.”

I wasn’t responding to any of this. I was told I didn’t have to pay a deposit. I was furious.

I would have given her money for the mattresses. I always gave her money. I always replaced things she accused me of losing, even after she found them. The fact that she took my money without giving me the legal discretion to give her back an amount I would agree to really rubbed me the wrong way.

Then, I called the Landlord.

Landlord, “I gave her $550 back to give to you. She told me you couldn’t live there anymore, so I gave her your portion of the rent back.”

*I only paid $500, but nevermind.

Me, “Well, can I at least get compensated for the motel stay. Its $70. She said all of that would be covered under renter’s insurance with my space heater and other damages . . . ?“

Landlord, “No, sorry. That $550 was supposed to cover your motel and all your damages.”

Me, “Well, now she is keeping most of it and not giving it back. Can’t you take it out of her deposit?”

Landlord, “I can’t . . . I don’t know what kind of damages she will be leaving behind.”

I snapped, “Well, next time maybe you shouldn’t trust people with large amounts of money and issue separate checks.”

Landlord, “Look, I am sorry you were scammed. But if you don’t want to trust people with large amounts of money, don’t sublease.”

I almost started to cry. Then I said, “Well, thank you for talking to me.”

He said, “You are welcome.”

My mother was pushing for me to go talk to her mother. I didn’t like the idea, but was so annoyed by feeling robbed, and I hated the state of my apartment so much, that one early morning I went to talk to her.

She was kind, she kept saying, “I don’t know what’s going on. How much are we talking about?”

I relayed numbers to her and she said, “Dora will be here any minute. Why don’t you come back later, and I will cook you breakfast and we can talk about it?”

Dora pulled up and saw me. I thanked her Mom and went back to my car.

Then more texts from Dora:

Dora: “Don’t bring my mom into this . . .”

“Act like an adult. Man up to your responsibilities and what you did.”

Me: “Stop texting me.”

Dora: “Stop involving my mom. Go to talk to your therapist.”

Me: “I think she should know her is daughter is unethical and not a victim.”

Dora: “Go talk to your therapist.”

Me: “Ha. Good one. Keep saying it. Nothing but hot air in you.”

“Collect yourself and talk to me when you aren’t rude or aggressive. I don’t like being provoked.”

Dora: “Your acting like a child and your the one being aggressive ..  . you went to tattle tale to my mom . ..”

Me: “It was time. I am handling things as best I can. I don’t like feeling used, manipulated or robbed. I refuse to be victimized. I stand up for what I think is right. That is being adult. Whining when you don’t get your way is not my style, it’s yours.”

Dora: “Your dogs pissed and shit on my mattress your dogs broke my glass table outside and you mad bc I have the money you owe me. and not even all the money a new mattress cost me 180”

“I fought for you to get money back from John. You swear I’m doing something to hurt you or make you mad.”

Me: “I would have given you money if you asked. But you just took it. Its the equivalent to going into my wallet and taking without asking. And you misrepresented the funds. I am not being reimbursed for damages and motel. You are. And you will take my money and buy another tattoo while my expenses expand.”

Dora: “Now your (she misspells you’re) stressing out my mom . . . don’t involve my family who by the way will always have my side. Its between YOU and I.”

“I am not buying another tattoo”

Me: “I have been fair and honest from the beginning. You haven’t. I think she should know my side since you misrepresent things and I respect her.”

Dora: “I am moving on with my life getting my own place. Getting a new mattress. Ill give you a receipt if u want one.”

Me: “Your tattoo was finished while I busted my ass to make up Danny’s portion of rent.”

*Dora had a large, unfinished tattoo on her bicep the entire time I knew her. Only until recently, did she have money to finish it.

Dora: “I havent even told her what’s been going on. she’s got a ton of stressful things of her own going on.”

“You got pedicures and manicures and massages.”

Me: “Whatever Dora. You took my money without asking. You move on with your life on my dime. You just take.”

Dora: “I had a friend do my tattoo.”

“And you just destroy my things and not worry about how I am going to afford to replace then.”

Me: “I bought myself 1 massage in a year for my birthday and the pedicures are $11 and tax deductible. You can’t make me feel guilty anymore, sweetheart. Nice try.” (not to mention, she wasn’t giving me money . . . I was giving her money.)

“I was going to replace the patio furniture you left out in the rain to be destroyed and offered to cover the mattress. You didn’t ask, you just take. No need for that. Its unethical and illegal.”

Dora: “The tattoo was a gift.”

“I did ask you for the money for my stuff. And you said no so I had no choice.”

Me: (now, she was completely fabricating conversations) “No, I didn’t say no. You are confused.”

“This is over. You win again. Happy? Thats all you care about right?”

Dora: “Yeah thats all I care about.”

Me: “Right. Conversation over.”

Dora: “Maybe there was a miscommunication somewhere. But you should of came up to me. Not went and ran to my mom . . you don’t even try to talk to me.”

Me: “I did. Your texts were out of line. I asked you not to dip into my funds. You did anyway.”

Dora: “You totally attacked me saying that it should go toward extra rent. I’ve been getting from you.”

Me: “You are very good at bringing out the worst in people.”

“If you aren’t struggling with money, why was I paying extra?”

Dora: “Etc . . .”

Me: “Look up etc. before using it. That makes no sense.”

“I am done. I won’t allow you to ruin anymore days for me. I am taking that super power away from you. Take care.”

Dora: “We are both struggling with money. You weren’t paying extra, we agreed you would pay that amount.”

“There you go again . . . The conversation is obviously pointless if all you are going to do is try to belittle me.”

I stopped responding.

***

When I went back to Dora’s Mom’s for breakfast, Gabby whizzed passed my car and parked in front of her house. She was skipping class to make sure I didn’t talk to her Mom about what was going on.

So I skipped it.

I thought about what I would say to her mom. I wouldn’t feel right about collecting money from her, even though my Mom was rallying hard for that. My Mother wouldn’t give someone money I owed. Why should Dora’s?

Then I thought about revealing Dora for the thief she is. Moms don’t need to know how rotten their kids are, do they? Everyone needs a Mommy- even little manipulative shits who rob their roommates.

After a few hours, I texted:

Me: “My mom advised I talk to your mom to resolve things. I think it was wrong. We all deserve our mommies. I am sorry I violated that.”

Dora: “The whole thing is stressing her out. Id appreciate it you just left her out of it. If you want to discuss it with me I am totally down for that. I don’t like fighting.”

Me: “I apologized for consulting with your mom. Thats the end of it.

I am not apologizing to make amends. I am apologizing because it was wrong to go between you and your mother. When I am wrong, I say it. I still feel robbed and used. That hasn’t changed.”

Dora: “Ok, well better if you no longer consult with her.”

Me: “You are so small minded and have no integrity. Get lost.”

Dora: “You could never come between me and my mother.”

Me: “Come between and go between have two different meanings. Google it.”

Dora: “Dude. My mom could care less about what you say.”

Me: “Please, after half a day of you claiming I stress her out- it seems she cares quite a bit.”

***

That night, Abe said she was crying outside.

I said, “Please, she doesn’t have a soul.”

Abe said, “Maybe you should give her a little break.”

I said, “I have seen the girl crumble the moment things don’t go her way. Its a manipulation device. Don’t get caught up in it, she is that good.”

I was going to leave her the bed and walk away with the $170, despite the mud and mildew, and space heater that shorted out and motel bill. Despite all of that, I was just going to walk away.

Then she had the nerve to send this text:

Dora: “Thursday is my last day at the house. Im going to need my bed back. You can keep the mattress so you have something to sleep on. I need the frame and box spring by Thurs or sooner.”

Um . . . I paid for the mattresses so yes, they are mine to keep. The attitude. That bossy, spoiled brat, attitude.

She stole $380 of my money.

FUCK

HER

Later that night, I wrote my parents this email:

I took the bitch’s bed

Dear Mom,

I took your advice, broke down her bed, strapped it to the roof of my car and drove it down to Abe’s garage.

She pushed me too far. She sent me a text informing me of when she needed her bed back and letting me know I could keep one  mattress. Um . . . I paid for them so I don’t need her permission.

It really was just TOO much. So I moved it. Now I have a brand new, Queen size IKEA bed. HA!

Don’t mess with a girl pumping immigrant Italian blood through her veins. Working a full day and moving a bed by myself is no sweat off my Sicilian back.

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