Sunday, January 25, 2015
Andi stood on the busy street corner, watching a woman with a baby carriage run across the street. A young couple in their twenties strolled past her, as a businessman in his fifties coasted by with his eyes glued to his smartphone. Andi’s eyes shone as she watched the hustle bustle around her. She loved New York City.
Last month, when she turned forty five, she decided to move out on her own. She lived at home until she married Jon at age twenty four. Attending a city college, she missed out on dorm life, which caused her to never gain independence. She was a freelance writer so income depended on jobs. After her divorce she moved back home to Long Island. After two months of living with her parents, she made up her mind to move out. With rents being sky high, she thought about sharing an apartment. She didn't trust Craigslist, so when a coworker told her of an acquaintance named Kate who lived in a two bedroom apartment and was looking for a roommate, she immediately contacted her. She thought Kate sounded pleasant when she spoke to her on the phone--plus the rent was affordable--so she decided to go for it.
As she entered the building on 96th Street between 2nd and 3rd , her breathing quickened. Her feet felt heavy as she walked up the two flights of stairs. She swallowed hard as she approached the door. A handsome man, around her age, rushed out of the apartment next door. “Don’t do it,” he shouted as he hustled down the hall.
“That was odd,” thought Andi, as she clenched her jaw and knocked on the door. She hunched her shoulders as Kate opened the door and immediately felt a strange sensation in her gut.
“I’m Kate, “ she said with shifty eyes.
“I’m Andi,” she replied, while rubbing the nape of her neck.
Andi barely walked through the door when Kate rambled, “ I’m forty five years old and divorced. I’m a model, so I’m never home during the day and sometimes go out at night. You have free reign of the apartment when I’m not here.”
Andi studied Kate’s wrinkle free frozen face and determined that she used Botox or had plastic surgery. Andi guessed her to be closer to sixty.
Andi observed the small two bedroom apartment. The walls were decorated with pictures by Georgia O'Keefe, one of her favorite artists, and this diminished the butterfly fight she felt in the pit of her stomach.
The rent was cheap compared to other places, so Andi decided to take it.
In the middle of her first night in her new apartment, she dragged herself out of her warm, cozy bed to go to the bathroom and was startled by Kate coming out of the bathroom.
“I guess we’re on the same bathroom schedule, “ joked Andi.
She noticed Kate had a strange expression on her face and then noticed the sunken mouth and the missing teeth. Kate immediately covered her mouth with her hand and mumbled something. Andi looked down and pretended not to notice. Then she spotted the box of Polident.
“Kate wears dentures? How old is this woman?” she thought as she sat on the cold toilet seat. She finished peeing and reached for a piece of toilet paper, but all she felt was empty cardboard. “Where the heck is the toilet paper?” she said out loud.
Last night before bed she put in a full roll. She found a used tissue in her pocket. “ This is gross, but better than nothing,” she thought to herself.
As she reached for a towel after washing her hands, she spotted a plastic cup with blue water. She peeked in and saw teeth floating around.
“Ew,” she thought as she looked the other way to avoid the gruesome grin of fake teeth. As she put the towel back , her hand bumped into the cup, knocking it to the floor, and the teeth fell out.
“Oh my God,” she whispered, as she quickly picked up the teeth, holding in vomit that was rising up her throat. She grabbed her towel and mopped up the blue mess on the floor, praying she wouldn’t puke. After the teeth were safely back in their home, happily soaking away, she slinked out of the bathroom, hoping Kate didn’t hear any of the chaos. Kate was milling around in the kitchen.
“Um, do you know what happened to the roll of toilet paper I put in last night?” asked Andi as she kept her head down to avoid Kate’s toothless mouth.
Kate glared at her, then marched into her room and slammed the door. “What the hell have I gotten myself into?” thought Andi.
The next morning, Andi hesitantly left her room and saw the bathroom door was open. Kate was washing her hands. Andi crept back into her room, then traipsed out in 5 minutes. Kate was still washing her hands. After twenty minutes, she googled obsessive compulsive disorder and decided her roommate fit the description.
The next day she bumped into her neighbor leaving his apartment.
“I’m Andi,” she said.
He smiled broadly and said, “ I’m Andy too. “
“ What did you mean the other day when you said ‘Don’t do it’?” she asked
As they meandered down the hall he said, “ She’s nuts. No one remains roommates with her for longer than 3 months. I can tell you stories another time. I’m late for work right now. Here’s my phone number if you ever need anything.”
Andi speculated why a complete stranger was giving her his phone number. What could she need? Was Kate an escaped mental patient? She wondered if this roommate thing was a bad idea.
After an uneventful week, Andi returned home late from work one night . As she entered the living room, a heavy stench of alcohol and sex invaded her nostrils. The first thing she noticed was Kate sprawled out on the couch. Kate’s eyes were closed, and Andi heard the familiar sound of snoring. Kate was surrounded by three bottles of wine and a strange tattooed man rummaged through her purse. When he saw her, he jumped, grabbed her arm, and said, “ You saw nothing.”
Andi ran into her bedroom, her heart pounding, and wished she was back home on Long Island in her cozy room with pink walls and her childhood stuffed animals.
She looked at the clock: 11PM. She hated having this strange man in her apartment. She grabbed her purse and went into the living room.
Kate , now awake , was cuddling with the tattooed man.
“Where are you going Andi?” she stammered.
“I lost something in the stairwell, I’m going to go get it,” she lied.
She went downstairs, not knowing what to do.
She thought of Andy and called him.
He answered on the third ring. “Hello?”
“Andy, it’s Andi, your neighbor. Remember you said I can call if I need anything? Well, I’m a bit freaked right now, there is a shady guy in my apartment with Kate- I don’t know what to do.”
“Come on up, ”’ he answered.
“What am I doing? I’m avoiding my own apartment because of a strange man, but I’m going into another apartment of a complete stranger,” she thought.
He was waiting for her as she ran up the stairs. She told him about the shady man in her apartment.
“She’s a wacko. I would move out. She threatened Tina, her last roommate, with a knife--accused her of stealing her boyfriend. She actually came on to me one night and another night threw up in the hallway. I’m almost tempted to move,” he said.
“What have I got myself in to? I thought it was too good to be true. Low rent, nice neighborhood. I don’t want to admit I made a mistake,” she said.
“ All part of life,” he replied.
She looked at his emerald eyes and realized how attracted she was to him.
The door slammed next door. They both peeked out and saw the sleazy guy rush down the hall into the stairwell.
“I guess its safe to go back in,” said Andi.
“If you need anything, call, any time. Really,” said Andy.
Andi entered her apartment. Kate was fast asleep on the couch.
Andi lay in bed, jumping every time she heard a noise, fearful that the man would come back.
In the morning, Andi was eating breakfast when Kate stormed into the kitchen. “Thief!” she yelled.
Andi almost choked on a cornflake. “What?” she asked.
“I had $100 in my wallet and now I have $10. Give it back!” Kate shouted, her eyes bulging out of her head.
“It wasn’t me--it was that guy you were with last night--he stole money from you, I saw him!” cried Andi.
“You’re lying!” she screamed.
A loud knock interrupted them. Andi ran, opened the door, and was relieved to see Andy.
“Is everything OK?” he asked.
“You! You probably put her up to this. You’re a crazy man,” accused Kate.
Andi realized she could not live here anymore. “I’m moving out,” she said.
“Good riddance!” screamed Kate.
“Where am I going to go?” said Andi as tears welled up in her eyes.
“Stay on my couch tonight. We’ll figure everything out in the morning,” said Andy.
Andi packed a bag, went to work, and looked at ads for cheap apartments while thinking of Andy. After a company dinner, she went to Andy’s apartment.
“Do you want to watch a movie”? asked Andy.
“Sure,” she responded.
He put his arm around her while watching a silly comedy. She felt safe until his hand slipped down to her breast. She twisted away.
“What’s the matter?” he asked.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m very appreciative of you letting me sleep over, but I’m not ready for anything to happen yet,” she said.
He scowled.” Come on, you only live once.”
She was starting to feel very uncomfortable. “I think I just want to go to sleep. I’m tired. Maybe tomorrow we can go out to dinner or something.”
“ Or we can nibble on each other tonight,” he said, as he jumped on top of her and pinned her down.
Her body tensed. He held her down tightly. She screamed.
He didn’t budge. “Jeez, no reason to scream, lighten up,” he said, as he tried to kiss her.
She remembered a self defense class she took last year and jammed her knee into his balls as hard as she could.
He jumped off screaming, “ Get out you bitch!” as he doubled over in pain.
Andi quickly grabbed her bag and phone and ran out the door, almost crashing into Kate who was standing outside.
“Is everything okay?” asked Kate.
“He attacked me, ” said Andi.
Kate put her hands on Andi’s shoulders and said, “ I know I’m crazy and have issues. I can’t keep a roommate for more than three months. But you’re welcome to stay the night or as long as you can handle me. Andy is dangerous. You don’t want to get involved with him.”
Andi looked at Kate’s eyes, which were flat and void of any emotion. She saw the teeth neatly set in her mouth and imagined them popping out to bite her.
Andi trembled. “ Thanks but no thanks.”
She ran down the stairs and outside. The cold air felt good as it smacked against her face.
Andi thought, “ I don’t know where I’m staying, but those two are crazy.”
She hailed a taxi and said, “Long Island please."