The drama started when I first moved in at the beginning of January. I was told I could ask permission to have a guest over and that it would be okay if they knew about it. I asked her if I could have one friend over on a Saturday night and cook a light dinner since I love cooking. She told me that I could not because I was not in a relationship like the other tenant. Her logic was this: "I cannot keep him from having his girlfriend over because they are in a relationship. You want to have a social gathering and it makes me nervous that there would be people in this house that I've never met when I'm gone and I don't feel comfortable knowing strangers have been in here."
Angered and wanting to say, "So if my friend and I were fucking it would be okay, right?" but I did not, because I'm a bigger person. She did sense my infuriated mood though. Surviving two years in an Independent Fundamental Baptist Bible College will give you patience to accept things as they are, but the sinister thoughts that form in your brain will not leave the mind. I was pissed, but I accepted things and continued living there because it was the best thing for me at the time. (I ended up saving close to $900).
Then the cold showers started.
There were many times that I took showers in lower than lukewarm temperatures. I was terrified to say anything to her, but I finally got the nerve to approach the water heater in the garage and turn up the pilot light. The warm showers were refreshing and comforting, and then the cold ones started again. And sooner or later it was a game of turning up and down the pilot light. It occurred to me that she was doing everything in her power to run me out and she saw that nothing was working.
She had already started avoiding me and eventually September came with bad news: "Kevin, we need to talk. I have a good friend coming over from China to visit for one month. I asked my other family members if they could host her and they told me they did not have the room. So I told my friend that I would ask my tenant to move out to give her room. I need you to move out by October thirteenth." Surprised, I asked, "Well what about the other tenant?" She responded, "He's fine." I rushed up to my room depressed and worried and immediately started searching on CraigsList for a new abode. Believe me, it's no fun being thrown into Refugee Mode.
My anger was boiling and my worrying driving me insane. I did not want to ask a close friend of mine if I could stay with him for a while because I did not want to intrude. He told me I was more than welcome to if it came down to it. I love him and I will always love him for that. I will love him forever. Another friend of mine had asked me to move in with him a few months earlier because his current housemate told him he was going to move out of state to chase after his lesbian military bride who he had married so he could get a check every month. Even though she was munching on carpet across the country, my friend's housemate had a girlfriend that was a stripper at Larry Flint's Hustler Club in the North Beach district of San Francisco. That sordid soap opera fell through and his housemate never moved out.
After looking for nearly one month I found a place in San Leandro that seemed good. Almost perfect. The house looks very old, it has a large haggard white gable and reminds me of the Sanderson Sister's house in Hocus Pocus. However, its in a gorgeous safe sprawling neighborhood that I am falling in love with. The landlord loved me! She is Mexican and even hugged and kissed me on the cheek to welcome me as she put the keys into my hand. I had grandiose visions at the moment of Miss Madrigal from Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City. She even took me down the street and said, "Kevin, I like you and I want to give you special parking in the drive way. If any of the other tenants ask why you park there, just say that you pay extra, even though you do not. It will be our little secret." I guess I do have a special charm.
The first night in that house within the San Leandro avenues was marvelous. For the first time in half a year I slept like a baby on an air mattress that I recently purchased at Target. The bed in the other house was firm and hard as a wooden plank. Not even the cushioning I had for it could take the hardness out of it.
The next day I woke up and one of the other tenants was cooking. (I'm allowed to cook and have company over) He offered me some soup which consisted of pureed garbanzo beans, whole corn kernals, green beans, and freshly fried thick cuts of bacon. He then topped the soup with Tabasco, salt, pepper, and Cojita cheese which is a cheese made of skim milk and has the consistency of grated Parmesan. It was delicious. The house was clean and inviting inside. Octavio then told me his story. His little brother and him moved to America because his brother is on dialysis. He's the only family he has. Octavio is a waiter in San Ramone and is struggling. He's a sweet guy and walking up Dutton Avenue and crossing the intersection of Bancroft I thank God for what I have, and that I make enough money to pay my rent.
I currently live with 6 or 8 Mexicans (I have not met them all) and one black man. Needless to say, I'm the strawberry in the Neapolitan. My parents, God bless them asked if there were any white people in the house and when I told them "no" I could hear crickets chirping on the other end of the line. Poor things. I told them they you cannot think that way when you live in the Bay Area. I said, "Mom, I'm completely aware that I live with a bunch of house painters, but it's pretty. I'm gonna like it here!" I'm actually reminded of the boarding house in that awesome Nickelodeon cartoon Hey Arnold! I can go into my clean large room, kick back and relax as I can hear the faint sound of the BART zipping rapidly on it's elevated track.
That night...it was a Tuesday that will live in infamy...I walked into the kitchen to get a drink of water. I switched on the light and all of a sudden I shrieked in disgusting horror. ROACHES with wings were crawling all over the granite counter tops, by the sink, the gas range, and by the package of Cojita cheese that was left out by the other housemate. I screamed, "ROACHES! MY TRACY IS A CLEAN TEEN!!!" (paying homage to a quote from John Waters' film Hairspray). I rushed out of the kitchen in sobs and went to bed thirsty, disgusted, and ashamed. I wanted to vomit and almost did. The tears streamed down my face as I heard two brothers through the wall yell, "HE FARTED IN MY MOUTH! HE FARTED IN MY MOUTH!"
"Do you want some sugar in your water?"
I think I live in Joe's fucking Apartment...
I called the landlord the next morning and told her son about the disgusting dark discovery in the kitchen. He said he would take care of it immediately. He also said that they had a problem with roaches two months ago and that they had sprayed. Keeping my composure and temper I said that they needed to call Terminex and bomb the property and that I could not live like this. I also said that I realize the house is old, but I noticed that the other housemates do not clean up after themselves, they will leave cooked food out over night and that THAT is how you get bugs!
I came back that evening, switched on the lights and not as many roaches as before were scattering in the kitchen. Next to the dish rack dryer by the sink was a large bottle of bug spray with a pump. Jesus. H. Christ! I liked to have died. They have just left it there! SICK! SICK! SICK!
I finally told some very close friends about my situation. To my shock they did not think I was disgusting and they were not ashamed of me. They all know I'm clean and tidy. One even said, "This is not your fault Kevin. You did not know. I know you're not nasty. They should have told you. It's not your fault you live with dirty people. Hell, they are probably used to it and think nothing of it...since they are house painters!"
Now I've been trying to look at the bright side since I'm an optimist. I've been reading Lesile F. Miller's obsessive novel about cake called Let Me Eat Cake: A Celebration of Flour, Sugar, Butter, Eggs, Vanilla, Baking Power, and a Pinch of Salt. Towards the beginning of the novel she openly talks about living in a situation like I'm in, around the same age, and making these LOVELY cakes out of love and interest in her roach infested kitchen in Baltimore, Maryland. She would thoroughly clean her stuff up and was very tidy unlike her other housemates.
Then there are the Beat poets and writers like Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Allan Ginsberg,who lived in North Beach. Even the late comedienne Lenny Bruce. And I cannot leave out Charles Bukowski who lived in Los Angeles. They all write about their run ins with the roaches. And course there is Anne Rice who once lived in an old Victorian in the Haight that had a gas leak. And her husband used to collect food, sit it up around the house, and watch it rot for aesthetic purposes. I'm sure she had roaches. Paula Deen also has a hideous roach story as she was working her way up the restaurant empire Mildred Pierce style. Paula's bedroom was infested with them at one time and she said she could hear them crawling in the dark under her mattress.
I have not eaten anything in that kitchen since I discovered the roaches. I've been stopping by the grocery store and buying sandwiches. I told my friend Erik, "I love you too much to cook you something in that kitchen. You don't deserve that, and neither do I." But maybe, juts maybe I can turn this around...I don't know. I've been looking for a new place, no luck at the moment. However, I have some huge pros by living here:
1. I am one mile from the San Leandro BART station. I LOVE walking through the neighborhood and it's great for my health. Two miles a day plus what I walk in San Francisco...
2. I save money on gas. It's almost $5.00 a gallon at the moment and I save $1.00 by not parking at the station.
3. It's within walking distance to a grocery store.
4. I can save money and that is crucial.
I have depressed myself for days thinking of all this. I feel better writing it all out. The landlords have been wonderful to me. I just wish they would professionally bomb the house and get MEAN with the other housemates that leave their food out. I don't know how long I'll be here...I'll keep looking. One friend of mine asked, "Kevin, have you been in the back of a grocery store?" I said, "Yes." He responded, "They all have roaches. Every one of them. Accept the fact that every piece of produce you've touched is covered in bug shit....so how is the extra company?" I can't help but laugh and the laughter does make it feel better.
The other day my new neighbor (who happens to be Asian) started bitching at me. I told her to fuck off.
Anyways, I'm happy excluding the roaches and no internet...