Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Housemates I Have Known

For four years, as a graduate assistant, I lived on the bottom floor of a house in a perfect location.  It was one building away from the corner, which was catty-corner from the English building, which was the main place I had to go.  Here are the upper-floor neighbors I had during that time:

First two years: a graduate student in the visual arts, Sarah.  I barely knew she was there, which was perfect for both of us.  I think we spoke maybe once or twice in the whole time we shared the place.  NO COMPLAINTS.  When she left, she left a few canvases in the basement with the washers and dryers.  I have no strong memory of them.

Next semester: she was a new MA student in English, I believe.  Her name was Jen.  I only saw her occasionally; she wasn't what you'd call friendly.  She was in a few classes with at least one grad student I DID know, who said that she was strange and anti-social in class.  This comports with my memories of her having loud phone conversations from above, sobbing and fulminating about what BITCHES her group partners were for scheduling something or other for a Friday, and how she just COULDN'T DO IT, she HAD to get home to Pittsburgh (where I believe she went every weekend).  Can't judge; there were clearly some serious emotional problems here.  Still a strange experience.  I think she dropped out after one semester; she was certainly gone.

Next semester: this couple, seniors, I don't quite remember in what.  He was named Erik (or possibly Eric or even, for all I know, Erich); I forget her name.  They were very friendly, but the dude was a big-time hunter, which did little to endear him to me.  I felt weird knowing there were firearms in the space above me.  In theory, the two of them were to be together for the long haul, but alas, the furious shouting matches they would sometimes engage in--she was having jealousy issues, how justified I couldn't say--made it seem like a dicey prospect.  When I saw one of them after one of these, we would smile and nod and they'd pretend nothing was wrong and I'd pretend I hadn't heard them and we'd both pretend we didn't know the other was pretending.

Next semester: OH FUCK ME.  This is the…one.  See, the landlord's (Fred's) policy--damn good policy, too--was to only rent to graduate students.  However, the sad fact is, he was getting up there, and…he died.  After that, his son and daughter-in-law--Hal'n'Lisa--were in charge.  I talked to both of them on occasion; they seemed like perfectly nice people.  BUUUUT…they started renting to undergrads.  I mean, clearly they had the previous semester, and they kept this up.  So there was a young woman living above me.  Now, this was the semester where I had the worst class I ever taught.  The students hated me and I hated them.  I'm a little ashamed to admit it, but there you go.  Awful situation.  But there was this one fratboy-douchebag type who really went above and beyond.  The one I had to tell in no uncertain terms he wasn't to call people "faggots" in the classroom.  The little creep seemed baffled as to why I would even think this was a problem.  This is relevant because this kid--who liked to act "friendly," in his smarmy, insincere way--mentioned at one point, oh, hey, my ex-girlfriend lives upstairs from you!  CUE OMINOUS MUSIC.

One night, I am awakened at perhaps three in the morning by a loud pounding on my neighbor's door.  You guessed it: and he is very drunk and very belligerent.  I do not know exactly what the argument is about, but, while I don't think he's actually hitting her, he is knocking shit about and being verbally abusive (including, at one point, chanting "cunt cunt cunt").  She threatens to call the police, but he says oh no, if you do that, they'll see that you've been drinking, and you'll get in trouble too, which bullshit she unfortunately buys.  I am FREAKING THE FUCK OUT here, wondering whether *I* should be calling the cops or what.  Ultimately--on the theory that he might hurt her and I just want him out of there as quickly as possible--I bellow up the stairs: GET THE FUCK OUT OR I'M CALLING THE COPS.  Do it, she encourages me, but fortunately, this is sufficient to scare him off.  I ask her if she's okay, which she assures me she is, though she's probably more embarrassed to have had a stranger hear the incident than anything.  Took me a long time to get back to sleep.  I read a Carl Barks story--"Forbidden Valley," and what an odd thing to remember--to help calm me down.

So now I have this kid that I KNOW is a violent sociopath in my class (once again, a mutual pretense of ignorance is going on) and let me tell you, the department was SINGULARLY UNHELPFUL in this regard--though in fairness, it's such a freakish situation that it's hard to blame them.  There were, at any rate, no more blow-ups, she was gone after that semester, and he scraped by with a C-, even though I'm virtually certain that he was getting other people to write his papers for him (honestly, I probably should have failed him outright--it wouldn't have been hard to find justification--but I was a little scared of him).  I hope he dropped out and ended up in a soul-crushing, dead-end job and is currently in the process of drinking himself to death, and I know that's not very nice or, I guess, spiritually enlightened of me, but GODDAMN.

Last semester: Another young woman, Stephanie, and what a relief THIS was.  I didn't see her too often, but she was friendly as could be, and was always excessively grateful when I did normal neighbor things like shoveling the driveway or helping one of her friends push his car out when it was snowed in.  The only minus here is that--very much contrary to my preferences--I could, on occasion, hear her having loud sex up there.  Still, given the difference between this semester and the last, and given that she certainly seemed to be enjoying herself, all I can say is, GOD BLESS.  We ended up as facebook friends (and you know what a commitment THAT is!).

I seriously have no idea why I wrote all that.


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