Wednesday, January 25, 2012
"Goodbye Judith", oil on canvas, 24 x 18", $600
I lived with such cowardly, small-minded, male roommates.
They were SO relived when I moved into the house. Believe me! It was up to ME to kill the spiders!
I found the ad for a “roomie” at a kiosk in the University of Arizona’s Student Union building. I just arrived in Tucson and needed a place to stay. I was going back to college.
Two brothers, one nineteen and the other twenty-one were renting a three-bedroom house close to the University. They needed another roommate and the accommodations looked good to me. My bedroom was to be the one at the end of the hallway, with a backdoor and a teensy bathroom. I really didn’t need to go into the main house (and I rarely ever did until my roomies got the BeJesus scared out of them!).
I was a bit wary of their comment (when they found out I was thirty-three), “Oh good, it’ll be just like Mom is here”.
The house was roomy. The living room furniture was yellow Naugahyde sofas and a very heavy coffee table. No other furniture and nothing on the walls. Ugh. But it had a large picture window and a tiny front porch. The dining room was next to the kitchen with a door between the two.
The boys lived in the master bedroom. It was a large bedroom with a bathroom. At the end of the hall was my smallish bedroom with another door right next to mine, leading into another bedroom that was empty when I first moved in.
Within a month Cesar from Puerto Rico leased the room.
I went to school all day, every day except Sunday. Then I rushed home on my one-speed bicycle to shower. Then, in the 110 degree heat, I raced back to almost the same location as where I’d been, to go to work until midnight at a college bar/restaurant. I repeated the process, day after hot day.
Each night I walked in my back door, down the very dark hallway into the very dark kitchen and turned on the light. I back-tracked down the hallway where the light was located near the living room and turned on that light and then got comfortable in the kitchen. I usually had a glass of wine (the boys didn’t like wine so I could be sure they weren’t going to drink any. I kept my peanut butter in my lingerie drawer so they wouldn’t eat that but had my suspicions if that had been a good hiding place. I caught one of them one day, smelling my panties. I found another location for the peanut butter).
I cooked pinto beans almost daily. I was broke and ate most meals at the restaurant where I worked. But I had to hide things from my roommates. I didn’t trust them.
The boys were also broke, hungry and drank a LOT of beer. They were never home until just after I came in, saying they’d been at the library or something along those lines. Then we’d all laugh and sit around the lighted kitchen table, until I came off my work buzz and was ready to fall into bed. They never stayed up later than I did. They also left the hall light on and I’d wake up at night and go turn it off.
Cesar was rarely there and if he was, he was with a girl. He came in the kitchen door and went directly to his room. He had no bathroom. I guessed he either bothered the boys for use of their bathroom or peed off the front porch. I never asked.
One night I commented on how odd it was the brothers got home right after I did and at about the same time of the night, every night. They confessed they waited in their car until I got home and turned on the lights. Wha........?
“Don’t you hear the little dinner bell”? one of the brothers asked me.
“Dinner bell?” I howled with laughter wondering what the hell he was referring to.
“When we are here alone, even if we are sitting in the living room, we hear a tiny dinner bell. We hear it in our bedroom, too, and in the kitchen when you’re not here”.
Well, I started to think they were crazy. But they both looked so scared!
“If you’re going to be here on Sunday, we’ll show you the basement. You can see the jars for yourself!”
I had seen the basement the first day I moved in but only for a second. The door to it was next to the brother’s bedroom on the living room end. As I remembered, it had about four steps down with a railing and a water heater taking up ½ of the small space. There was a dingy window, but the steps were newly painted and it looked very clean. That was all I saw.
That Sunday I went to see the jars with the boys not entering the basement, hiding behind the door and pointing the way. I had no idea what each jar contained but there were about 30 Mason jars filled with various stuff mostly of a red/brown color, all nicely spaced on four shelves alongside the railing. What the heck? I touched one of the jars and got so freaked out I had to leave the basement. It was all I could do not to roar up the steps and barricade myself in my bedroom! C-R-E-E-P-Y!
I assured the boys someone had been making jelly and left the jars behind and not to worry about it. They were already terrified of the “dinner bell”.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the jars. I told Cesar about it when he got home one day a week later and showed him the jars. Being a believer in voodoo, he was mortified. We didn’t know who to show the jars to (police?) so we agreed to let it go and not worry about something that clearly wasn’t our business. He didn’t know about the “dinner bell” and I wasn’t going to tell him. I needed some bravado in the house. He was as close as I was going to get.
I started seeing less and less of the brothers. Cesar came home more and more. I stayed in my room mostly and did my homework on my bed with my door into the hallway open, so the swamp cooler would work properly.
It was annoying to have Cesar in such close proximity with his salsa music and singing and going inside and out (many times he would ask to use my door). I nicely asked him to quiet down; he was a good roomie and I tried to be patient.
One afternoon he asked to use my door and said he was leaving for something to eat and did I want him to bring back anything. Oh Yeah! I was giddy with anticipation of something other than peanut butter to eat, as I sat on my bed, drawing my right foot for an art project.
About twenty minutes later, I heard Cesar enter through the front door and walk down to his bedroom door and open it. I was so engrossed in my baby toe I’d lost that enthusiasm for food.
I heard him scream, “What the fuck?” And that got my attention.
I bounded off my bed to see what Cesar brought for me and he was standing in the center of his room, his mouth open with shock and awe. Then I noticed how trashed his room was. He was always so meticulous so it was surprising to see this side of him.
“Why did you do this?” he asked me. Me!
“What did I do?” I asked, astonished!
“You tore my room apart!” I looked all around the room. Coins were everywhere, chairs overturned, his stereo on the floor with a few albums busted. His sheets were torn off, clothes everywhere.
“I’ve been drawing this whole time! I never got off my bed”. I was totally shocked.
The brothers came in the house, heard all the commotion and came down the hall toward us. They pointed to Cesar’s bedroom door and we all looked in horror to see the word “Condemned” carved (carved!) in the front of the door.
I said, “I would have seen that! I would have heard something! I was cattycorner from that door, drawing my foot on my bed!”
Cesar turned to the brothers “You did this!” and grabbed one of them by the collar and they were off and tumbling down the hallway, I was screaming! The other brother jumped both of them and punches ensued and blood was on the living room wall and I was still screaming!
They all parted and we stood in the hallway, facing each other. One of the brothers had a broken nose and Cesar had a black eye. We were breathing heavily from all the exertion and violence of it all. Blood was everywhere....oh the clean up! I was worried immediately about our deposit on the house! What just happened?
And then the dinner bell rang..........