Journal entry: February 27, 1996 (age 26) – Au Pair
What’s worse than living with a psychopath? Immediately moving in with another psychopath. Even for a single guy in his 20s, that makes for a higher-than-usual percentage of bad roommates.
Three months ago, I rented a room in a house in Falls Church, Va. The housemate who was collecting rent from me, I soon learned, did not actually own the house. She moved out in a hurry when the real owner, her mother, came back. Momma had been on an extended vacation in South America, and had brought a new boyfriend back with her. This gnarled man, who I privately referred to as “Waco Gus,” was simultaneously long in the tooth and short on teeth. He introduced himself as “a bounty hunter.” Less than 12 hours after this dentally-challenged mercenary regaled me with stories about the men he had “made disappear,” I made myself disappear in a U-Haul.
Needing new digs in a hurry, I thought I had lucked out when I read a classified ad for a reasonably priced apartment in nearby Vienna. A young, professional couple with a toddler became my new housemates. It was a basement apartment with a private entrance and bathroom, but no kitchen. My new landlords offered to let me use their kitchen, and pointed out there was no lock on the door to and from the basement. Feeling weird about walking through someone else’s living space just to grab my next Mountain Dew, I didn’t take them up on their offer.
That was a few weeks ago. Since then, two additional events have altered the dynamics of my new “home.” First, my landlords hired a live-in au pair to care for their child. As the au pair is 19 and French, I viewed this as a positive development. Then the male half of the landlord couple (or “husbandlord”) lost his job. So now, the upstairs was occupied by the newly born, the newly emigrated, and the newly fired.
This morning, I heard two people yelling loudly upstairs. Actually, only one person — with an angry, male voice — was yelling. A much softer, female voice was stammering, through tears, in broken English. Worried, I turned off my TV and climbed halfway up the stairs. When I heard the crash of something thrown against a wall, I decided to belatedly accept the offer to enter the main house. I walked in with my hands in the air, mumbled what I hoped were some calming words, and escorted the young woman downstairs.
I thought about offering her my couch for a few days, but the same unlocked door that just helped the situation could just as easily escalate it again. Instead, I led her to my car and drove a block away so that she could speak freely. She did not want to contact the police, and because I didn’t know her immigration status, I didn’t push the issue. Luckily, she did have some friends in the area. I gave her a lift to the Metro, handed her the cash I had on me, and wished her luck. She managed a wan smile and a soft “Merci,” before turning and walking toward an uncertain future.
I drove back to my own murky future, which at least has one familiar guidepost. My trusty Yellow Pages has a bookmark on the page for “Truck Rental.”
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