The crisis of my living situation
It’s 3am and I should be sleeping. I watch a show that streams live on Twitch and it went late tonight, so I got to bed late, and then I was thinking about what I would blog about next… you know, some pleasant remembrances to drift off asleep to.
I got so riled up I figured I might as well start.
I’m riled up about something else — one of the things that might make me look nitpicky and dumb — but I need to tell you about my living situation before I get to those parts. Nearly every problem was exacerbated by the living situation which I was totally unprepared for.
Here’s the floor plan of the apartment, in case you missed it. I talk about it to more length in this post.
I’m not sure what I was expecting when I showed up in China, but I had some tolerable concept. Of course, living with people (and family) is never easy, but I figured that at the very least I could hole up in my room and get out of their hair whenever I needed to.
Oh boy. The bathroom being on the other side of the apartment screwed all that up. I don’t know if this is an introvert thing, but the last thing I want to do when waking up in the morning is have to deal with people before I can even hit up the bathroom. This is 100% a stupid quirk based on what has become my routine. Reflecting back on my life, the only thing close to this scenario was my college dorm, but even there the hallways are not a living environment and everyone ignored each other in the bathroom. I was unused to this setup. The best days were when I awoke to Jesse and Jane already gone from the apartment, off to teach classes. Unfortunately this happened only a few days a week.
They had the cushiest jobs time-wise. I know they worked weird hours, but the total amount of hours worked was fuck-all, and they were getting salary and benefits. I kept hearing about how they were making sooooooo much money and saving soooooooo much money, and so I tried to be patient when Jesse complained about aspects of his job to me, and probably I wouldn’t even remember these complaints had there been a “I know in a lot of ways I have it made with this job” clause before or after the complaints. I don’t know — I hesitate complaining further about his complaining because the fact is he didn’t have enough life experience to see that his problems weren’t actual problems. They would fix themselves overnight if he established firm boundaries with his management and stuck to them. At one point he verbalized how it was weird that he could stand up to me or Jane really easily, but when it came to other people, he just folded.
Back to the the living situation.
The first week I was there, I never had a day that there wasn’t someone in the apartment between me and the bathroom at all times. Amber, who was a soon-to-be English teacher, was there. She had gotten into a motorcycle wreck that sprained her ankle, so she was always there. The Chinese gentleman whose car had struck her actually brought his family to our apartment to apologize in what was the most wonderfully awkward exchange I have ever observed: I didn’t miss a second of that shit. I put out hot water, tea cups and spoons, then I just stood back and watched as they hugged her and invited her to dinner at their house later.
I had been assured Amber would be long gone by the time I arrived in China, but I guess the sprained ankle had complicated things. After that I was told she would be gone within a few days.
After speaking to Amber the first day, I decided I wasn’t fond of her. She was a writer. She had an idea for a novel that was some dystopian anti-abortion thing, and whenever I hear that stuff I’m like “Girl wut,” because do you want to write stories or do you want to protest abortion? My book has a theme but I’m sure as fuck not going to come out and tell you what it is because it’s gauche to distill one’s story to a theme like that. Eh, call it a writerly disagreement. I just don’t think Margaret Atwood talked about how she was writing a pro-abortion novel.
Also she had a screenplay she had written that was being optioned by someone who was Definitely Making It Into a Movie, one of those new Christian movie companies, and I had to sit through her telling me all of this with a straight face. I know, I know: I was young once too, although in addition to being young I was polite enough to ask the other person what they wrote about. Whatever. My dislike of Amber was a, “You bore me because you’re not interested in me” shallowness exaggerated by the fact that I saw her as a creative poseur.
… and also by the fact that she was still there after a week. She went all up and down the town on her sprained ankle, but she kept coming back to me.
Many nights she would just fall asleep on the couch and stay there. Maybe the reason I didn’t label the living room in my sketch is because Amber defied the label. When I woke up in the morning and passed her on the way to the bathroom, suddenly realizing I needed to be quiet so as not to wake her, I wanted to yell:
“Why aren’t you in your room? Why are you even here?!”
It always puzzled me why they were so certain she’d be gone the week before I got there, and then why they were so certain she’d be gone a week after that. I didn’t inquire too much, mostly because I was trying to tell myself that I shouldn’t be annoyed.
I should introduce you to Klonopin.
Klonopin and I got way too close in China, and we’ve since downgraded our relationship, though we still very much support and respect each other. We’re great friends. It’s about putting the children first and being a team.
In China, Klonopin helped me in my quest to convince myself that I was the one with the problems.
Just to recap here because a lot has happened
- I was staying in “My room” and didn’t like the trek to the bathroom.
- Amber wasn’t supposed to be there. I disliked her for reasons you will think are lame until you try to write 3 novels.
- The realities of my living environment were controlled by forces none of us discussed or understood.
You will recall the dog-pee-rug story. That happened between 7 and 10 days in. I had gotten over my jet lag by that point and was very much aware that I was motherfucking not leaving China for 3 more weeks.
OH GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE.
It wasn’t just the living situation. It was the food situation too. I will talk about that in another post. For now, know that I was miserable and asking my mother how much it would cost to move the flight forward, and, “But that will look so bad if I leave early.”
I Am A Bitch, aside #1: I don’t like people knowing they’re fuck-ups, although I’m unconflicted about feeling the misery of it and talking about it behind their backs.
I love that I just complained about how Jesse had trouble establishing firm boundaries. Scroll up, it’s there.
It’s difficult establishing firm boundaries when you don’t know your rights, though. And that’s what Jesse will learn as he navigates the work force more, and maybe in 10 years I’ll be wiser about living situations. I was so concerned about showing gratitude, though. I was putting them out for one miserable month. If it was miserable for me, I told myself, how much more was it miserable for them?
But when the dog did what the dog did…
I had no choice. Whatever that plane would cost, I would pay it. The visa cost $200 but I would eat it. A freaking stranger and her rabid dog showed up in my living space overnight. How the hell was I supposed to fall asleep that night? The night had betrayed me. The night had not paused all developments until I awoke, as any night worth its salt should.
But first, I had to figure out how the hell to complain about Emily’s presence without Emily being aware I was complaining, or at least shield myself from the expression on Emily’s face the moment she became aware.
So I stealthily waited a few minutes, breathing through my mouth just in case the air smelled, before getting up off the couch and going to Jesse and Jane’s door. I knocked. Jane answered, since Jesse was struck with an illness which would linger for two weeks — and this was the nitpicky and dumb thing keeping me awake until 4am now, and I’m not even going to talk about it.
Okay, I will talk about it, but I’ll keep it to one sentence: In the morning he’d be all ughhhhh, I’m so sick, look how much snot is coming out onto these tissues, look how many tissues I’ve used, ughhhhh, I’ve used all the tissues up, erghhhh, then in the afternoon he’d find his energy and drink alcohol and dehydrate himself and stay out until 2am and get 4 hours of sleep, night after night, and repeat the WOE IS ME in the morning and at one point Jane got out the essential oils (peppermint) and made him hold his head over boiling water, oh because THAT’S THE CURE. Peppermint all this time.
I didn’t dare disturb morning Jesse. So I pulled Jane into my room and shut the door.
The conversation went like this
“I can’t live here anymore.”
“I can’t live here anymore. I’m sorry. I can’t.”
I have no idea what I said here, who are we kidding. I explained the dog piss as calmly as I could. I said I knew Emily was in a difficult spot and I empathized with why she had left her boyfriend. I said they were very kind to welcome her in like they had. I said:
“I just can’t live in a place where one occupant is literally trying to eat the other occupant.”
“But we put Bunny in our room…”
If you laugh at her calling the rabbit Bunny I will hunt you, the name is ADORBS.
“It doesn’t matter that you put it in your room, the dog still wants to eat it. It’s scraping at the walls. Can’t you hear it?”
“I heard it barking. I didn’t know about the walls.”
“Yeah, the mirrors. And it’s jumping over all the couches, and she’s not doing a thing to stop it. She’s just sitting there. I mean, I get why, but that can’t happen. How long is she staying here?”
“I don’t know. She just got here, so I don’t know. I’m sorry, you had already gone to bed last night when she came.”
“Yeah, I understand and I wouldn’t have kicked her out then either. But is she going somewhere else today?”
“Well, we told her she could stay in that room since no one is using it.”
I thought, But it’s the computer room and I will be using it for work. Jesse will be using it for leisure. I deliberately didn’t pick that room because it would be used. Huh?
“That’s fine,” I said, “but I can’t stay here like this. If I had known this would happen, I wouldn’t have come. I don’t like being the one with the problem here, but that’s just how it is. I can’t stay here like this. The only way I can stay here is if the dog goes somewhere else by tonight. And I think Emily needs to leave within a few days. Do you want her to stay the whole month I’m here?”
“I don’t know…
“Can the dog stay with her boyfriend?”
“I don’t think it can. I think that’s why she brought it.”
“It can’t stay at her boyfriend’s.”
“No. She said she was afraid he would hurt it.”
“And she can’t just sleep in another room at her boyfriend’s. She can’t kick her boyfriend out?”
“Can I go stay with her boyfriend?”
I laughed to show this was a joke. SORT OF.
“Well,” I said, “I need to get a hotel. And I don’t know how to do that here.”
“I don’t know how either.”
“Can you ask Mandie to find a hotel for me?”
Mandie was their Chinese go-to person at the school. Not their manager, but slightly their senior.
“Yes. I can ask Mandie.”
“Okay. Just text her and let me know what she says. I’m really sorry, I just can’t live like this.”
She said she understood and left.
After that confrontation I stayed in my room
I did not go back to the “living room.”
Some conversations in China, I can remember very clearly. For whatever reason, the details of these conversations are a blur. Surprise-surprise, I improvised some of the above. But I don’t remember enough of the other conversations to improvise there. Probably because they were long and complicated and so many things were repeated. Also, many things were thickly implied and left unsaid to avoid hurt feelings. Whichever category the things fell into (repeated, implied) was almost certainly decided through a completely arbitrary process by my panicking brain.
After 20 minutes or so, Jane came back and told me that she had talked to Emily and Amber and that Emily had found a place to go and that she was going to leave immediately.
I was like, “Oh my God, thank you!” I felt like turning into a jelly-like creature at her feet.
Jesse was in his room the entire time and didn’t speak to me at all during this. I dealt with Jane only, and I should have done that more often. Probably because Jesse and I are family, communications often went through that channel.
Here’s a good one:
Later that day during his sudden burst of afternoon energy, Jesse told me he was really glad I had gotten Emily out because he didn’t want her to stay either.
Here’s another good one:
Amber went apartment-hunting that day too. She got out of there within 3 days. She told Jesse she thought I was extremely rude and un-Christlike.
I said that Christ had kicked people out of the temple.