Baltimorons, Crackheads, & The Weight
When my roommate moved out, Farrah quickly took his place. It was a change that came about rapidly but naturally. About a month after my roommate moved, Farrah came over and was studying the apartment while I opened the Chinese food for lunch. She said, “You’re lucky that you can afford to live in this place without a roommate.”
More than you know, I got a raise and promotion at the same time that Eric moved out. I was even given my own crew to manage. I’m not sure that I would call it luck. More like being locked into hell more tightly with higher pay.
She gazed into the other empty bedroom and said, “What are you going to do with this room?”
I responded, “I don’t know. I haven’t decided if I want to take another chance on a roommate or make it into an office or something.”
She appeared in the door of the small kitchen smiling, “You know, my apartment sucks.”
I answered, “So does this one.”
The apartment did suck. It was a two bedroom, but it was a basement apartment, so the windows were high on the walls and the place was like a dungeon. It also had one bathroom that was not convenient for the person in the spare bedroom. It was also expensive to heat.
“It’s like a mansion. I could rent the room from you,” said Farrah.
I laughed and said, “So, what are you going to do? Live in that room? How the hell would that work with us?”
Farrah smiled and grabbed the plates of Chinese food carrying it to the living room saying, “I would be just like a paying roommate. We could make an agreement and everything.”
I sat next to her on the couch placing drinks and utensils on the coffee table. I returned, “I don’t think so. I also think you might be trading one shithole for another.”
She ignored me and continued, “It would be great. I could walk to work from here if I wanted. We’re also close to the mall.”
I answered, “I can’t have you as a roommate.”
She continued taking turns pointing at me and then herself, “I’m really liking this idea. You and I, we make a good team.”
“I can’t treat you like a roommate,” I answered.
Finally hearing me, Farrah returned sadly, “Why not?”
I turned to her and said,
Look, I don’t want to play games or pretend we’re something that we’re not. If you move in, that’s cool, but I can’t be your roommate. I’ll never be your roommate.
Farrah threw her fork on the plate of Chinese food and tackled me on the sofa. Her blonde hair hung down and danced around my face as she beamed that perfect smile at me. She stared at me smiling with an affection I hadn’t known in a very long time. Her stare was filled with what I had begun to believe was a fanciful delusion or my lie.* If I had not known it before, I knew her pure feelings in that moment. This feeling was a relief because even if I had desired to say no to Farrah, I lacked the conviction to do so.
We began the process of moving Farrah into the apartment. I thought the situation was odd because I considered my apartment to be a dump. I visited her apartment in Essex on occasion, but I guess I had not spent enough time there to get a sense of the true atmosphere of the place. Soon, I was reminded why she wanted to leave there.
The building was old and filled with loud people. The place was a typical Baltimoron** scene with crackheads running around trying to steal everything in sight. This was Essex, the intersection of white trash and ghetto. Essex is a place filled with AA meetings, pregnant teens, and high school dropouts. Most of the people that I worked with were from Essex and they were all filled with strange notions like going to jail or being too drunk were acceptable reasons to be absent from work. Coming home to Essex each night must have weighed heavily on Farrah.
It should not have been a surprise to me when I was carrying some boxes out of Farrah’s apartment and ran into Mike, who worked on my crew at my job. He was a crackhead which also meant he was a thief and a liar. Mike lied so much that he couldn’t keep his own lies straight. One-time Mike told me he was a cop before the crack dragged him down into the gutter. He soon forgot he told this lie, and a week later he proceeded to tell me that he was a felon and had done a lot of time in jail. As much time as a 23-year-old could do in prison. Mike now stood outside the apartment building exclaiming in his crackhead chatter, “That’s what I’m talking about, the boss doin some work, yeah! Wassup with that?”
Farrah came out of the building at that moment, looked at Mike, rolled her eyes, and said to me, “We don’t have too much left.”
I said, cueing him to leave, “Hey Mike, I’ll see you on Monday.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Mike returned.
I walked back in the building and went down the hallway a few feet and stopped. It only took a few seconds because that is the nature of the coward. Mike began uttering, “Whassup Farrah? You movin in with the boss man…”
He droned on for a few seconds in his crackhead soliloquy trying to impress Farrah. I had to stop myself from walking back outside. Farrah’s voice cut the air slamming him,
Mike, I know you think you’re a real catch, but I hate to break the news — you’re a fucking crackhead loser. Weren’t you telling me awhile back you were going to be the boss soon? What’s up with that? Were you just lying again?
Farrah hurled the spear of truth into Mike and his best reply was “Bitch.”
I went back outside, but Mike had walked off to go into his building. Farrah was pushing some boxes into the back of the truck when I came over to help her. She smiled and said, “Thanks, they were heavier than I thought.”
I answered, “I got them. You alright?”
She put on her smile and said, “Yeah, let's finish and get out of here.”
She smiled that way that women do when they don’t want you to know they’re upset. I wanted to punch Mike in the face. Some women would’ve relished this drama, but I knew that was the last thing Farrah wanted. She just wanted out of this place and away from people like Mike. Creating more conflict would’ve only made the situation worse. I didn’t mention the incident because I knew she didn’t want to talk about it.
However, I would’ve been remiss in my boyfriend responsibilities had I just ignored the situation. Come Monday, I decided it was high time that the warehouse was cleaned properly. I took Mike on a sanitation ride that would ultimately end with him walking off the job. I had him start by greasing the trucks and cleaning tools. Then I had him loading trash for hours into a container to go to the dump. He broke when I directed him to clean the men’s toilets and make sure that he cleaned all the yellow stains off the rims and bowls. He ranted and cursed as he walked off the job.
When I got home that evening, Farrah was finishing unpacking the last of her belongings. I took a shower and got changed. When I came out of the bedroom, she was staring into the second bedroom with a perplexed look on her face. She asked, “What do you think we should do with this room? It’s a hellhole in there with no light, and it still has the aroma of ass.”
I responded, “Well, we talked about making it an office. What do you think?”
She pointed into the room as I crossed the living area towards her. She was saying something, but I found myself lost in deja vu. There was some distant idea I was remembering. I watched her pointing and smiling at the room and I heard the ancient verse, “…Go now, Persephone, to your dark-robed mother…”***
…and we can put a desk there for you and another for me. Maybe we can put some chairs around a table and make it combined office and game room for when people come over. We need more light, it’s so dark. It’s like a crypt. Nobody will want to be in there unless we fix it up. What do you think?
She stood smiling, waiting for my answer. I shook my head feeling sick and lightheaded. Farrah grabbed my arms and asked, “You okay?”
I laughed with the sensation fading, “I haven’t eaten in some time. I think I just need food.”
“Sit down. I’ll get you something.” Farrah answered.
She warmed-up some leftovers and we sat on the sofa eating. As we ate, she asked, “Do you feel better?”
“Yeah, thanks,” I answered.
We sat on the sofa with The Band playing The Weight in the background. I watched Farrah thumbing through catalogs. I grabbed her hand and pulled her on top of me. She laughed, tossing a catalog to the floor, “Hey!”
She blanketed me. We kissed and I said, “I’m glad you’re here.”
She smiled knowingly, “Of course you are.”
*My Lie is in reference to my book Memories of Emily.
**The inner-city folk of Baltimore that have somehow managed to combine a southern drawl with ghetto and white trash ignorance.
*** The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White. Homeric Hymns. Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1914.
Vincent V. Triola 2019