Places I Have Lived

THEY’RE they were. The two of them. Nestor, and his mother, La Senora (they’re from Peru) standing on top of the decrepit apartment building steps, arms folded, a collective sneer of disgust creasing their faces. I trudge reluctantly up those decaying steps, trepidation filling my entire being, as I sweat profusely on this boiling July day.

“Oh shit - NOW what?”

They lead me to the ancient sink counter in the kitchen, on which stands an empty plastic gallon jug. MY jug.

“Why?! Why?!” asks Nestor, since La Senora doesn’t speak a word of English, a tone of utter exasperation clearly evident in his voice.

First, let me give you a bit of background information, so I won’t appear COMPLETELY insane. Nestor is a catering co-worker; upon my return from my fourth trip to Ecuador, totally penniless, I DESPERATELY needed a place to stay, and took his offer of a room - sight unseen. Uh oh. The building is located in the derelict-ridden section of Jersey City known as The Heights. It is a railroad flat. For those of you who don’t know what a railroad flat is - it’s basically a long hall with rooms to the side. Bad enough. I am in the middle room - between La Senora in the front room, and Nestor in the back. Or vice versa, depending on the way you look at it. In any case, I’m in the middle. They often argue with each other, yelling between the rooms like an old married couple.

My room is a crumbling disaster. NO windows, paint peeling from the walls, the bedposts tied together by rope - and VERY narrow. Depressing, to say the least. Now, La Senora has to walk THROUGH my room to get to the kitchen, where she spends 16 hours a day. In order for me to get from my room to the bathroom in the kitchen (especially at night), you have to pass through a veritable gauntlet full of murderous obstacles, including various mousetraps placed strategically around the floor. There are the glue traps and the snapping traps. In the winter, when I wear socks to bed, the glue traps stick to them, as I blindly move forward, while the snapping traps snap my toes. This causes me great agony as I attempt to muffle my screams of horror in order not to wake up the sleeping Nestor, whose room I am walking through. Or, to be more exact, clumping through, with the glue traps stuck to my socks. When I FINALLY do reach the bathroom, the ceiling collapses on to my head. Finally, I’ve had ENOUGH!

I pee into my gallon jug at night and empty it into the toilet in the morning. When La Senora isn’t looking, of course. I sleep much better. This one time, however, I leave for my parent’s house down the Jersey Shore for three days, somehow forgetting the erstwhile gallon jug in my decrepit closet. This has been a particularly humid July, and the mysterious smell is driving them mad - until they detect the source of the offending odor.

Agghhhh….here we go…