Then I realized I was driving behind a beater pickup truck, the back end loaded with a heap of garbage bags so high they had to be cinched in. The truck chugged its way into a left turn and I thought: "Oh. I'm not going to explode. He's going to explode. Occam's Razor" and I merged on to the highway. But right before we parted I did a double-take, and I'm pretty sure the driver was this old dude who stole $700 from me about eight years ago.
For reasons too inane to explain, I found myself in 2003-ish in desperate need of a new living situation. Luckily, all of my furniture and clothing had been moved from the old carriage house where I was living and into the house's back lawn making the transition much more efficient. I wanted something inexpensive and with character and in my haste ended up with an expensive shithole in a place that required a lot of explaining to pizza deliverers.
It was a rickety brick triplex behind an old church. My apartment was on the top level. The kitchen had an ameoba shaped plywood island. The bathroom had a bathtub with exposed pipes and a poorly configured shower head that made it impossible to keep the wall behind it dry. The ceiling bubbled and leaked. One of my closets was in a shared hallway and off that closet was a raised deck with a rod railing and metal floor that singed my bare feet. But it felt gigantic and there was plenty of room to skateboard, which I thought was a crucial for a successful afterbar.
The landlord was absent for long periods of time, then he would spend a few days lurking around the premises. These were trying times when I felt like I was being monitored. I liked to joke to friends that I thought he was dropping by to change the tape on the toilet cam, except that I wasn't really joking when I said it. He drove an old sedan that was packed with garbage bags and tools for property maintenance. The lawnmower jutted from his trunk. I don't know that he was living in his car, but I know he regularly slept in it parked on the road in front of the house. I dropped off my rent checks at his mom's house. She was a whisp of a thing. A tiny frail older woman with a body quake she had quit fighting.
I didn't actually hate him until I told him I was moving out and he refused to return my deposit. "What about the times I gave you Gatorade when you were mowing the lawn?" I asked. He said I'd ruined the bathroom wall by showering and that the place smelled like cat. He said the place was un-rentable after I left. When I deferred to his higher power, her voice wobbled and she pointed a sharp finger at my chest. She looked like she was writing cursive in the air as she echoed his report verbatim. "He lives in his car!" I said. "What does he know about rentable?"
None of this was true. The wall was certainly worse than it had been, but that was the fault of his creative plumbing. And if it smelled like cat, it's because I had a cat. Toonses wasn't an exceptionally rank cat. He didn't, like, sweat. I'd have given the guy $200 of the deposit if he stated a decent case. Instead he just kept the $700. All these years later I know that tenant laws are strong and that I probably could have gotten my money back if I tried. But (insert boring reasons here).
The place, by the way, was rentable. Chuck and I drove past one night a few years later and I told the new people living in the apartment to take photos and document everything so as not to get fucked by this dude and his vicious taloned mother. They didn't seem worried, though. People.
Anyway, this is all just to say that I saw him billowing plumes of gas fumes today and it was a good reminder that my hip bone isn't eroding.