Chapter 7- 8 Balls and the House on Dana  

8 Balls and the House on Dana Part 1  

Kim pushes her way through the bar patrons, who barely notice her. I try to follow at the pace she has set, but I am too slow. I get stuck behind a man with a giant cowboy hat and a pair of chaps. His beer lightly splashes out of his glass when I bump into him. Kim reaches around this cowboy, grabs my wrist in her hand, and pulls me over to her. Walking right up to the bar, she squeezes between two guys who are sitting on bar stools and having a conversation. Kim grabs one of the bar stools and slides it and its patron off to the side. The patron doesn’t even seem to care. He just starts a conversation with the guy who is now on his left. 

Kim signals the bartender, who walks over, wiping his hand on a towel, with a big smile on his face. Kim is out of breath as she introduces me to the bartender. “Jackie, this is Geoff,” she says, presenting me with a flourish. Then presenting again, with a frozen smile on her face, “Geoff, this is Jackie!” Jackie extends his hand to me. “Well, hello Geoff. Kim has told me so much about you.” A twinkle crosses his eye as he shakes my hand. Jackie is the spitting image of a twenty-six year old Mick Jagger. “Can I get you a drink?” Jackie asks me with a smile. I order a vodka soda as I look over at Kim who now is holding the chain around her neck between two pinched fingers. She nervously slides the chain back and forth, then touches it to her lips. Jackie grabs a glass, dumps ice into it, and reaches for a bottle of vodka. “Lime?” he asks. I look at him and nod my head. Then I look back at Kim who now has her chain in her mouth. Her eyes dart between me and Jackie. I can tell that she hopes we will like each other and get along.

As Jackie places the drink in front of me, another bartender comes from further down the bar and throws his arms around Jackie, knocking him off balance. Jackie is briefly confused but smiles when he realizes what has happened. “Hi, I’m Billy and I’m Jackie’s boyfriend,” this bartender says, not extending his hand to me. Billy has long brown hair that is feathered back away from his face. He looks a good five years younger than Jackie and a whole lot more animated. Both of them are wearing white sleeveless t-shirts and tight blue jeans. Both sport long-handled combs in their back pockets.

“Hi, I’m Geoff,” I say, extending my hand. Billy doesn’t reach for my hand but seems to squeeze Jackie just a little harder. I look at Kim, who meets my eyes and rolls hers towards the ceiling. It is so fast that only I catch it. It’s clear that Billy is marking his territory. 

Jackie gently slides out of Billy’s grip and turns towards the bar. “Michael!” he screams, “Come meet Kim’s new friend Geoff!” Michael is sitting slightly diagonal from me. He stands on the bar rail and stretches out his arm. I can smell the booze roll off Michael in a wave. He’s afraid to leave his stool in fear that he might lose it. “Hi, Geoff!” he screams. Our fingers barely touch. I turn to Kim again to get her take on Michael. It’s clear that she has a soft spot in her heart for him. “Let’s Stay Together” by Tina Turner blasts out from the speakers and people run to the dance floor.

8 Balls and the House on Dana Part 2

The music at The 8 Ball Bar and Lounge is a little more cutting edge than the music at most other Albany bars. The Playhouse, just five blocks away on Central Avenue, tends to play old disco, catering to a much older crowd. In the back bar there you dance to the disco version of “Memory” and lots of Donna Summer.

Grace Jones, The Thompson Twins, and Frankie Goes to Hollywood are in heavy rotation at the 8 Ball, and anything goes. Feel like lying on the floor while the music plays, just so you can look at the lights? Go right ahead. Feel like dancing by yourself or partnering with the wall? Be my guest.

I do notice that even though the crowd sways to a younger vibe, the club is a little segregated. Near the DJ Booth are a series of benches referred to as “the bleachers”. This is where ninety percent of the African American clientele likes to hang out. There seems to be a plethora of African American drag queens who migrate to this club. Maybe they are drawn here by the goddess at the door, Miss Kenny? But this is where I meet some of my first mentors. Drag queens tend to be quick on their feet when it comes to verbal comebacks, and cutting someone down to size is a skill. They take no shit and they don’t put up with it either. What is so fascinating to me is how they can cut someone down and you laugh at what they are saying. It is a learned defense mechanism and I pay close attention. The leader of this pack of drag queens is a skinny white boy who skips putting on his deodorant when he heads out to the club. His nickname, according to Kim, is “Stinky.” (It’s funny that someday I would actually meet a hustler with the same nickname.) Stinky’s real name is John, but the drag queens refer to him as Chaka. I’m assuming that’s derived from the singer Chaka Kahn, but I never ask.

I approach Chaka to ask for a light, but I’m really just there to hang out with him and get to know the various queens. Chaka is about 5′ 10″, bald headed, and refers to himself as the “mother of these children”. Kim warns me before I go over to this group that they will rob me blind. “Always have one eye on your pocket,” she whispers into my ear. Kim has no love for them and tells me that they steal bar tips all the time. As I approach Chaka, Kim wanders away and returns to her job cleaning ashtrays and picking up empty beer bottles and finished cocktails.

Tonight, there are five drag queens hanging out with Chaka, smoking cigarettes, and drinking. They turn the back of the club into their own personal runway and “walk” for each other. As I approach, several of the drag queens stop what they are doing and watch me. ‘Hi,” I say with a little wave. “My name is Geoff.”

Chaka’s back is to me. He does a slow turn around to meet me and his eyes immediately look me up and down. He is calculating a way to cut me down if he needs to. “What brings you to the dark side of the moon?” he asks, extending the back of his hand. I believe that he actually wants me to kiss it, but I grab it and shake it vigorously.

I tell them my story and Chaka motions me to sit with him. The drag queens surround me and listen intently. By the end of the night they have smoked all my cigarettes and my wallet is empty from buying them drinks.

8 Balls and the House on Dana Part 3  

The front room of the house on Dana Ave is sparsely furnished. It has a couple of couches, a coffee table and a giant DJ stereo deck. Kim tells me that Jackie is learning to be a DJ in the hopes that someday he can stop bartending and find another career as a DJ. I have yet to see Jackie use it. 

He and Billy sleep all day and wake up an hour before they need to be at the club, but Kim and I spin records all day and work on our blends. We spend hours and learn that the 12-inch of “The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight” fits well into Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax”. Truth be told, we mix everything with Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax”. Another favorite mix is Prince and Morris Day; they are played around the clock. Lately, when I leave the house with Kim I carry a boom box that plays “Jungle Love” so loud you can hear us coming.

Kim and I have now adopted the full-on Punk Look. This look includes shaving the sides of our heads, dying strips of our hair blonde, and making it stand straight up with Queen Helene Styling Gel. We create the craziest clothing held together with safety pins and bandanas. I wear wraparound black glasses and fingerless gloves day and night. We smoke cigarette after cigarette and snarl at people who look at us funny.

Kim goes to see The Dead Kennedys and The Butthole Surfers live and discovers the joys of slam dancing and stage diving. I go with her once, but within ten minutes a drunken skinhead with a serious head wound spits blood on me. I don’t need anything else to happen; I’m out of there. I let Kim have that joy for herself.

Kim drinks beer out of a paper bag and we smoke a ton of weed. When we go to work, we sneak around the corner on our breaks to smoke more cigarettes and more weed. We spend the days mumbly and incoherent most of the time. We are fascinated by the lives of Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen and stay up late at night watching The 700 Club. We think we are badass, but our feelings get hurt when someone in that daily-passing car screams “Freaks!” out the window at us. We begin to drink a lot and fight. Then we start waking up around noon to buy more cigarettes.

8 Balls and the house on Dana Part 4

The after-hours party starts at the house on Dana around 4 a.m., shortly after everyone gets out of work. The parties go on until the sun comes up or until everyone is crashed out on the floor. Jackie invites everyone left at 8 Balls when they call “last call” to come over, and everyone tends to show up. So now it’s 4 a.m., and a crowd of drunks have taken over the living room.

Kim and I constantly sneak away from the party and head into the bedroom to sleep. Most of the time we lie on the bed in the dark, cracking each other up until one of us falls asleep. Kim believes in locking the bedroom door. “You never know if one of those people out there is a crazy lunatic with a knife,” she says, sitting up quickly and pressing her fingers to her mouth. Since we sleep in a bed on the floor, Kim wastes no time jumping up in the dark room, running across the bed to the door,  and locking it as quickly as possible. We lie there fully awake, contemplating what we would do if we found everyone slaughtered the next morning when we got up.

But the next morning, Kim has awoken before me, gotten herself a cup of coffee and positioned herself at one end of the couch in the living room. At the other end of the couch sits a young guy, fully dressed, watching the television with a blank stare. Kim is sipping her coffee, her eyes scanning the ceiling when I walk in. “Good morning,” I say to Kim as I go shuffling into the room, coffee in one hand and a cigarette already burning in the other hand. “ ’s’up?” says the guy on the couch, tilting his chin in my direction before he goes back to watching television. Kim’s eyes briefly meet mine and I mouth the words, “Who’s he?” Kim shrugs and goes back to intently watching the ceiling. “What are you doing?” I ask, glancing up to the ceiling as well. “I am watching the cockroaches race each other on the ceiling,” Kim says, as she takes a drag off her cigarette. “I am trying to make them fall off by using my mind control.” Kim squeezes her eyes with all her might. “How’s that going?” I ask. “Not working so good yet.” Kim pauses, taking a sip of her coffee and flicking her ashes into the ashtray.

I sit down on the couch next to her, moving her over with my butt. We are squished into one end while that guy sitting at the other end of the couch has plenty of room. We don’t know him, so we don’t want to get close. I reach back and pull my hair out of the top of my t-shirt. I take the rubber band off the bottom and unbraid it. Well, it’s called a rat tail and is sort of like a mullet except that it’s a strip of hair from the base of the head that forms a ponytail, which gets braided. Tom Bailey of The Thompson Twins sports one and so then, do I.

I loosen the braid and run my fingers through it. It is coarse and brittle due to the fact that I dye it all the time. Kim reaches over and pushes my shoulder so I can sit with my back to her. She then begins to run her fingers through my tail, parting it into three different strips so she can braid them for me.

“Hey, I love to braid!” yells the guy on the other end of the couch, making both Kim and me jump. He begins to slide down towards me, moving Kim out of the way with his butt. Kim is forced to stand, and crosses to sit on my other side. The guy then pulls me down to the floor to make me sit in front of him. Grabbing the back of my hair, he begins to pull on it, splitting it into three strips to braid. Kim and I say very little. We assume this must be someone’s friend who slept over on the couch.

He quickly makes a braid and puts a rubber band at the base. “Hi, I’m Geoff and this is Kim,” I say, turning to him over my shoulder. “I’m Jim,” he says, moving my head back so he can finish the braid. Jim offers nothing else to us, no explanation as to how he’s here or why he’s here. Kim offers him coffee, so I jump up and follow her into the kitchen. Jim will proceed to spend the next three days sitting on our couch, drinking coffee and every now and then helping himself to meals he finds in the fridge. 

On the third night Jackie walks into the kitchen and stops in front of me and Kim while we are eating dinner. Jackie pulls out a chair, sits on it and places his elbows on the table. Leaning in he whispers, “Your friend is eating us out of house and home,” as he motions to the living room with his hand. “Our friend?” Kim responds, her eyes getting big as saucers. “He’s your crazy friend,” Kim says. After several verbal back-and-forths with Jackie that include our sneaking peeks around the corner and knocking on roommates’ doors for a mandatory “family meeting,” we realize that no one knows Jim and that he just walked in with the crowd three days ago for the party. 

Jackie saunters out of the kitchen while the rest of us hide around the corner. Stopping at the couch in front of Jim, Jackie reaches down to pick up a magazine. “Hi, Jim how are you?” he asks, nonchalantly thumbing through the magazine. “Good, how are you?” Jim asks, trying to look around Jackie’s legs so he doesn’t miss anything on the television. Jackie slides up next to Jim on the couch. “Jim, who do you know in this house?” Jackie asks, as he begins to fan himself with the magazine. “Well, I got to know everyone,” Jim says, leaning on the arm of the couch. “Who did you come with?” asks Jackie as he leans in front of Jim’s line of vision, so that Jim will have to meet Jackie’s eyes. “Oh, I just walked in with everyone else from the bar.” “You did?” Jackie says holding up one finger. “Stay here. I will be right back.” That said, Jackie walks back into the kitchen, leaving Jim to watch the television.

8 Balls and the house on Dana Part 5

Kim’s mother and stepfather live one town away from us and we visit them pretty often. This afternoon Kim’s cousin is getting married and we have to get going if we’re going to make it on time. 

Currently Kim is on the phone with her mother. The phone sits in the dining room, but the cord is stretched out as far as it can go. Kim is walking around the house, cigarette dangling out of the side of her mouth, packing an overnight case.

Kim is a bridesmaid at her cousin’s wedding and the dress that she is supposed to be wearing is still on its hanger on the back of the bedroom door. I can hear Kim’s conversation with her mother about how hideous the dress is, and how much she hates it.

The dress is a light violet satin, floor length, sleeveless dress that was chosen to make everyone at the wedding focus on the bride. I agree with Kim, the dress is hideous, but what‘s worse are the long white opera gloves that are supposed to be worn with it. I think that the bride really wanted the bridesmaids to just create a wall of pink behind her.

Kim, standing at four feet something, looks like she is wearing a Barbie “Dream Tent” and the colors are right out of a “My Pretty Pony” cartoon. I am going with her but I am not part of the wedding party. I am Kim’s date. I bought a long black tail coat for today. It goes with my black pants, black shirt, and black wraparound glasses. I have my hair Queen Helene-ed to heaven, with just a blond strip hanging down over my eyes in homage to Duran Duran. At the last moment Kim’s cousin has called Kim’s mother to request that I don’t wear my tail coat because the groom plans on wearing one he bought at the last minute. Kim and I agree that the bride and groom are unbelievably selfish. I have searched the house for another jacket that I can wear. 

Michael found a blue sports jacket hanging in his closet but he doesn’t remember where he got it. The coat sleeves are way too short for me and my arms hang a little below the cuff. I look ridiculous. Kim’s mom suggests that maybe her husband has a nice camel-colored jacket I can wear. The reason we are going to the wedding is to get free food and booze. The celebration of love is incidental to the trip. I no longer want to go, and try to come up with an excuse so I don’t have to. It’s useless to try and get out of it. 

An hour later we are Kim’s mother’s house with our first drink in our hands. We have snuck it because Kim wanted to calm her nerves and Kim’s mother is a drink counter. Kim is not allowed to smoke in the house and we run outside every five minutes to smoke another one. Kim’s mother is very sweet, but she’s making Kim crazy. Every moment Kim’s mom gets within five feet of her, she tsk-tsks and asks Kim, “Whatever happened to my sweet girl?” By the time Kim and I get into the car with her parents, we have a strong buzz going on. We also have more liquor with us in a flask we are carrying.

When we get to the wedding, Kim finds the rest of the bridal party and runs off with them. I sit with Kim’s parents, who ask me when I am going to marry Kim. Kim has told them a million times that I am gay, but her parents think that I will change when I meet the right girl. Small talk with Kim’s mom goes on about the benefits of marrying Kim. I just nod my head at the right times.

The wedding goes off without a hitch. Kim looks both beautiful and ridiculous in her bridesmaid dress. Truth be told, all the bridesmaids look beautiful but ridiculous. There is a cocktail hour that starts right after the wedding and Kim and I move into the reception and sit at a table. We have already downed several cocktails from our flask by the time the official cocktail hour arrives. Kim and I choose screwdrivers. As I reach for the drinks the waiter brings us, I knock both of them off the tray and down the front of Kim’s dress. The purple dress is unforgiving to the orange juice and vodka combination. Within an hour the dress has dried but is now sticking straight out, featuring a giant stain, but Kim and I could care less. We get poured back into the car by Kim’s mother and driven home.

8 Balls and the house on Dana Part 6

The cockroaches in the house become more abundant and bolder every day. I am taking a shower and there are six of them on the wall, completely ignoring the spray of water from the shower head. They run when I go to swat them, but quickly return and bring two more with them. Looking around the bathroom, I can see several cockroaches running along the fixture that is holding up the shower curtain directly above me, and another group that has formed on the ceiling. 

I am afraid to kill them. We are afraid that they are waiting to just take over the apartment and kill us. They are everywhere lately. We have found them in the fridge, in the stove, and in our beds. We are afraid to kill them with our hands and we joke that there must be a giant cockroach king hanging out in the basement, sending his minions into our house to do his bidding. Kim is no help. Every day she returns with cockroach facts. “Did you know that a cockroach can walk in your ear while you are sleeping and live in your brain?” She goes to bed with cotton in her ears.

Kim and I are constantly being asked by our downstairs neighbor Ingrid if we will babysit her kids. Ingrid is twenty-four and already has three kids. The oldest is kid is five and the youngest is two. Every time we see the children they are covered in filth, either their own or filth of their making. Their hands are always sticky with something grape-colored.  Two of them are in diapers, and the oldest one has a magic marker line on his face that has been there for at least two weeks now. Every time we get home, they are playing on the sidewalk in dirty clothes and the two wearing diapers have filled them to capacity. The children will run to us and touch us with their sticky hands. The smells that cling to them are just as overwhelming. The children never seem bathed. There is always dried snot under their noses and the corners of their eyes are filled with yellow pus caked on their eyelids. Their eyes are almost glued closed. I point this out to Ingrid who sits on the top step smoking a cigarette. “It’s gross, right?” she says, exhaling smoke from her mouth as she shoos the baby to get away from her. I take to carrying a wet paper towel with me so I can wipe them down whenever they get close. They remind me of the children you see in those “Save the Children” commercials, except that the flies have been replaced with cockroaches.

Ingrid, on the other hand, is glamorous, clean, and extravagantly dressed. She stands 5′ 6″ with a Barbie doll figure, big doe eyes, and bleached blonde hair. She has glasses, but refuses to wear them because she thinks they make her look “too smart to get a husband.” Ingrid tells us that she is legally blind without them. Ingrid has never had a husband and believes that all her children have different fathers.

Today Ingrid is in a foul mood. She tells us that “someone in the neighborhood keeps calling child services on her” and when she finds out who it is “heads are going to roll.” I know that when it’s not me calling child services, it’s Kim, Jackie, Billy, or Michael. Kim and I look at each other and decide to not ever tell her.

We are about to go inside our apartment when Ingrid asks Kim and me if we can babysit tonight. We try to come up with every excuse not to, but our cable has been shut off due to lack of payment and Ingrid knows it. She reminds us that not only does she have cable, but more importantly, she has MTV.

MTV is relatively new and plays the same six videos all day long, but we watch them as if we have never seen them before. Ingrid lures us into babysitting with MTV, cigarettes, and beer. Kim and I agree to watch the kids later that night and plan on coming down at 7 p.m.

Ingrid jumps, claps her hands ecstatically and runs inside, leaving her three dirty kids staring at us. The youngest has a permanent runny nose. He walks over and wipes it on my pant leg. Kim gags.

At 7 p.m, Kim and I make our way down to Ingrid’s place and ring the bell. One of the kids–the oldest–is naked when he answers the door. “Mommy is not here,” he says, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand. Kim and I push our way through the door. The smell hits us like a frying pan to the head.

The house is dimly lit and smells like rot, death, poop, and disease. Kim and I make gagging noises as we cover or mouths and noses with our hands. Everywhere you look the house is crawling with cockroaches; there are literally seas of them. Somewhere in the house we can hear the baby crying.

As we start to walk through the house we notice that every room has writing on the walls but it doesn’t go any higher than kid height. There is a bedroom to the right with one dirty mattress on the floor that serves as a bed for two of the kids, next to a busted crib with missing slots. Sitting in the crib in his own excrement is the baby. He has wiped poop in his hair and on the wall and when he sees us, his little hands reach out to be picked up.

8 Balls and the house on Dana Part 7

Kim and I spend most of our time cleaning and bathing the kids, wiping down walls, putting garbage in the can and taking it out to the curb before it sits around some more. This house is the filthiest place I have ever been in my life, It’s clear to both me and Kim that the cockroaches are breeding somewhere in Ingrid’s house. They have plenty to eat; there are dishes piled in the sink with bits of food still attached to them. Kim ties a bandana around her nose and mouth and starts to fill the sink with hot water. I hear her scream in disgust as hundreds of roaches run out of the sink.

I go to help Kim in the kitchen. I start by opening the fridge, and hundreds of cockroaches are literally swarming all over the food. “Close it!” Kim screams and rushes over, knocking the door from my hands.

There is another door in Ingrid’s kitchen that leads to the basement. I wonder what’s down there but Kim quickly stops me by asking, “What, are you nuts?” She goes back to the dishes and I release the door handle. If this floor of the house is so disgusting, the basement must be a house of horrors. For good measure, Kim slides a chair under the knob of the basement door, ”Just in case.” I can tell that she is not even joking at this moment.

Kim and I gag our way through the house as we clean. It is a real live version of a Hoarders episode, except that Ingrid collects garbage, dirty diapers, and roaches. Ingrid has very few cleaning supplies, so I run back upstairs to get more, leaving Kim to scrub the pots and pans.

Jackie and Billy are sitting at the dining room table smoking cigarettes as I burst into the room and hurry past them. A sticky film has coated me and I smell of garbage and baby vomit from being downstairs. As I rush through the room, Billy and Jackie gag and pinch their noses closed. “What the fuck?” Billy yells out. Jackie continues making gagging noises as he pulls Billy back towards the bedroom.

“We are downstairs babysitting and cleaning Ingrid’s house,” I yell at them, as I root through the walk-in pantry for cleaning supplies. “Do you want to help?” I yell out. “Haven’t had our shots,” Jackie screams back before slamming his bedroom door shut.

Returning downstairs, I start to tackle the kids’ room. The kids are finally clean but their bedding is filthy. Kim finishes the dishes and comes in to help me out. She still refuses to remove the bandana from around her mouth. We strip down the beds, only to find that the mattresses are filthy and stained with urine. At this time we don’t know what else to do, so we just flip them over and cover the mattresses with clean linen and clean blankets. The kids are used to living in this hell, but Kim and I are determined to speak with child services again in the morning. No child should ever have to be raised in a world like this. The kids climb into bed. The youngest one holds his stuffed bear up for me to kiss. It is missing its head and its fur is sticky. I blow it a kiss instead.

Kim and I sit down on the floor in front of the couch, afraid of what lives in the cushions. We watch MTV. Two hours later, Kim falls asleep on the floor during Video Killed the Radio Star and after a couple of minutes I slap a cockroach out of her hair. She jumps up screaming and starts pulling at her hair, tears streaming down her face as she screams, “Did it lay eggs? Did it lays eggs?” We cling to each other for the rest of the night and refuse to go to sleep. It’s tough, because the same six videos just keep playing over and over.

Ingrid arrives home around seven in the morning. She is making such a racket that Kim and I can hear her trying to put her keys into the front door. Ingrid is grumbling as she repeatedly drops her keys onto the porch floor. She is so polluted that when she stumbles into the house, she literally falls in the door. Ingrid doesn’t even acknowledge that we’re here as she walks through the living room, bumping into furniture and swearing. She finally makes it into her bedroom, where she slams the door. The path that Ingrid has taken from the door can be followed by seeing where she dropped her pocketbook, keys, shoes, and shirt on the floor.

Kim and I dump a couple of roaches out of our sneakers before we put them back on and go upstairs. We immediately both call dibs on the shower and I tell Kim that, “I just want to burn our clothes and go to sleep.” Kim agrees and pulls herself up the stairs. The amount of roaches waiting for us in our shower is tame compared to what we have just seen.

8 Balls and the house on Dana Part 8

Life at the house continued on in its frenetic pace of drinking, partying, smoking, working, and sleeping, not in that order, and sometimes in a combination of two or more at the same time. Our candle was being burned from both ends as well as from the middle. We were young and we had all the time in the world.

We were living the lives of tortured artists. Kim was a promising musician and I wanted to be a choreographer someday. You don’t get more hard core than that. We smoked lots of cigarettes, listened to Madonna on our walkman, and gave the finger to anyone staring at us for too long. We dreaded daily confrontation because we always got it. A trip to the “Ghetto Chopper” supermarket two blocks away was a nightmare. You would never go by yourself and usually ask anyone who was home at the house to go with you. It surprised me how angry people got because of the way we dressed. Someone spit on Kim in the parking lot of the Ghetto Chopper just after she was called a freak. She cried, and her vanilla ice cream had melted by the time she got home.

We loved our freakiness and how we looked; we just couldn’t understand why people cared. Fingerless gloves were dyed purple and came in opera length. Chemical balloon pants with sleeveless shirts were all the rage and hair now had to be razor sharp and jacked to Jesus. I enjoyed safety pin chains and wore them attached to my ear.

My favorite purchase was a “Boy of London” coat that looked like a blood-spattered straight jacket. I wore it until I got hit with an egg from a passing car. I was sitting on the front stoop and the words “Punk” and “Fag” were screamed out the window at me as they sped away. I wanted the world to notice me and ignore me all at the same time.

Kim and I would wake up whenever. Sometimes we would not be in our beds, but on the floor in the bathroom, and sometimes sleeping on the floor in someone else’s room. It was cool and showed a lack of caring. We were living the life.

After we woke up, we would sit around for whatever part of the day was left, watch television, and smoke cigarettes. Later we’d head into The Half Moon Café to work some random poetry reading or a dinner shift. Lately Kim was hating the poetry readings. She once had to empty the bucket of an angry feminist poet who peed in it to make a point during a reading of her, “A man is keeping me down,” poem. Kim complained about it for a solid month. Even though the poet said it wasn’t real, we both knew that it was.

All anyone needed in that poetry reading room was a bongo, a beret, and a need to snap their fingers at the completion of a poem. It was not my cup of tea and I would get chastised by Tommy (one of the owners) for rolling my eyes. “Geoff, if you don’t want to hear a poem about babies covered in feces and mucus, stay in the kitchen.” I would happily go off to tend the kefir culture.

Thanksgiving was now just around the corner and the days were getting colder. The cockroaches didn’t seem to know that they weren’t supposed to be hanging out in colder climates. As a matter of fact, they seemed to get more intense and bolder. It was so bad that Kim and I spent Thanksgiving at a diner. No one could deal with the cockroaches.

That night when we got home, Ingrid’s oldest was playing on the front porch. I asked him what he was still doing up. Through a perpetually runny nose, he told us that Mommy and Dale had had a fight. Dale was a new man in Ingrid’s life, as they recently met and after three weeks he had moved into her house. Dale was appalled at the way Ingrid lived and worked hard to keep things clean.

“How did the fight start?” Kim asked. After wiping his nose on the back of his sleeve he told us, “Mommy felt bad for the cockroaches and placed the remains of the entire turkey dinner on the floor to feed them. She told him that even cockroaches deserve a holiday dinner.” 

The next day we called the exterminator and had him come to the house. There in Ingrid’s house he found a cockroach nest.

8 Balls and the house on Dana Part 9

The party was pretty much over once the exterminator found the roach nest. By law, he had to call the city authorities and it was then declared that in its current condition, the house was not fit to live in. The exterminator went on to explain that the house would need to be completely covered with plastic and that industrial-strength poison would be sprayed in. This process would need to be repeated several times; thus all living things that wanted to continue living would need to leave the house. 

“I figure it will take at least a month for the house to be inhabitable again,” the exterminator said, grinding his cigarette out in the kitchen ashtray. We would also need to take everything that was leaving with us, wrap it in plastic bags and hope that the roaches wouldn’t travel with us. We had an hour for an emergency group meeting.

Everyone crowded in around the dining room table. Jackie stood and spoke first. “Me and Billy are out tomorrow, the rest of you can do what you want. Ciao, I have to go pack.” With that said Billy also stood, pushed the chair back with his legs, flashed us the peace sign and followed Jackie into the bedroom.

The lease was in Michael’s name so he was the only one who could fight the landlord. He was on his own. Everyone had less than a week to move. Kim and I eyeballed each other across the table. The look was clear, “Where the fuck are we going to go?” I had no family I could move in with and I wasn’t going to live with David again. Kim’s family lived too far away. I signaled Kim to meet me in the bedroom.

We started our plan of action. We would go to the Ghetto Chopper, and scan the wall of posted fliers to see if anyone had an apartment for rent. Then we would move on to the library and look through newspapers for rentals. If that failed, we would make phone calls to friends and ask to sleep on their floors for a couple of days. Kim and I hit the ground running.

The Ghetto Chopper had fliers of several people with apartments “For immediate rent.” The problem was that most of these apartments were in the worst sections of town, sections of Albany that you would walk into where people would stop dead in their tracks and watch you walk by. It often reminded me of the old west but what choice did Kim and I have? Standing at the pay phone, we called the first number and made an appointment to see it within the hour. The apartment was located behind Clinton Avenue as you headed to the highway. This is where you entered Clinton Hill. If you were driving and you took the exit into Clinton Hill, you locked your doors if you didn’t want to get car-jacked or shot.

Kim and I planned the rest of the day as we plunked more quarters into the pay phone. We would not stop until Kim had to go to work later that day, so that gave us seven hours to find a place. We made appointments to see three other apartments in the Clinton Hill area and we had a lead on a newly-refurbished basement apartment on Third Street, wherever the hell that was. Time was a-wasting and we needed to find a place to live.

8 Balls and the House on Dana Part 10

Kim and I looked at so many apartments that even cockroaches wouldn’t have walked into. Filthy, dirty, small, and in need of a serious bleaching; that was what we saw, apartment after apartment. That was, once we got to meet the landlords.

Landlords would greet us on the sidewalk 20-30 minutes late, looking as though it was an inconvenience just to put their pants on. Old, drunken, bloated faces covered in stubble, wearing white muscle tees yellowed in the armpits. The smell of chicken soup clung to them.

Kim pinched her nose during a conversation with one of these “landlords” as we were being given the walk-through. Kim, pointing to various light fixtures with exposed wiring, would ask “Thoooo, yo neeth da deposit, and firth mounth, to mooth ib?” The landlord seemed to have no problem understanding what Kim was asking and rubbed his hands together at the thought of being able to afford another bottle of Jameson.

One apartment we saw was in the only still-standing building next to a block of burned-out row houses. Two brown rats happily played and chased each other across our feet as we walked up the sidewalk. I glance up at the building to see angry faces peeking out at us from behind slightly-parted curtains on the first floor. An old woman looking down on us from another window was seen shaking her head as if to say, “Well, there goes the neighborhood.” We continued the search the next day.

Kim and I quickly found out that if I called a place and a male answered and said the apartment was no longer available, I would thank them and have Kim call right back. Several times when they heard a female voice calling they would tell Kim, “The apartment is available!” Imagine their faces when she showed up and a male was with her. I imagined a lot of landlords just putting down their killing hammer when they saw me. I started to feel scared for anyone who might have to go through this search without someone by his or her side. 

I saw Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I know what happens when you pick up a hippie and he wipes the blood from his hand on your van. A lot of people didn’t see it and can’t spot the warnings.

We finally scored a meeting with the landlord of the apartment on Third Street at 3:00 p.m. Kim and I asked everyone where Third Street was, and after the fiftieth “I dun know,” someone  finally sent us on our way.

It was a long walk to Third Street. Nothing looked familiar. No one was outside in the neighborhood, and every now and then we would see curtains moving slightly in a window as if someone was looking out at us. Finally we turned onto Third and found the address. We were now standing in front of the sweetest little yellow house. On one side of the house, a slight distance away, was another house. On the other side was a Snowblower and Lawn Mower shop. Actually, it was a big empty lot with a tiny house and a little dirt path leading to the front door. Out on the lawn were brand new snowblowers and lawn mowers for sale.

Right at 3:00 p.m., a large expensive-looking car slowed to a stop in front of the house. The driver’s door opened and out stepped a young version of Arnold Palmer, or what I thought Arnold Palmer should look like: the shock of blond hair, tanned skin, yellow golf shirt with the top button teasingly open, blue sports coat, and tan pants. The shine on the shoe was blinding as he glided towards us with an outstretched hand.

8 Balls and the House on Dana Part 11

The available apartment for rent is located in the basement of the building. You enter the apartment by stepping into a tiny carpeted corridor with an eight-foot ceiling and a single bare bulb overhead illuminating it. 

The landlord reaches for the cord that dangles in front of him and gives it a tug. We hear a little “click” and the small room becomes barely brighter. The landlord fumbles in his pockets for the key and after four tries, finds the correct key and puts it into the lock. The door swings inwards.

Immediately, the height of the ceiling drops about two feet shorter. The landlord nervously laughs as he explains that the ceiling directly above my head is exactly six feet, two inches from the floor. I stand in at six feet, six-foot-one, and Kim is about five-foot-four on a tall day. The landlord’s head is tipped to the left during the entire tour of the property. Kim whispers, “six-five” and I whisper back, “six-three.”

The living room is rather large. The walls are painted a bright sunny yellow and the floor is concrete. “I rarely get to come in here,” the landlords smiles, while he motions Vanna White-like around the room. There are two windows in the living room that face onto the street. Pulling the drapes back, I look out. From this viewpoint, I will have a clear view of people’s ankles and any garbage blowing around the street.

The next room he shows us is the kitchen. There is a tiny step up into the kitchen, which forces the ceiling to become lower. The landlord now hunches forward, placing his hands on his upper thighs. The kitchen is clearly the main hub of the house; every room can be entered from here. The two bedrooms that were listed in the ad are located on opposite sides of the kitchen from each other. There is also an entrance into a “dressing room” that leads into the bathroom, and a doorway that leads into a “back room.” Every room is a step down from the kitchen and once you step into the rooms the ceiling returns to match the height of the ceiling in the living room. So if we live here, I will not be able to “jump up and down” while I am cooking.

On one side of the kitchen are two windows that look directly onto the lot next door, and on the other side of the kitchen sits the water heater for the entire building. The space is split by a kitchen table. It is the only piece of furniture we see anywhere. The “dressing room” leads into a windowless bathroom that houses a toilet and a claw-footed tub. Kim immediately falls in love with the tub and decides that we need to move in.  “I want this,” she whispers, cupping her hand to my ear.

The last room on the tour sits behind an innocent-looking door off the kitchen. The landlord steps forward, grabs the knob, pauses, and smiles nervously at us. “No one goes in here anymore,” he says. I hear the theme from The Exorcist tinkling somewhere in my brain. The door swings inwards as the landlord steps back. Again he motions in a Vanna White way that clearly says, “After you.” Kim and I step into the room. Well actually, I get pushed into the room by Kim as she holds a piece of my t-shirt and a piece of my back skin. Before us sit two cement rooms, one after the other. We walk in as though we are in an episode of Scooby Doo. The landlord stands at the door, still talking to us. He will stay there the entire time we are back here. The story he tells is about two rooms that used to be here, an old woman, her son, and a fire that took the rooms with it. “Did anyone die?” I immediately ask. “Oh, I don’t think so,” chuckles the landlord. I immediately utter my follow-up question, “Is this place haunted?”

8 Balls and the House on Dana Part 12

“I don’t think the apartment is haunted,” replies the landlord, as he laughs nervously. “We just can’t seem to get anyone to live in it long term. Now, if we are done, I have several other people who are looking at this property, so if you have any questions?”  Kim raisesher hand up in the air like a first grader asking, “Do you need first, last, and security?”

When we get home, Kim immediately calls her parents to ask for money to help us move. Her parents make her sweat a little, because they seem to think that we’re living the life of drug addicts and that we might just use the money to “further our lifestyle.” Kim has to remind her Mom that we are not drug addicts and that we are just surrounded by them. The money really is simply to help us move.

Fifteen minutes later, the deal is set. We will pay Kim’s mother back when we can, even though we all know that will likely be “never.” Kim then phones our new landlord at the property to tell him that we will be over the next day to drop off our down payment.

Next, we have to pack and move all our crap. We have very little time and beg anyone at 8 Balls and The Half Moon Café who has a car to help us out. Everything is moving forward. We are about to get out of a cockroach-infested apartment and move into a shady neighborhood that is in the crime-ridden fringes of Albany.

We pack what little we are prepared to move. We have a fear that the cockroaches will be moving along with us, so we double-bag everything, spray it with roach killer, and tie the bags shut. I could care less that Kim and I and all our clothes will smell like roach spray for the next month.

Jim, who works at The Half Moon Café, expresses to Kim and me one night at work that he thinks the move-in-together is not a good idea. It is clear that Jim thinks Kim has a crush on me and he hopes that she will find a straight man to settle down with or in the very least, find one to date.

Jim not only works at The Half Moon Café, but he’s the owner of a basement flower shop on Lark Street, and also sings part-time in a hard-core punk band. He is as sweet as he is cute, but clearly has a hard time letting anyone get close to him. One day while we are stirring the kefir, he confesses to me that he knows he is gay, but he doesn’t want to be identified as one. “It is hard to be gay and be a singer in a punk band,” he whispers to me as he scoops up a hand full of glop with a net. “People tend to make fun of you.” I nod as if I understand but suddenly ask, “What about Morrissey?”

Jim has a shaggy mop-top haircut that hangs playfully in his face. He hides his eyes behind bangs and tends to only speak when spoken to. When he is dead serious he pushes his bangs out of his face and looks at you out of the corner of one eye. Now he suddenly pushes his bangs aside and stares at me. “I don’t think you and Kim should move in together. It’s not a good idea,” he says, fastening the lid on the kefir. Then he spins away on his heel.

Kim and I never realized that Jim’s words of reserve would prove to be a warning in hindsight. Things between Kim and me were about to blossom into drug-fueled binges washed down with large amounts of booze.

8 Balls and the House on Dana Part 13

The apartment was not haunted, but clearly there was some sort of curse on it. Shortly after moving in, Kim and I began a downward spiral of drugs and booze. Funny, we no longer had a whole series of roommates to contend with. It was just the two of us with an occasional “special guest star” visitor, but things got ugly fast.

Kim’s childhood friend Kevin would come to our new apartment and we’d stay up late at night watching The PTL Club while we put huge amounts of cocaine up our noses, ground out cigarettes in ashtrays, and emptied liquor bottles. Once we were high on cocaine, we would smoke a joint and wash down everything with whiskey. The booze and weed would help to mellow us out, three cocaine-zombied druggies.

I would often slip off to bed and leave Kim and Kevin to talk about old times. It seems that the two of them had a history, even though Kevin had recently come out as gay. Kim put me under strict directions to never mention it in his presence, telling me that if I did, he would deny it.

I spent what seemed like hours just trying to drift off. I was usually so high that I ended up tossing and turning while looking at the ceiling. In the morning I often found Kevin and Kim still on the couch where I had left them the night before. Except that now they had all sorts of paranoid theories to share with me, theories ranging from our neighbors being able to listen in on their thoughts, to Jim and Tammy Baker giving them secret messages through The PTL Club broadcast.

As weeks go along things get worse and worse between Kim and me. Drugs fuel paranoia and paranoia fuels fights. Kim and I argue about the tiniest things and that leads to slapping fights, objects launched at each other, and punches being thrown. Our relationship is becoming unbelievably toxic. We’re acting like our heroes, Sid and Nancy, and I suspect that Kevin and Kim are smoking a much stronger drug than weed. It’s during this time that we paint the entire bathroom and the changing room black. It echos the way we’re living our lives and how we’re feeling.

One day the shop next door decides to repave their driveway, with little black stones. For hours we watch through slightly-parted blinds from our basement advantage, as the workers pour wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of these little black stones all over the driveway.

Kim and I can hear the stones bouncing off the wells that surround our windows. Unfortunately, several of the rocks put tiny cracks in the windows before they land in the wells. Kim raps on the window and screams at the workers to “be more fucking careful!” She never shows her face, just bangs and snarls.

Soon, Kim and I start missing work or showing up hours later than our scheduled times. We’re in danger of losing our jobs, which could also mean losing our apartment if we can’t pay the rent. Thankfully, Jodi’s sister Cindy, who has recently started working at The Half Moon Café, and is breaking up with her boyfriend, needs a place to live. It is a Kismet born out of desperation. Two days before Cindy moves in it rains.

We hadn’t had any rain since the driveway next door was paved. The storm was moving across the sky quickly, as you could feel a drop in pressure and smell a change in the air. The skies opened up with a fury, quick and fast, and dropped a hard summer rain. When the rain hit those round black stones, the water rushed over the top of them and headed right for our windows.

Kim was at the store getting a pack of Marlboro Lights and I was home alone listening to Amadeus on my tape player when it hit. Within five minutes the force of the water filled the wells, then smashed against the windows. The windows held back for a moment, letting a spray here and there shoot into the kitchen, then they moaned and gave way. The water rushed across the kitchen floor, heading for the living room, the bedrooms, and the bathroom. Within moments, it was ankle-deep.

8 Balls and the House on Dana Part 14

The water fills the apartment immediately, taking everything that it comes in contact with for a ride. It spills over the kitchen floor and quickly races into every part of the apartment. Stacks of records on the floor, magazines, books, and clothes begin to quickly sop up the dirty water before they give up all together and float around.

I run into the kitchen and grab a roll of paper towels as the water is rising to mid-calf. It’s here that I end up facing the side window. The glass pane on the bottom of the window has given way, but not before cracking into millions of pieces. Sharp shards of glass weakly cling together before getting swept into the swirl.

I stand there and watch as the water pours and pours into our apartment. I quickly realize that the paper towels in my hand are not going to help. I need a mop, a sump pump, and a prayer. The cats go running for higher ground as the water carries their bowls towards the bathroom. On its ways to pick up the bowls, the water rushes under the hot water tank and extinguishes the flame.

There is nothing I can do to stop the water. I run to the phone, pick it up, and listen for a dial tone. The phone is still working because of a deal Kim and I worked out with the phone company. We will pay our bill this week, or they will shut it off. Deal done.

I dial the landlord’s number that I find written on a scrap piece of paper. The water rushes and rises towards the electrical outlets. The phone in my hand rings and rings, and then an answering machine picks up the call.

The landlord’s sunny voice explains that he has stepped out and will be back soon but I need to be sure to leave a message. I do, and my message is this: …“water, flood, glass, hot water tank, quick, help!” … all screamed at a hysterical high pitch, and then I slam the phone down. Half a second later I call his phone again and still I get the goddamned answering machine. This time I scream, “Help, fucker!” and, “What the fuck are we going to do?” And then I slam the receiver down again.

I am at a crazy hysterical pitch as I fall to my knees, sobbing. Everything that we own, everything that we have is swirling in dirty brown water. The phone cord is stretched so that the phone can sit up on the top of the bookshelf.

I don’t even think about one end of the phone cord being in the water, but I realize it the minute I grab for the receiver. The lack of dial tone tells me that I am fucked. I drop the phone into the water, put my hands on my face, and continue sobbing hysterically.

Suddenly I hear front door is being pounded on from the outside. The swirling water is holding it closed, but now the door is being shoved open as water swirls out into the entryway. Kim manages to get her face into the opening between the jamb and the door. Our eyes meet as she demands in a high-pitched hysterical voice, “What the fuck did you do?”

8 Balls and the house on Dana Part 15

Kim slides herself in through the narrow access that the water allows her. The entire living room is a swirling tide pool created by the opening of the front door. Kim becomes as hysterical as I am as she wades into the house. Shaking a Marlboro Light from her pack, Kim grabs it and shoves it into the corner of her mouth. Her eyes are as big as saucers as she looks around and shakes her head. Her face grows red as her tears appear just below the surface.

Everything on the floor that the water touched is now floating in a brown dirty muck. “The water came in through the window,” I yell and point into the kitchen. Kim looks at me with wide eyes and screams, “What the fuck?” “Through the window!” I repeat, my hand still pointing towards the kitchen. “That’s nuts!” Kim yells, as she stomps through the water into the kitchen.

Standing in front of the window, Kim sucks on her cigarette like it’s a medicine that will calm her down. “What the fuck,” she screams again. For the rest of the day everything that Kim finds in the apartment elicits her to scream, “What the fuck?”

The good news is that the water has stopped pouring through the windows. The bad news is that everything we own is wet and ruined. Hours later, the sun has started to set, and Kim and I are still using everything we have to mop up this water and get it out of the house. Every bath towel, every roll of paper towels, and what used to be dry bedding gets used. Kim remains quiet, but I can hear her sniffle and release an almost silent sob as she works.

The house phone is dead and now Kim and I take turns walking the two blocks to the gas station to use the pay phone. We have used up all the space on the landlord’s answering machine and now the line just rings and rings. To add insult to injury, the pay phone keeps stealing any change we put into it.

There is no way we can sleep and we work through the night, hauling almost all of our belongings out to the curb for garbage pick-up. The clothes get thrown into a large green garbage bag and taken to the laundromat. We take turns sleeping as the clothes spin, first in the washer and then in the dryer. Kim’s eye makeup is running down her face and she uses the back of her hand to wipe the tears away. For some reason Kim doesn’t like to be seen crying, not only in front of me but in front of anyone. She is so exhausted. We had little between us to begin with, and now the clothes from our backs are sopping wet and full of brown water. I look over at her to see that she has fallen asleep on the clothes piled on the folding table.

8 Balls and the House on Dana Part 16

Kim and I take turns calling the electric company, the phone company, and the landlord, all from the gas station pay phone. Kim calls The Half Moon Café and explains that we can’t make it to work because of the flood in our apartment. On the phone, Kim is met by the sound of skepticism in Jodi’s voice. “Well, come in when you can,” Jodi replies flippantly before hanging up. 

A deep guttural sound grows out of Kim as she slams the receiver again and again against the phone. I reach out and touch her on the shoulder. She quickly turns to me, buries her face in my chest, and begins sobbing uncontrollably.

It is a full two days before the landlord even shows up at our apartment. We have already pulled everything apart, cleaned, scrubbed, and thrown out almost anything that the water has touched and destroyed. Water stains start about three feet from the floor on all the walls. The entire apartment stinks of mold and mildew. We are devastated.

“Hello!” chirps the landlord, as he lets himself into the front hallway with his key. The carpet he stands on is squishy with water that pools around his feet. “Looks like you had quite a problem here,” he says, trying not to show in his face just how bad things really are. “Well,” he says, pausing to look around, “The good news is that nobody is dead.” Then he snickers. Kim and I look at each other. Her eyebrows shoot up to the top of her head.

“So this happened because they repaved with the little round stones next door?” The landlord runs his finger around what is left of the window frame. “Well, it rained before they paved and nothing like this has ever happened,” Kim says. The landlord makes a “snort” sound and walks further into the house. Kim grasps her upper thighs with her hands, trying to remain calm.

“Well,” says the landlord again as he begins to walk the full length of the apartment, looking at all the damage. “I have called the insurance company, but this seems to be flood damage, and we don’t live near any place that should flood so …” His voice trails off as his eyes land on the kitchen window. 

Quickly recovering, he smiles and says, “Any-hoo, I will have my men replace this window. I need to speak to the business next door about replacing their driveway with a substance that won’t flood your house and insurance should be here within the next couple of days.”

“We lost everything.” Kim mumbles. “Well, look at the bright side,” says the landlord as he moves towards the front door and pauses to look back. “You now get a chance to start over.”

Two days later the landlord’s men fix the window and within the  week the insurance company comes to survey the damage. A guy with a name tag reading “Bill” fills out a lot of forms. Three weeks later it rains again.

8 Balls and the House on Dana Part 17

Cindy moves into the apartment with Kim and me. Kim and I now share what used to be her bedroom and Cindy has taken over what used to be my bedroom. Neither room has a door, so we attach bed sheets to the inside of the frames to hang down and cover the openings. We joke that it’s very exotic, sort of like living in a tent. The downside is that a bed sheet can’t keep various things out. This would include cats, music, and the sounds of your roommates’ voices. You always know what is going on in the apartment.

All of us are home when it begins to rain again. We are sitting on what’s left of our crappy sofa in the living room, staring into space. We all stop when we hear the sound of thunder and the “tick, tick” sound of rain hitting glass. We look at each other and I immediately walk into the kitchen to look out the window. Our next-door neighbors still have not changed their driveway filler from the little black stones to a tar pavement as promised. The landlord allegedly spoke with them and supposedly worked out some deal, but nothing seems to have changed. The landlord probably worked it out over a “ten year” plan.

The sky darkens and the clouds open up. The rain begins to fall. From my window view, I can see it once again hitting the little black stones and bouncing off. Just like last time, the water begins to rush over and around the little black stones and suddenly there is a river of water heading right for the window.

“Holy Fuck!” I scream as Cindy and Kim come running into the kitchen. True to form, the water  hits the well and starts to splash and jump against the window again. Quickly, the level in the well begins to rise. “Paper towels! Paper towels!” I scream, as if I were a Captain ordering a submarine and its crew to submerge.

We all jump into action. Cindy runs through the house and starts trying to get everything up off the floor. Kim grabs the mop and a roll of paper towels, and I run to the bathroom, grab towels, and begin to shove them around the frame of the window. Within moments the bottom of the glass window in the kitchen explodes and the water pours into our house again.

It is all-out chaos as we back away and join Cindy in getting everything to higher ground, “Screw the paper towels,” Kim yells and throws them into the rapidly-moving water. The water is moving just as fast as it was the first time. It spills out of the bottom of the window, hits the kitchen floor, and begins to run for the rest of the house. Everyone is screaming as the cats watch from the top of the stove.

As the water rushes past the boiler it again blows out the flame. The apartment hasn’t dried out from the first attack yet, and most of our possessions and the clothes that retained their musty smell all went out to the curb for the garbage men a week ago. We have little-to-nothing left, but the rain has returned to claim whatever it can find.

The water runs across the living room, leaks into the bedrooms, splashes into the bathroom. It picks up the litter box on its way, spinning it into the wall. At least this time I know how this is going to end. Kim and Cindy are screaming, but their voices become mixed with the sound of the water.

I’m done. I’m tired. I’m exhausted, and my relationship with Kim is over. Moving Cindy in was so that Kim could live with a steady, sane person. I’m a wreck. I’m a mess and I’m about to blow out of frustration. I grab the mop by the handle, stomp into the kitchen, and begin to smash out all the windows in the apartment.

Kim and Cindy don’t know what to do. Tears are streaming down my face. I have nothing. I am nothing. There is nothing to live for. I hear myself screaming as the mop punches holes in the glass.