My long-time friend and contractor, Rob, has been doing some work at my rental property this week. The tenant in the upper unit moved out, leaving the place nasty, so I decided to take the easy way out and pay Rob to fix it up for me. Rob’s been going to the local hardware store 3 blocks away from the house to grab stuff he forgets he needs.
When I called him last night to get a progress report, he told me “Cindy says hello.” I asked where he’d seen her.
“At the hardware store, actually, she’s told me twice now to say hello to you.”
“She’s working there again?”
“No kidding. Well, what did she say?”
“Nothing, she just said to say hello.”
“Rob, c’mon, I want the dirt. Does she still live in the neigborhood? Is she still married? Does she have any kids?”
“I don’t know.”
“Aaarggh, guys just don’t know they’re supposed to get the dirt… Does she know where I’m at, what I’m up to, about my girlfriend?”
“How should I know, we just talked about hardware.”
“Oh puleeaazee, do your job will ya? You’re supposed to find this stuff out when you run into my old friends.”
“Well, why don’t you call her?”
“Nope, can’t open that door again.”
Opening that door a third time shouldn’t happen. By the time she was my tenant in the upstairs apartment of my house our friendship was on the second round. I’d already forgiven, and tried to forget, some shit she pulled when she was a guest at my family’s cottage. She pissed me off and I didn’t talk to her for a while after that. I blamed it on her partying lifestyle that I was so attracted to. Cindy was fun, a blast, and we had a great time. Sometimes she went overboard.
Eventually I ran into her again. I realized that I’d missed her and since I was pretty much over her previous misbehavior, I decided we could try to be friends again. Things went well. A short while later she needed a place to live to get away from her abusive boyfriend. It seemed to me she had a history of abusive boyfriends, this was the second one I knew about and I’d seen her with bruises more than once. I wanted to help so I let her move in. Yeah, I broke the “never rent to your friends” rule.
The now ex-boyfriend harassed us both. Threatening phone calls to her, and to me! She went out one night when I was away and he followed her home and tried to get in the house. I came home and stepped on broken glass on the porch and realized that the window in the door had been replaced. He had broken it trying to get in, she was really sorry. Eventually he went away, some trouble with an arrest warrant in his home town or something.
Life was good for a while, things were working out. Cindy was working, I was in school and worked part-time. All of her jobs were a bonus to me – I benefitted from everything she did. She worked for a landscaping service, so she did some landscaping at the house. In the winter, the landscaping company did snow removal, so the driveway was plowed all the time. She worked for the hardware store, so she got a discount on anything I needed for the house, and she made contacts with loads of contractors that could do anything I needed to have done. Before she moved in she had worked as a plumber’s apprentice, so anytime there was a plumbing problem she could fix it.
Gourmet cooking was Cindy’s hobby, her passion. Boy, did I benefit from this. I never was much for cooking for myself, mostly living on soup and sandwiches or take-out. I would come home from the library or work and get the call from upstairs “Did you eat yet? C’mon up!” She was an amazing cook. Another vocation of Cindy’s was dealing. Mostly pot, sometimes hash or coke. I knew this when she moved in and had warned her to keep the traffic to a minimum. I knew most of her friends and acquaintances at that point and wasn’t too worried about it. After all, I needed the rent too and thought I could control what was going on in my house. Besides, that was convenient for me too. If I felt like partying all I had to do was go upstairs and dip my hand in the proverbial candy jar.
Both of us went through a string of bad relationships in the time she lived at my house. I always chose guys that were emotionally unavailable, addicted or gay, or some combination of the three. Her choices had always been worse, in addition to emotionally unavailable and addicted, she was attracted to the bad boy element which usually included the potential for physical abuse, general violence or criminal activity. We’d both grown up in upper-middle class suburbia but her life had a much harder edge than mine. She wasn’t physically abused when growing up, I don’t think, but she was adopted, emotionally abused and had more of an addictive personality than me. Sometimes she acted like she was trailer trash.
There was a rare period of time she was single for a while, this was after a tenth or twelvth abortion. This was unbelievable to me. I am all for choice, and I can certainly understand making a mistake once, even twice, but as a method of birth control?!? I think her self-esteem and the addictions got the better of her, causing a huge lack of judgement. I don’t think the pregnancies were intentional unless she was trying to see if some guy was gonna stick it out with her. She said she wanted kids. I couldn’t imagine her as a parent.
We had become pretty close. We would joke around like we were married and she’d say things like “yes, dear, whatever you say” in pseudo-spousal mockery whenever I’d admonish her for some activity I didn’t approve of. Somewhere along the way we decided that if neither of us found a male life partner by the time we were 40, we would be together. This was her idea. She repeated it fairly often, but seemed cavalier about it. I don’t think she realized that sort of scenario was a real consideration for me, back then I considered myself “open-minded” – bisexual I guess. I had always been open-minded, believing that you love the person not the gender. I just hadn’t had any experience with women other than a single drunken threesome initiated and orchestrated by a friend’s horny boyfriend some 10 years previous. Anyway, Cindy was good friends with a lesbian couple who seemed to have a really good relationship. I think she was envious, and maybe that’s where the idea came from.
One night after an evening out drinking, she crawled into my bed, woke me up and asked if she could stay. When I said okay, thinking she just wanted to crash. (We’d shared sleeping space a few times before, mostly after partying and before she lived upstairs.) She got up, went upstairs, washed, brushed her teeth, and came back downstairs. I wondered where she’d gone, but had drifted out again until she came back. She crawled into the bed and started rubbing my back and pressing herself against me. I realized she was naked and asked what was going on. She said she wanted to make love to me and asked if it was okay. This was a surprise to me. She said she always wanted to know what it was like to make love to a woman, just once, to find out if we could please each other. I thought, ‘yeah, why not?’ and said okay. So, we fumbled through.
I don’t remember now how I really felt about it afterwards. I mean, I’d written about what had happened shortly afterwards but only described the events and had not gotten as far as writing how I actually felt about it. I was surprised by her aggressiveness, she was pretty determined to satisfy her curiosity. I’d gotten the sense that if I’d not wanted to, I’d have had to have been equally aggressive in saying no. She’d also made it clear in advance that she wanted it to be a one time thing. It seemed to me this was to protect herself from having to deal with whether she actually liked it. She could justify it because she really just needed to be with someone, needed the skin, and oh well, it happened to be a woman. I think then, while I hadn’t really enjoyed it all that much, I was somewhat pleased it had happened because I remember telling my lesbian friends about it. So, while it was not really positive for my relationship with Cindy, it was positive in that it broadened my sexual experience. And, hey, I’d gotten laid.
Even before this event, things had started to go downhill. Her hard living was starting to get to me. I was trying to study, work, be responsible, and she’d be upstairs blasting music and pounding the floor. The traffic was bugging me. The noise was bugging me. The late night porch parties on weeknights were bugging me and my neighbors. She got arrested for driving with a suspended license and had her car impounded, and she needed me to bail her out. I remember picking her up and asking her when she was gonna quit. Quit living the hard life; the drugs, the men, the traffic, it was all wearing her out and getting her in trouble. She knew it. She laid low… for a while.
Eventually things got bad again, then worse. I really knew by then I had made a mistake renting to her, and the wear and tear on my property was starting to worry me. I had been thinking about asking her to leave. She was my friend and I loved her. I wanted to see her do well, clean up her act but I couldn’t help her. As much as I enjoyed occaisionally partying with her and her friends, her counter-productive lifestyle was impinging heavily on my own endeavors to grow up. I was finishing school, starting a career, had spent three years in counseling and wanted a sane life. Having her there was starting to exhaust me.
The final straw was when her cat ate my bird. My apartment door was open because I was taking the garbage out. It was a Thursday night and she was having another party. One of her guests left her apartment door ajar and her cat got out. The cat came into my apartment and grabbed my bird who was out of his cage. By the time my friend Ron got me and the bird to the emergency vet, the bird had suffered too much trauma to be saved and had to be euthanized. I was hysterical that day and upset for a long time after. A week later I told her she had to move. I understood that the cat was doing what cats do but that it was her responsibility to look after the cat and she hadn’t done that. I also made it clear that it wasn’t this incident in particular that prompted my decision but the accumulation of her behaviors over the two years she’d lived there. It was impossible for me to continue having her there, as much as I loved her. She understood.
That was six years ago. I’ve only seen her a few times since then, the last time being four years ago at Nina’s house. She was with Mike, an African-American guy she’d been with for some time, and either they had just gotten married or were going to get married. I don’t remember now. He was nice, and seemed to really love her. What was funny was that they both had the same last name, it being very common, and she wouldn’t have to change her name. She seemed happy, and I was happy for her. At the same time I wasn’t optimisitic, there was nothing different about her that I could see, it seemed she was still partying heavily and Mike seemed to be too.
So yeah, I wish I could talk to her now. See how she’s doing, what she’s doing, if she’s happy. I always liked her because we had a similar background and interests. Something tells me though, that she hasn’t changed enough for it to be safe for me to be friends with her a third time. She’s working at the hardware store again. That in itself makes it likely that not much is different. I can’t get caught up in her life again but I still miss her sometimes.
You write so beautifully. I really feel like I know Cindy – I certainly know women like Cindy – but you really brought her alive and made this entry both poignant and realistic.
Wow, what a great story.
We have all known Cindys in our day. I believe we call them bipolar or borderline.
Your handyman was right not to delve. Some doors are best left locked.
Thanks, both of you.
It had been so long since I’d thought of her that it was almost shocking when Rob mentioned seeing her. The memories came rushing back the minute I told him I couldn’t call her – to remind me why I couldn’t. Instead of calling someone to talk about old hash, I wrote it instead. Interestly, in the process I realized that I had loved her more than I thought. At the same time, I also realized was more sad for the past gone by than any great need to see or talk to her again.
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