I live on a quiet street in a nice neighborhood, in a house that is actually two apartments. The first floor is a three bedroom apartment, and the second floor is a separate three bedroom apartment.
What makes the house interesting is that it is the third of four identical houses on that particular block, all in a row. Alternating houses are mirror-images of each other.
As the third house in the line, our large dining room windows look out across twelve feet of scrub brush into the large dining room windows of our neighbors in House 2. For most of my time there, those neighbors have been a gaggle of young gay men, all Pitt students.
They were rarely home, but when they were, they were usually shirtless. Unlike our house, their house had a finished basement, with two more bedrooms, for a total of five bedrooms and five twinky gay boys.
When summer started, many of the gay boys went home to various tiny, not-quite-glam-enough Ohio and Penna. townships, to suffer out the summer in neo-christian hyper-moral misery. They found a few subletters last minute, and then, oddly, those subletters found subletters.
One of these subletters we’ll call Sven. He’s the guy who first triggered little raspy whines from my sketch-o-meter, mostly for his habit of wearing track pants at night, especially while on his phone out on his house’s front deck. I would later find out from SGT. EARTH (who crazily enough became one of the abovementioned subsubletters) that he was on the phone with his ‘bitches’ because he was a ‘pimp’, and that on some weekends Sven would bring over ‘random female friends of his’ and give them a place to ‘earn some money doing massages’, money which he would split with them, ‘generously’.
It also turned out that though he looked like a thirty-year-old serious russian-gangster type, Sven was actually a thirty-year-old lispy raver, and that many of his track pants were a little too dayglo for everyday wear, if you catch my E-fueled drift.
His generally sketchitude was nothing, though, in comparison to a young woman we’ll call Beverly, the first of Sven’s subsubletters.
I first became aware of Beverly when I noticed, while glancing from my dining room into theirs, that someone had brought a giant neon-green dragon-dino plushy into the house. I thought, “Hmm… that dragon doesn’t go with ANYTHING. The gayboys would never have bought it. They must have a new, possibly psychedelic roommate.”
I was not wrong. She made herself known on the deck some hours later, a svelte young-but-vaguely-old-looking woman, chain smoking and wearing a feathery backpack made out of, it looked like, the shredded carcass of Toucan Sam. She had dragged from some room in the house a CHAIR IN THE SHAPE OF A HAND, her crazy throne on their front patio. I waved, and she waved back.
A few weeks later, I came home to find a couple of squad cars out front, and Sven and Beverly sitting on the front patio, guarded by a cop. Apparently, while repairing House #1′s basement, a crony of the landlord that owned both those properties (but not my house), discovered that Sven had sub-subletted, and had threatened eviction that very day. Beverly had called the cops on this also-tattooed-and-vaguely russian crony, as Penna., like most states, has half-decent renter’s laws, and notice and such are required for an eviction. Bev and Sven got to stay, at least for then, but the Crony talked to his bosses and they started the eviction process.
Two days later, in a completely unrelated incident, I watched the cops frog-walk Beverly out of the house in handcuffs. She spent the night in jail.
The story with that is this: Beverly has a boyfriend named Jimmy. Jimmy is a punk-looking guy from the South Side, semi-demi-homeless, and 30 though he looks 17. Jimmy and Beverly like each other, but sometimes they like to strangle each other. Not metaphorically, either: hands-around-throats strangling, and not the fun kinky kind.
Beverly and Jimmy have been strangling each other long enough that they are under court order not to see each other. But, in a sort of masochistic Romeo and Juliet move (actually, thinking about the end of that play, maybe it is just a regular-type Romeo and Juliet move), Jimmy routinely shows up at three in the morning looking for a place to sleep and a girl to sleep with. Sometimes that goes fine, and I look out my dining room windows to see them eating eggs together at breakfast, but sometimes this goes poorly, and the strangling begins, and the other roommates call the cops, and then one or both of them go to jail.
(Hilarious aside: I once overheard Bev and Sven fighting, loudly. The subject was this: why was it cool with all the roommates for Sven to use the house as a pimping-spot for random sketchy women, when it was not cool by everyone for Bev to bring over a single sketchy guy?)
Around or just before the arresting began, SGT. EARTH moved in, and I suddenly had an excuse to stop by and chat with all of them, and thus learn the very details I am here reporting.
The eviction progressed- Sven left the house first, in late June. A bevy of beautiful blonds helped him move out. I presumed they were his ‘bitches’. Bev is scheduled to leave today.
A few days ago, I was sitting on their front porch, hanging out with SGT. EARTH and Beverly, and Beverly was telling us her plans: she was moving back to Middle-of-Nowhere county, PA, to help her brother kick is oxycotten habit. She lamented that she was now the only family member who ‘gave a flying fuck’, despite (or, I later realized, perhaps because of) ‘the bat thing’.
“What bat thing?” I asked.
“Oh, yeah, when we were little, me and my brother were BAD. We were terrible! So terrible, that once, he took an aluminum baseball bat to my face. My mother told him, she fuckin’ told him, ‘Oh, now you’ve done it boy, you’ve gone and killed your sister. She’s dead!’ But I wasn’t dead, I was just all bloodied up.”
“What the fuck!”
“I know, right! That’s why I’ve got this metal plate in my face! I’m like the fucking Terminator now. But he’s all fucked up, and I gotta go help him.”
“Yeah?” asked SGT. EARTH.
“Yeah. I’m gonna start by punching him in the face.”
“What?” said Earthfirst. “Why would you do that?”
“No one else in my family would.” she said. She paused. “No one else gives a fuck.”
She went on to describe some other incidents that occurred near or because of her extended family, all of them of an ‘OH GOD THE HUMANITY!’ variety.
After this barrage of stories of sketchiness, I thought I would tell her my own story-of-sketch.
The story I told her was, to this day, the sketchiest thing that ever happened to me, but it was maybe an order of magnitude less sketchy than the stories she told, so I’m thankful for that.
This is that story:
A few years ago I was living in an apartment with two CMU architecture students, Jake and Sammy. Sammy was a girl. Jake and Sammy were occasional users of psychadelic drugs, and though they were both seeing other people, there were nights I would come home to find them high out of their minds, intertwined on the living room couch. Later, I would usually hear them fucking.
Anyway, we had parties at that apartment, and though I would not call them ‘drug parties’, we did not discourage anyone from bringing or using drugs, especially if they shared around.
(I can proudly say, though, that at the time I was a bit of an alcoholic, and passed on the E and the mushrooms and the LSD and the marijuana and the cut-up-Adderal in favor of Wild Turkey mixed with Jack Daniels.)
So there were parties, and drugs occurred to people at these parties, and it was generally great: we were like a modern salon, or a saloon. We had a wall decorated with a grid of old trippy album covers. When a local hairdresser went out of business, we acquired a real working hair-drying chair, weird translucent head-ball intact.
Sometimes my roommates took enough drugs that they decide to paint our walls (strictly against the lease). Usually, in the morning, there would be half-started little drawings, and a lot of misspelled and misderived French.
At one of these parties, my friend Alice arrived with her ‘party-hobo’, Hans. Hans was not yet known as the party hobo, but a few weeks later everyone would be talking about “that weird party hobo that Alice keeps bringing to parties.” We were, as it were, the initial party that lent Hans his party-hobo name.
Hans was tall, thin, with snakebite piercing at the corners of his mouth. He was dressed like a footsoldier in some sort of Darkwave (that horrible mix of Goth and Raver culture) Army. What really did it was the hat he wore, a black Columbian-Paramilitary style field-cap, with the Playboy bunny logo inscribed in it with pink sequins.
When Alice brought him in to the room, he stuck his hand out, and in the deeply insincere manner of a Whitechapel street urchin, said “Pleased to meet you sir!” and began, immediately, with his eyes, to case the place. Behind the haze of obvious high, I could see little cash register wheels spinning as he totaled up our belongings’ street value.
Hans introduced himself as a party promoter and male stripper, but it came out as the night progressed that his income was split five ways, pretty evenly, between party promotion, male stripping, drug dealing, illicit nocturnal activities, and outright crime.
It was this last part that was deeply troubling to me. Sure, he seemed nice enough right now, drunkenly strumming my roommate’s guitar and giving heavy, interesting glances to both the boys and girls in the room, Alice and myself included. But what might happen days or weeks from now, when he falls on hard times, and needs to figure out who he is going to rob? He’ll just make a bee-line to my apartment, is what he’ll do! Oh, god!
That’s when I started drinking more heavily, and trying to figure out how I could covertly inform Alice that she needed to get this guy THE FUCK OUT OF HERE before he figured out where he was.
(I actually asked him once during the evening, point blank, “hey, Hans, do you even know where you are right now?”. “NO MAN! I’m SOOOOOO HIGH! ARE WE IN SHADYSIDE?” We were not in Shadyside.)
The next thing that happened can only be described in cinematic terms. It is what they call a ‘jump cut’ – an immediate, abrupt switch from one scene right in to the next.
We are sitting on couches in a run down, vaguely be-muraled apartment, drunk or high beyond all reason.
Hans, staring at the ceiling, half laughing, his eyes starting to go all hourglass, like goat eyes: “I’m SOOO HIGH! ARE WE IN SHADYSIDE?”
Now i’m unzipping my fly. I’m in the bathroom, alone, just starting to pee an epic pee. It’s hours later, four or five in the morning. I hear a groan behind me, the kind of sound a recently-shot cow might make.
I turn, and the peestream turns with me, coursing over the tile wall next to the toilet, redirecting as it streams across the outcropped corner. I abruptly stop, because Hans is in the bathtub, absolutely passed out, his shirt awash in vomit. His stupid black hat is crooked, almost off his head. It’s brim is just touching the sick-pool, pulling it’s disgusting juices up through the miracle of capillary action.
He’s turned just enough to one side that I feel confident that he won’t choke on his vomit, if he keeps vomiting. I finish my pee and walk out into the hall. Most everyone is gone- Alice is passed out on the couch, Hans is in the bathtub. Jake and Sammy are… somewhere.
Jump cut again – I’m now horizontal, passed out in my bed. Some kind of fuckery is going on in another room, but who it is and why I have no idea, nor care. I am asleep.
I woke up at dawn. It seemed that the night before, I had not only opened the shades on my windows, I had also taken a mirror from the hall and put it near my headboard. To this day I don’t know why. The point is, dawn was bright as fuck, and I was, miraculously, only ‘oh god’ hung over, not ‘puking on Hans’ hung over. Actually, that hangover had a lot of similarities with a marijuana high- I felt all fucked up and slightly mellowed, but also, intensely, acutely paranoid.
I stumbled out into the hall. I looked in the bathroom- Hans was still passed out, and, thankfully, breathing.
I went out into the living room. Alice was asleep on the couch, her arms and legs sticking out in random directions, like a cat.
I shook her awake. “Alice! Hey, Alice!”
“When did you and Hans last do drugs?”
“We took some LSD right before bed.”
“Do you think he knows where he is?”
“FUCK NO! I’m still all fucked up, and he took tons more than me!”
“Alice, here’s forty dollars. Get him the fuck out of my house before he figures out where I live. Go have breakfast. Have breakfast in Shadyside. Or something. Spend in more drugs? Just get him out, and make sure he doesn’t know where I live.”
At the profferment of free money, she sat right up. I watched as she woke up Hans. They spent about five minutes getting the vomit off of his clothing, and about twenty minutes preening and doing up their hair.
And they were gone. I checked up on the whole “How much does he know” situation a few times over the next few weeks, and Alice assured me that for all he knew, we had had the party in Brooklyn. There was little of that night he remembered, and my apartment’s location was not one of those details.
I told all this to Beverly, on her patio, a week or so before her eminent eviction.
Note, here, that if one was to draw a graph of the sketchiness factor of my life with respect to time, it would be relatively low and flat, with a general rising trend during my stay with Jake and Sammy in that apartment, and a definite, abrupt spike during that night. After Jake and Sammy moved out, it stayed pretty low, until I moved briefly to Los Angeles, where it rose again to Jake-and-Sammy-living levels. Never, though, did it approach the level of Hansnacht.
Not until this most recent subletter-and-subsubletter drama did it rise to even within an order of magnitude of Hansnacht.
(Beverly’s sketch-o-meter, for reference, probably started around Hansnacht levels and just kind of sine-waved across the graph, peaking well above Hansnacht, but never dipping far below it.)
And so it was to my great surprise and amazement that Beverly responded to the story thusly:
“Hans, you said his name was? He hangs out on the South Side a lot?”
“Yeah.” I said.
“And that hat- the black one, it’s got a pink playboy bunny and a stain on the brim?”
“Oh FUCK! I gotta tell Jimmy!” she said.
“I thought you guys were, you know, court ordered and shit. What with the strangling.” I said.
“Oh, whatever. I gotta tell him, though, about Hans!”
“Why? Do they know each other?”
“KNOW EACH OTHER!? Hans fuckin’ pulled a GUN on Jimmy two years ago. Robbed him and shit!”
“Oh, wow!” I said, in a tone not nearly as excited as my internal “OH SHIT!”
The two local highs in my sketch-o-meter graph were, indeed, horrifying fractal sketch-echos of each other. Sketch-o-soidal waves, as it were.
“Yeah!” Beverly continued. “I want to punch that motherfucker in the face! Jimmy would too!”
I had nothing to say to that, save the thought that Beverly, Old-Testiment-style, apparently facepunches both out of hatred, and love.