October 03, 2005

Things that go &*#$@! in the night

My two housemates and I moved next door a few weeks ago. One of my housemates, the official Delightful Housemate, is a fellow graduate student. The other, who is also delightful, is a funny, sweet 63-year-old woman who drives the short bus for a living. The three of us had been renting rooms in a lovely house when we were all displaced at the same time when the landlord, who happens to be my more elderly housemateâs son-in-law, decided that he wanted his house back so he could fuck his wife without his mother-in-law overhearing. The townhouse next door came up for rent at the same time, so hey presto, the three of us moved together about 50 feet.

Well, almost. The two grad students who kept to themselves moved. The underfoot mother-in-law has not actually moved into the new place yet, since, as she keeps pointing out, her daughter doesnât really want her to go. This worked out well last weekend when my darling baby sister and her positively wonderful boyfriend came to stay, because the third bedroom was wide open for them to sleep in.

The house is really big. That is to say, itâs very tall. Itâs the classic townhouse approach to things, where they cunningly took a pretty small foundation and built up and up to make a big house. During the day, I really like it.

At night, it gets about five times bigger, and my one extant housemate gets a lot further away. His room is on the third floor, which, given the way that he sleeps and that sound fails to travel in this house, might as well be another building altogether. My room is on the first floor, right across from what looks like actual wood but is, in my late-night opinion, a deceptively flimsy front door. Also featured on the first floor is the garage, the interior door to which must be kept unlocked at all times because some genius made it unlockable only from the garage side and no one has the key to the laundry room side of the knob. The exterior door of the garage appears to be latched shut by a single rusty nail. The living room and kitchen, unpopulated at night except by me, intervene on the second floor.

In the old house, we were about thirty feet further away from the street along the same long driveway, but there was also a garden with a gate and a screen door that locked and a heavy wood door with two locks and a door and another door before you could get into my room. Here, weâre closer to the street, in a highly desirable area of Santa Cruz, which means that itâs immediately foot-accessible to the beach/boardwalk and to downtown, and that itâs in a neighborhood where people routinely pay a million and a half dollars for a modest home where they can find syringes, or more rarely the whole junkie, on their front lawn in the morning, and where, from my house, I not infrequently hear crackheads screaming at each other, or at the air, from the âbad streetâ down the hill. I absolutely love this area; itâs close to everything except campus, so I donât actually feel like Iâm at work all the time. Except â ulp â at night when Iâm feeling like the only law-abiding night owl around.

Last night, my Delightful Housemate had gone to bed ridiculously early, as is his wont, and I was up somewhat late trying to get both paper-grading and laundry done. The net result was that, at 12:30 AM, I was both deranged with mental fatigue and wired on coffee, and bouncing around the laundry room looking like a little girl foolishly doing laundry all by herself at night, when I distinctly heard someone rattle the front doorknob. Quite calmly, I turned around: the doorknob was absolutely being rattled, and quite thoroughly at that. âIt must be our third housemate,â I told myself. âOh yes. Absolutely. Of course sheâs up at this hour and coming in for something.â Through the laundry room window, I couldnât see anything, because the light inside was lit and I was the only thing clearly illuminated. Through the peephole in the front door, nothing, because of course Iâd turned the porch light off. Whoever was outside entirely failed to call out in a sweet and elderly voice for me to unlock the door.

In one of those flashes of utter clarity that so frequently happen when youâre scared out of your pants, I realized that, stupidly, while I was bouncing around on the blazingly illuminated first floor of the house, up on the dark and creaky second floor I had left the door to the balcony, which is accessible through the dark backyard via an unlatched door around the dark side of the driveway, wide open. Stupid, stupid, stupid, I thought, pausing long enough to turn off every light on the first floor and latch my bathroom window before racing upstairs to shut the balcony door. I was halfway across the dark living room when I heard someone pounding up the front stairs after me.

I am sorry to say that I screamed, with great precision, the words âJESUS CHRIST SON OF A MOTHERFUCKING BITCH!!â right into the face of a 63-year-old woman who was coming in to retrieve the coffee grinder weâd borrowed, so that she could have coffee waiting for her daughter and son-in-law when they returned from a trip this morning. I am very sorry that I nearly sent her reeling backward down a flight of stairs, which, though covered with comfy carpet, are nonetheless narrow and vertiginous. I am also sorry that she had to spend the next few minutes patting me on the back while I hyperventilated. She really did scare the crap out of me.

I am unsure which I am the most sorry about: that my Delightful Housemate failed to hear any of this, or that Iâll feel a lot safer when a woman who is eligible for the Tuesday senior discount at Gottschalks moves into the room next door, where she can protect me.

Posted by katie at October 3, 2005 05:56 PM

This is a) utterly delightful and b) an entirely appropriate first post for a blog with "emergency" in the title. For your reference, what you made me almost spit all over my laptop at the beginning of the second-to-last paragraph was a mouthful of tortilla and strawberry jam.

It was the precision of which you spoke that really made it sublime.

Posted by: your darling baby sister at October 3, 2005 06:55 PM

Thanks, dude. Why are we both such weenies, anyway? And why does the house always get bigger when everyone's asleep, instead of small and cocoony?

For the record, since I just realized that I've given fairly precise instructions on how to break into my house and scare me, let it be known: as of now, all locks are locked, all slender and rusty nails are nailed, and all gates are wedged shut. And I'm sleeping with my hockey stick under my bed, and I've got a semi-mean left wrist shot that I'm not very afraid to use.

Posted by: katie at October 3, 2005 09:30 PM

Man, I do not know. Even my tiny tiny tiny house gets enormous when it gets to be late and dark and quiet. And my fucking floors are so creaky that if one of the cats moves a paw to lean over the food dish I, in the other room, think I'm hearing sneaking surreptitious goblins coming to pull my legs off and gnaw on them with their big snaggly teeth.

How soon will you have a sweet elderly lady next door to protect you, anyway?

Posted by: Dianna at October 4, 2005 11:05 AM