the red brita pitcher

November was a busy month, so much so I wasn’t paying to my normal routines. I was just going on automatic.

Wake up. Eat food. Make coffee. Write, write, write. Sleep. Rinse, repeat.

Last month, with its major boon of work, was a blessing and a curse. I needed the work, but so much of it was tedious. It took me away from NaNoWriMo — and I had to even finish that in a flurry last week.

I was busy for three weeks straight, just writing writing writing.

Then there was a bit of a break and things got back to normal i.e., not so busy I don’t pay attention to the world around me.

One morning a week or so ago, I went to the refrigerator and pulled out my red Brita pitcher of water to make some coffee. I noticed it was full and coated with white, hard water stains.

It suddenly dawned me that I hadn’t been filling this pitcher much at all.

I had a rhythm of filling it probably every other day, and I hadn’t for weeks.

Not by choice, but I live in the same house as a rather mentally unstable old man and another old man that I never see, whom I call the shut-in.

The unstable old man is a chronic smoker and has a horrible sense of boundaries, physical but mostly energetic and emotional.

He is a walking sack of bones and leathery skin. He doesn’t take good care of himself. He’s always having stomach issues, and I assume most of it is self-inflicted. One time, he randomly told me that he was fine. He had had some bad chicken that smelled bad.

Maybe I shouldn’t’ve have cooked it, he said.

Apparently, he must have gotten sick, but between noise-canceling headphones and earplugs at night, I didn’t hear anything. I have heard him get sick since.

These owners brought this man while I was away helping a friend move. Oh well, they get their money.

Meanwhile, I’ve had to be like a den mother without much mothering, because the kitchen was always a wreck. So many conversations about cleanliness. Even now, the kitchen has weird gnats (not fruit flies) that I can’t seem to get rid of.

Months ago, closer to when this unfortunate man arrived in May, the other old man and I had talked him about about getting his own Brita pitcher.

Oh yeah, I’ll go to Walmart and get one for myself, he says.

No pitcher showed up. Of course.

Instead, old plastic half-gallon bottles of milk have been used. Our water has a sulfurous smell. Brita is the minimum to have decent-tasting water. Getting fountain drinks around here can mean great soda soured by tap-water ice.

We had Hurricane Irma roll through in September. I left for Chicago because at this point, after 4 months of living with this man, with his chronic smoker’s cough, and an episode of him smoking in his room and in the house, the horrendous smells that come from his “cooking”–I just needed to get away.

I knew the power was going to go out (shitty power grid), and I didn’t want to be stuck with someone who was a bag of inconsideration and instability.

I told the two old men that they could use my pitcher, just in case that water wasn’t potable.

That must have opened a door in this man’s little crackpot mind…

Even though Hurricane Irma threatened to be devastating, by the time it got to our side of town, it was never that bad besides our home losing power for a week.

I was so glad to not be here for almost two weeks, hanging out with friends and working in Chicago. The ole bag o’ bones was like, and is like, this haunting spirit who drains people of their energy.

The shut-in brought me back from the airport where I learned that this energy vamp had been living in the woods near our neighborhood for twelve years.

12 years.

Maybe a couple of weeks before I noticed my stained pitcher, I had to have yet another conversation about taking the trash out more often–which is why the gnats are there in the first place.

I cleaned the trash can thoroughly. Doesn’t matter, though. The gnats are going to be around for a while until I ask for fumigation, which I will this month.

The other old man has given up on his cleaning duties–OK, he never does, because shut-in. But he doesn’t take out the trash either, because technically it was his time to do it.

Maybe these dudes switch months, I don’t know.

Whatever. Anyway. This conversation about taking the trash in a timely manner turned into a conversation about the nosy neighbor across the street because the woman living in the mother-in-law suite next door had been taken to the hospital via ambulance. Again. And again, we didn’t know about it.

The daughter of this woman had become friends with the nosy  neighbor, so somehow Energy Vamp had talked to her.

He told her, “You’re nosy, aren’t you?”

So yeah, it was actually a sane conversation. It was also revelatory, because he talked about his experiences of social rejection.

  • Apparently, the cops were called on him for allegedly saying the n-word at a local restaurant.
  • When he was riding his bike, someone called the cops, accusing him of theft.
  • Someone else accused him of theft and he spent six months in jail for it.

He went on to talk about how he knows he can get chatty but how people are basically repelled by it.

I could break here and talk about how his mental illness is preventing him from picking up on obvious social cues.

I could also talk about his feelings of oppression may be pointing to psychosis. He’s not working for a reason.

I could also talk about how this reminds me of living with my father during my last year at home–a forced gap year due to my dad’s own unwinding, unquiet mind.

I could talk about how all of this has been clearly triggering me and that I’m repeating some similar behaviors of survival. And hell, those behaviors worked the first time, and they seem to be working again.

But honestly–I’ve worked through most of that. It doesn’t matter to me why this is happening anymore. It is happening. It is draining. And I don’t need it to happen to me anymore.

I had a brief moment of compassion–it might have lasted days–about that, because we all deserve compassion and connection. It helped me heal some things with my father that I didn’t even think needed healing.

Those are big things. I don’t sneeze or sneer at them, at all. One day I may even be grateful for them.

But at the same time, even though in the past as a social worker, I worked with clients just like him, it’s much different living with someone who has a history of homelessness and is on SSDI.

To have my only interactions be about ADLs (activities of daily living) is a fucking drain–and if I even wanted to consider his feelings, then yes, it’s a drain on him, too. This guy is old enough to be my father, and yet, once again, I’m in the parent role.

It’s a fucking drain. It’s infuriating. I deserve better.

It’s a drain to live with someone who cannot have a presence of mind, period. He is not my relative and, even if he was, it is not my job to be his social worker.

So, I avoid him like the emotional plague that he chooses to be.

I’ve lived here going on three years. Although this address has been the most stable address I’ve had while living in Florida, it’s been the most unstable place I’ve lived in.

Somewhat batty owner. A/C outage in August that could have been fixed sooner. Stubborn pestilences. Change of ownership. Lazy owners. Flooding. Coughing roomie #1 (aka bag o’ mucus). Coughing roomie #2 (fka Mr. Cancer Sticks, now known as Energy Vamp). Smoke filling my room from Energy Vamp.

But somehow this red Brita pitcher, plus the weird gnat that keeps going back and forth in my room as I type this, was what woke me up.

And it’s not just waking up from my crazy November of work. And it’s not even that this guy decided to use my water pitcher without asking. I’ve had to talk to him about that, too, repeatedly. It’s not the white dude entitlement that this loser has.

It’s everything. It’s been years of everything, and as I approach the big 4-0, I’ve had enough of “everything.” And I think the Universe has had enough of everything, too.

This chapter of my life is rapidly closing…

But for now, the red Brita pitcher is in my room, and I’m happy about it, even if having to keep stuff in my room so fucked up.

But this is, as an old friend would say, a flea on a flea. It’s already pretty fucked up. It’s almost imperceptible to add on more to this situation, this chronically bad borne out of poverty nightmare situation.

But hey: the less time I have to interact with him, the more I can focus on me.

For now, though–I live in a land of abject absurdity, but I have been entirely too dour to laugh about it–until recently. The laughter has been starting its return which lets me know that I’m strong enough to leave, even if my history has been stained loss, even if that history seems like wildfires trapping me inside of this house.

To mix metaphors, these stains of instability are not permanent, just like those white water stains. They are starting to be wiped away, and my original, impregnable self is being unearthed again.

Work is improving, enough for me to possibly leave here, giving me the foundations of stability that I need so I can be a better adult for myself.

But now the question is, where to? I don’t know. Yet.

I know that Florida is rapidly filling my rearview mirror, but I’m just not sure where I’m headed to next.

And yeah, it’s a little weird, watching the ending credits of the horror movie I’ve been in for years–but also living in the cliffhanger of what happens to this plucky heroine.

But that’s OK, for now…