"I ain't gonna work on Maggie's Farm no more” - Bob Dylan
“Brad, Ed Zeliesko. Well, looks like you guys owe me fifty bucks. I gotta say, I am pissed off. I give you guys a nice place and you jack me off. You better call me back motherfucker.” - Ed Zeliesko's angry voice mail.
Quite frankly, I just think I started out this week the wrong way. Sunday night, at the bar with coworkers, I succumb to peer pressure and do a shot of tequila. It was last call, and after much resistance I cave in and do it. It's warm and salty and just plain disgusting. I swallowed, trying not to taste it at all, but there are somethings in this world that leave strong impressions regardless of whether or not you are willing to except them.
By shear coincidence, I check my horoscope Tuesday morning. I used to do it daily when we got the Observer-Reporter at Subway. But it's pointless because they all have the same uncompromising, broad optimistic message. It's more of a way to subdue the nerve for people who are suicidal. They read it right before they swallow a bunch of pills, or slit their wrists. The message is uplifting and they lower the gun they have pointed at their temple.
Tuesday's Libra horoscope on Yahoo said something to the effect of: Somebody is going to say something to you today. Don't let it get the best of you.
I didn't really give it much thought. I just happened over it on my way to email. I went about my morning business. Coffee and a few dozen pages of Guns, Germs, and Steel. Cleaned up a little bit around the house. Usual day off bullshit.
Around two thirty, I look at my phone and see there is a voice mail. I bring it up and go into nervous panic when the recording verbally assaults me.
That taste of tequila is back in my mouth after I listen to this message. Everyone I have ever met who does drink tequila, absolutely adores it. Their first round of shots, all of them commented on how good it smells. That smell for me triggered horrible memories of a toilet bowl and a bruised ego. It's the smell of my greatest fears.
I have never been called a mother fucker before. Well, not entirely true. I call most of my friends mother fuckers and they in turn refer to me as mother fucker, but it's always a joke. I seriously hope it is. And there is a big difference between a friendly mother fucker and an actual mother fucker. I almost made it twenty four solid years without being called a mother fucker. I think if this shit had not gone down this week I might have made it at least another decade. Maybe more. Maybe I'd go to my grave, and my tombstone would read: Bradley Grimes, Certainly not a mother fucker.
I'm in a terror. This is not how I wanted to start this so called new life here in Crafton. First month's rent is one day late and now I am out fifty bucks. But wait...
Didn't we mail the rent check?
So, about two weeks ago, when the apartment officially became ours I gave Mr. Ed Zeliesko $585 for our security deposit. He gave me keys and I started moving stuff in.
It was over that weekend that we were moving stuff in, that he stops by. He has two copies of the lease which he goes over with us. He also has a self addressed envelope. Rent is due on the fifth. If it's late one day there is a fifty dollar charge. If it's five days late, it's one hundred. Then eviction begins.
So the lease sits on the counter, in the envelope for the next two nights. On Wednesday the first, I go to work, reminding Scott to mail the check and lease. When I get home, I find a sheet of notebook paper with the landlord's address and our new one on the fridge door, held up by a Pirates Baseball Schedule magnet. On the counter I see stamps. It's funny that I remember all these little details, or even saw them in the first place, but I like to think I have fine attention to details. Maybe not.
I don't think anything of it. The check is in the mail. And I go about my business.
Sunday comes and I take that fateful, dreadful shot of tequila. I could still taste it Monday morning. Ugh. It leaves traces behind. The next day you feel it on your tongue and you simply just hate your life. There's nothing else comparable to tequila, and any description I give is just plain pointless. You can decide for yourself whether you wanna swallow it or not. Just keep it the hell away from me.
Monday I receive the first phone call. He's calm, and I tell him the check and lease were in the mail as of Wednesday afternoon. He hangs up. Doesn't say OK. Doesn't say Bye. Just simply hangs up. I call Scott, just to make sure he has put the check in the mail.
The stamps drift back into my mind. I remember seeing the book of forever stamps on the counter. I assume Scott has mailed it, or set up some elaborate scene in which to deceive me. The latter is highly unlikely.
Tuesday rolls around and the rest is history at this point.
I call Scott and he tells me to just write another check. I call Mr. Zeliesko back and he freaks out on me on the phone. He tells me he could have rented the place to ten other people. My first thought was to say “Well why didn't you?” That's my pretentious middle class attitude, but I refrain and just let him rant. I am still in a panic after he tells me he'll be here at five. He reminds me that I owe him fifty bucks. Click. No bye. Just click.
I scurry about the apartment like a rodent, removing the posters from the walls, and the nails that were used to hold them in place. I clean up, but it was just instinct. It was just something to do. Something to keep my mind off that fact that my new pissed off landlord was on his way.
By four thirty whatever part of the brain that controls heart rate had simply given up. My imagination got the best of me and I saw myself sleeping in my car. In the woods. Dirty and haggard looking. I tried to appeal via reasoning, but emotions were just completely out of control. I was pissed off. At Scott, at myself, at everyone. I tried to calm myself by reading Wikipedia articles, but that didn't help. I must have watched every minute clink off from four thirty till five.
He arrives and the first thing he says when he comes in is “Place looks nice.” He goes on to tell me he has a $2500 mortgage on the place and the rent cannot be late. I apologize endlessly. I feel like a piece of shit. Because for me, there's no excuse for late rent. No excuse. It's part of my character. If I borrow money, it's not just a legal obligation to repay it, but a moral one. I tell him again that as far as I know the rent was in the mail Wednesday. He says “Well if it comes, I'll mail that check back.” He leaves. No bye. Just leaves.
Heart rate is still jacked up. I crack open the bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon I bought last week. I don't bother with the wimpy wine glass, choosing instead to pour it into one of those huge plastic cups that beer comes in at the stadium. I go out on the porch and light a up cigarette and the wine starts to hit home. Everything slows down a little bit. But I'm still not relaxed. I'm still on edge.
Scott gets home, and the first thing I say to him, “If you don't have the money to cover the check I just wrote, tell me now. We'll go to the bank. We'll rectify the problem right now.” I'm not angry or yelling, I'm just there. I don't want the problem getting any bigger. But he doesn't need money. He says it's there.
So then we start to think. We start looking at the situation via variables. In this case there are four involved. Me. Scott. The post office. And Ed Zeliekso.
If Scott had needed the money he would have said so. Which says to me, the rent got mailed. I was not involved in the mailing because I paid the security deposit. Scott took over the first month's rent. So two of the four variables have now been debunked as far as I'm concerned.
The post office. I don't mail often with the exception of Netflix. I have never, ever had an issue mailing anything. If I put an address and a stamp on it, the post office seems to get it where it needs to be. There is the chance that the envelope went missing, but I find it rather unusual. Seriously. Of all envelopes to go missing, out of the thousands the post office processes every day, it's the one I send my first month's rent in.
So that leaves Ed Zeliesko. Now think about this. I didn't send the letter with signature confirmation. How hard would it be to call and pretend to freak out about rent, even though you actually have it. Not that hard at all. Another thing that strikes me as a little odd is that he isn't concerned about getting a lease from us, since the one we mailed “never arrived.”
I called him Wednesday to see if our check and lease did arrive. I left a message which was returned Thursday morning. He said he hadn't received it but not to worry about it.
Don't worry about it? Why not? It's the legal document that binds me to this place. Without it, I really don't have to pay rent. I really didn't have to pay him the late fees, because he doesn't have anything that says I need to.
I searched his name on Yahoo the other day, and a site came up called Landlordslum.com. He received a 1.7 rating out of 5. The previous tenant wrote that the landlord never repaired any issues with the place. Mr. Zeliesko, must have seen this, because he wrote a counter argument, stating that he has been in the rental business for thirty years, and that the tenant was being evicted.
The whole week, I've been nervous about coming home. Nervous and panic stricken in general. Wednesday night, I stayed and cleaned at work till about midnight. The same can be said of Thursday and Friday. I feel like I'm living the New Caprica story arc of Battlestar Galactica. I'm looking around right now and all I can think is “what the fuck did I get myself into.”
Eleven more rent checks are due to go out over the next year. I will not pay another late fee as long as I am here. So to combat the variables mentioned earlier I'll write the check. Take it to the post office on the 20th of every month and get registered letters sent. It's the only way I can be sure.
To me this place seems temporary. Or at least I want it to be. I just can't believe this has happened. The first month of all months. Since Tuesday this place hasn't seemed like home at all. Maybe that will pass, but part of me doesn't want it to. It seemed smooth at first, but then you start to notice things. Like the shower drain, which really doesn't drain. The bedroom door which really doesn't close. I took pictures of all of these things, because next year when it's time to go I'm not going to put myself on the hook for this shit.
I can look past being called a motherfucker. My horoscope that day told me to do so. But there's a certain level of character that I want to hold myself up to. Levels to which I will not stoop no matter what. This whole move for me was about living up to that. I want to be mature and get on with my life (whatever the hell that means), but this situation is just unsettling. And if this dude did scam me out of fifty bucks, what else am I in for. Shit, it's only been two weeks.
I'm thinking that if I can use this year wisely, financially anyway and work, and work, and work to get some real cash put away instead of wasting it, next year I might do away with the landlord all together. I think if there has ever been anything to work for in my life, buying a house would be that thing. Working at Subway had purpose for me. I think that's why I stayed there as long as I did. I felt needed. And personally and financially I moved up there. I was reliable. Hard working. I've lost that since I left there, shuffling from one stupid job to the next, with no direction. But maybe having something to work for is what the problem is. Something important. Something visible, tangible. Something real.
Needless to say, Thursday night when I went out again with the people from work, I stayed away from the tequila. We stuck with pitchers of beer. It might be a few more years before I venture into the tequila trap again.
"I ain't gonna work on Maggie's Farm no more” - Bob Dylan