Vinny, Fugwuh and I shared an apartment our first two years of college. Actually, Vinny and I lived there two years. Fugwuh left after a year to go live with a cousin in Seattle because, why not? It was a bold move considering he didn’t really know the cousin too well; just called him up and went for a visit and the next thing you knew he was moving. I greatly admired him for it.
Our apartment was much nicer than what we should have been able to afford on our budget. We only added it to our list of possible abodes as a lark, assuming it would be out of our price range. The building was less than five years old when we moved in; our two-bedroom unit was plenty big and in great condition. In fact, we almost didn’t get the apartment. When the manager learned that we were three young guys, she was hesitant to rent it to us. Because of Fugwuh’s aforementioned boldness, he called and pestered her several times. She eventually agreed to rent to us and the first year went swimmingly. When Vinny and I went to the office to sign our second year’s lease, she confided to us that she had been worried. “Three young guys living together can be trouble. But not you boys! You’ve been model tenants.”
She was a single woman in her forties and the “office” was her apartment. I couldn’t believe how much stuff could fit into an apartment. In our living room we had a couch, two end tables (which were two stacked cases of empty beer bottles) desk, T.V. stand, T.V., Sega Genesis, VCR, and a stereo. Oh, and a dying plant. The manager’s apartment looked like a home. She had nice furniture and had paintings on the walls. There were plants everywhere. An aquarium covered most of a dividing wall. And she had air fresheners somewhere that made the place smell nice. Looking around, I was sure that she had food in a cupboard or two and I guessed she had more than a few ketchup packets and beer in her refrigerator. Yes, this woman had her shit together.
I didn’t feel like a model tenant and wondered if she had us confused with someone else. “What makes us model tenants?” I asked.
“I haven’t heard a peep from you. I’ve never seen a bunch of drunk kids out on your deck. And not one complaint from a neighbor! Not one. And you always pay your rent on time.”
All of that was true. We’re not lunatics. And though we drank enough beer and vodka to make a Packer fan proud, we never felt the need to run around the complex naked. We played video games and got drunk. Still, I was surprised that that was model tenant material. “That’s a pretty low bar. Wouldn’t a model tenant be volunteering to pick up cigarette butts in the parking lot or something?” Aren’t we supposed to be quiet and pay the rent on time?
“Yes. But not many people manage to do both.”
California moved in a month or two after we did. I don’t know if he paid his rent on time. I do know that we didn’t here a peep from him. Until we did. I think he lived across the hall from us for a month before we saw him. Then, one evening when I came home from work, Vinny told me he caught a glimpse. “Well, I saw the neighbor today. Fuckin’ California dude in his twenties. Dyed blonde hair. He drives that Mitsubishi with the sunroof. I followed him in today and saw inside when he opened his door. All black furniture with white pillows and shit. Plants all over the damn place.”
“Fucking awesome!” I said. We loved Assholes even then, probably especially then actually. We Bulls could spend an evening of high-hilarity making fun of douches. Luckily when you’re an 18 year-old college student, you’re never very far away from someone worthy of your scorn. And now I learned that we were right across the hall from one! Fake Blonde! Trendy black furniture! A Mitsubishi! House plants!
My gay-dar is weak. I just don’t think much about sexuality. Unless a man asks if he can put his penis in my butt, I pretty much just assume he’s heterosexual. Or rather I don’t think about where he enjoys putting his penis at all. No doubt if my gay-dar was stronger, it would have pinged like the Red October whenever California was near. And it would have been wrong.
One evening Spot and I were headed down to McDonald’s for a late supper, on foot because we were too drunk to drive. As soon as we stepped out the door and into the parking lot I heard it: a woman screamed in sexual ecstasy.
“Whoa! You heard that right, Spot?”
It was a nice summer evening and most of the apartment windows were open. We stopped to listen. It didn’t take long to zero in on the window from which all manner of grunting and screaming was pouring out. It was a second floor window. We went and stood right beneath it, obviously, and enjoyed the show. Yes, that was definitely California’s apartment. I added the sound he makes during sex to my “things I know about California” file. I also added the sound at least one woman makes while having sex with him to the same file. I have to admit that that bit of info didn’t make me like him any more. I had certainly never made a woman sound like that. And because he was a dipshit I couldn’t bring myself to respect even this about him.
Spot and I moved on after a minute of standing and listening. We walked the mile to McDonald’s picked up supper and walked back home. A beautiful woman with tussled hair and an odd look on her face hurried down the stairs as we were walking up. She had to be the screamer; she certainly looked like she had been given a pretty good rogering very recently. We were excited to share the news with Vinny.
“So California just fucked the hell out of some hottie and we heard a fair amount of it from the parking lot!” I told him.
“Interesting,” he replied, his voice trailing off. “I heard her leave just now. They were yelling at each other. She told him not to call and slammed the door when she left.”
That pissed me off. I hate it when men treat women like shit. “What a dick! Maybe she wouldn’t scream in my bed but she sure as hell wouldn’t slam the door when she left. Not that she’d even leave if you catch my drift.”
Our apartment complex consisted of two long three-story buildings. The buildings were perpendicular to each other and formed an “L”. The parking lots for each were on the outside of the “L” and the inside was a large lawn. The street was across the lawn from the bottom section of the “L” and boxed in the yard. We lived in the vertical section of the “L” so our parking lot was accessible from the street. There was a long driveway from the road to the other building’s parking lot. So the view from our apartment was the yard, on the right side of which was the backside of the other building and across of which was the driveway to that building’s parking lot.
One winter day there was a blizzard. Neither Vinny nor I went to classes that day because of the storm but I did have to work that evening. It was a dicey drive in to work in the afternoon and an even more dicey drive home. But that is what we Minnesotans must sometimes do in the winter. I passed many cars in the ditch but luckily made it to the edge of home-- where I discovered that the parking lot hadn’t been plowed. I shoveled a bit of a path- yes; smart Minnesotans keep a shovel in the trunk- and gave it hell. I managed to slip, slide and burrow into something that could pass for a parking spot.
I trudged across the parking lot, kicked aside enough snow to open the door, and walked into our apartment where I found Vinny laying on the couch, like a bastard, watching T.V. Usually when I came home Vinny would nod or something equally unexciting. He certainly never moved. Today he sat up and I could see by the look on his face that he was thrilled about something.
“You’ve gotta look over at the driveway,” he said with a smile.
“Ok.” I answered suspiciously, “What’s going on?”
I walked to the patio door and looked across the lawn to the driveway. I saw a car, clearly stuck, about 10 feet into the driveway from the road. It was dark but the car’s headlights were on and I could just make out that someone was in front of the car and looked to be shoveling.
“Someone’s stuck?” I asked Vinny. That didn’t surprise me. Granted it was a bit odd that someone had tried to make it down the long driveway rather than parking in our parking lot, which was right off the street. But if they lived in that building it didn’t seem as ridiculous a notion as Vinny seemed to want me to believe.
“Not just ‘someone’, that’s California! And he’s been there for at least 3 hours!”
“California?! What the hell is he doing over there?”
“But, why is he in the driveway?”
“No idea. The driveway was sort of plowed earlier so maybe he liked the looks of it better. He got stuck about 5 feet in. And for whatever reason he decided it would be best to shovel his way 100 feet forward than just back out and try it over here. God, it’s been a great night! He even walked over here for a shovel. And didn’t change out of his work clothes.” Vinny shook his head, still smiling.
We watched California shovel, pull ahead, get stuck, shovel, repeat for at least an hour. Finally I said, “Vin, we must be wrong about people sometimes. Clearly not everyone we mock deserves it. But we’ve been much too easy on this one.”
Time has tempered my moral superiority. But I promise you this: California is out there right now, acting like a douche.