So, I moved in here last October. I had roof rats in my old place, and I loved it so much and the neighborhood, but the rats weren’t going away. I had planned on staying there until I was ready to buy something. The rats won and I had to find a new place to live. I didn’t want to leave CenPho, so I hit Craigslist and found an ad. “Melrose Place without the drama.” I called immediately and the landlord seemed really cool and I could hear other people in the background talking, seeming to have a good time. I made an appointment to see it the next day.
I was in love as soon as I saw the building. It’s an Al Beadle design. Only 12 apartments, which is what I wanted. I was in a fourplex in ratville and I don’t like the large complexes with a gate and a conference room and the gym and neighbors who don’t know each other. My old place was pretty isolated and this one seemed perfect for me to have a social life at home as well as live in a community.
There were 3 places available. As soon as I saw mine, I was in love! Everything is vintage. The ceramic stovetop, old oven built into the wall. Vintage tile in the bathroom area and so much cabinetry, I’d never have to worry about storage. Justin, the landlord, took one look at me and said “This is definitely the apartment for you!” I put a deposit down the next day. I had about two weeks to pack and made sure with him that the carpets would be shampooed. I could tell it was an older carpet, but I was pretty desperate to move out and I loved the building and location.
I came by the day before I was to move, and the carpet hadn’t been cleaned yet. I mentioned it and he said it would be done the next day. Well, that’s the day I wanted to start moving boxes in. It was a Wednesday, so nobody could help me with the major move until the weekend. So, I came on Wednesday and the carpet *looked* like it had been shampooed, but it wasn’t damp at all. Maybe it was just a good vacuum job.
So, I moved in. I immediately hung out with some neighbors on their patio as soon as my movers left. I’m a bit shy (no, really, I am. Nobody believes this, but I am.) and had to tell myself to put on the “public Amy” mask and get up the courage to go down and hang out with them. Really cool younger couple downstairs, Jada and Will. They’ve turned out to be great friends and we do a lot of things together. That night, as I crashed into bed from a 3-day spree of moving (most of it done by myself), I heard drums. Dexter wasn’t much more than 6 months old and freaked out a bit. I was too exhausted to sleep and the drums were making it worse. “OK,” I told myself, “This is OK. Those are cool people.” Finally fell asleep and got cracking on unpacking the next day.
There are a lot of characters that are here or have already moved out. They’ll be the subject of the book I’m writing in November. For now, though, I have to talk about Justin, the landlord.
Justin was the same age as me (late 30s) and gay. He lived in #2. (He’s dead now – getting to that) I loved having someone living here who also owned the place. Hands-on and very particular about who lived here. Justin was also a drunk, pothead and pill-popper. I told him right away that I don’t drink or do drugs, but that as long as it didn’t interfere with my lifestyle, I was cool with it. He’d often be on his patio at night and a few of us would be there as well, particularly Chrystyna. They were the best of friends and were always together.
Justin was also a master mechanic for one of the biggest BMW dealerships in the area, but only worked on his own now. It was cool to see the different cars people brought here to have repaired by Justin. It never caused any problems in the parking lot, as he used the far end to do his work. The UPS man was always here delivering parts. He’s gorgeous, so I think Justin may have had a crush on him, though the UPS man is definitely straight.
I come home for lunch everyday to let Dexter out. I live less than a mile from work, so it’s ideal to come home. Justin would already be drinking. Can of cheap beer in one hand, cigarette in the other. He got a lot of car repair business and seemed to have a good reputation with his skills. Then, towards Xmas, the shit seemed to hit the fan.
Justin started causing a lot of drama with some tenants. One, Chrystyna, his best friend, because she was moving out. She had a friend who was going to be working out-of-state for a year and she was going to take over his condo. Market sucks, so no way could he sell it. Justin took it very personally and caused drama about it. He also started calling the police on #6, a couple named Sabrina and Larry. They had a puppy, which he approved of them getting. Ralphie. Dumb but lovable. My 9-pound rat terrier has more balls than Ralphie, and he was growing up and getting big. The police grew tired of Justin’s calls, because they were unfounded. He claimed Ralphie was vicious and tried to attack him. Well, Justin was on a bender and it started a snowball of bad things to come. Sabrina and Larry had lived here for 3 years and finally decided it was time to leave. Between them moving out and Chrystyna, the vibe here changed drastically. Then Rebecca moved. She’d been here for 3 years, too, but Justin harassed her to no end about whatever bug he had up his ass that day.
Justin started calling Chrystyna’s boss, telling him that she was a cokehead and dealing drugs. He was drinking a lot, doing a lot of drugs and I guess took her moving out more personally than what it really was.
Then, came March 18th. March got hot and the A/C in the building got turned on. I came home from work at lunch that day and let him know that there was no cool air coming out of the A/C. He came in and changed the filter when I got home from work at 4. I always hike after work, so I was only here for about 10 minutes. He lectured me on the filter, saying it was dirty and that I had to change it more often. Um, I had *just* moved in a few months earlier and there was no way I got it that dirty. Obviously, it hadn’t been changed in awhile. I got off the mountain from hiking and had some really nasty texts from him. “Next time, ask a man to do it. You obviously don’t know how and are too lazy.” WTF??? Me, lazy??? I ride my bike to work and go hiking everyday. Besides, he’s the landlord. It’s his job, right? Well, I shouldn’t have responded at all, but I did let him know that I wasn’t lazy and knew how to do it, just wasn’t sure if it was something he preferred to do. Then, the shit hit the fan.
I got home from hiking, made dinner, and saw 3 police cars in the parking lot. Justin had called the cops on Ralphie. Again. He was drunk beyond drunk and could barely speak. When I opened my door to see what was going on, the cops looked at me and rolled their eyes. They were familiar with Justin. They calmed him down and left, only to return 10 minutes later. I saw Will going down the street, chasing another neighbor’s dog, who had gotten loose somehow. Then I noticed the pool. I overlook it from my patio upstairs. There was a BIKE in the POOL. Justin was on a rampage and had started harassing another tenant. He had quietly opened their door and let the dog escape. He then took their bike and threw it into the pool. There was no provocation from the tenants. He was simply wasted and on a rampage. The cops told him to stop harassing us and made him jump into the pool to get the bike. They left, and he had posted some stupid note on his door about “LIARS” but it got ripped down not too long after he had put it up. All was quiet and we were guessing he had finally passed out.
I had no relationship with him after that. He never apologized to me or anyone else about his behavior that night. He asked me for a favor twice, but I told him I couldn’t do whatever he was asking for. I wanted nothing to do with him. I was still hurt over the way he had treated me about the A/C filter.
We wouldn’t see him for a few days, then someone would come by with a car to get fixed and he’d be out there. I remained cordial. Then, we wouldn’t see him again for a few days. I figured he was on another bender. I said, more than once, “I bet he’s dead. Someone needs to check on him.” Being in recovery, I know what booze can do to a person. He was in a bad way with the drugs and alcohol and I knew it was going to kill him. A couple days later, I saw him in the parking lot. Then, nothing for a few days.
Finally, on April 18th, his accountant was here. She was worried because he hadn’t answered her texts or phone calls, and they were supposed to meet to talk about him going into bankruptcy. Apparently, all the money he made on rent and the car repairs was just…gone. Drugs, I guess. The accountant and Jada broke into his apartment and found him in his bedroom, dead. I knew it was going to happen. The firemen were here. Cop cars and ambulance and detective vehicles lined our street. It all started at around 5pm. People were milling in and out of his place all night, gathering evidence. There were even counselors here, talking with us all as we stayed together on the downstairs patio, taking it all in. It was the most surreal night of my life. I was numb. I cried at first, went into shock. At around 1am, they finally brought him out in a body bag. I have seen a lot of body bags in my life, but never with someone inside that I knew. It hit me pretty hard and we all kind of freaked out. I knew I wasn’t going to make it to work the next day. By the time everything settled down around here, it was almost 4am. A lock appeared on his door. The lights were left on by the detectives, so that it looked like someone was home. Justin never had a lot of lights on. This made it even more eerie. I was definitely in a state of shock for at least a week.
A presence was gone. Sometimes a positive one, sometimes a negative one, but a presence nonetheless. In a building where we are all friends and know each other, a neighbor was gone. It took 2 months for us to find out that Justin had died of acute pancreatitis. He was very sick the last few months, which is why we never saw him. He couldn’t eat or he would puke everything right back up. He had lost about 50 pounds the last few months.
His apartment hasn’t been cleaned out. He had bled when he died and that hasn’t been cleaned up, either. There’s a big, empty place in the building now. His things are still there, but he’s been gone for almost 5 months. Melrose Place, without the drama? Well, not really, but it was all caused by him. The rest of us continue on, talking about him sometimes, hating him but missing him at the same time.
RIP, Justin. I hope your tortured life hasn’t followed you into the afterlife and that you are now at peace.