Since I’ve gotten here my living situations have been unorthodox and uncomfortable. There were those first couple weeks when we bounced from campsite to campsite, running low on cash and getting frustrated with the lack of amenities. We looked on the noticeboard, asked realtors, and sought WWOOFing opportunities but ultimately I felt that word of mouth would be our best bet in finding accommodations. So our first time hitchhiking, I casually mentioned our predicament to our gracious driver. His name was Blaire, he was a longtime local and super chill. He said he had a cabin on his property that we could come have a look at. The next day we stopped by and he insisted we have a couple beers as he showed us his hundreds and hundreds of acres, high up on the hill and overlooking the entire bay. Blaire was interesting to talk to. He was a professional boxer, tattoo artist and amateur musician and local royalty (literally.) He fed us beer after beer and doobie after doobie and even made us dinner. Every time I tried to bring the conversation to renting the cabin he would change the topic. He tried to convince us to stay, but finally we managed to leave. Although I liked Blaire and never felt I was in harms way I couldn’t help but feel disrespected. We were two young ladies in a new town in a foreign country and this older man is trying to get us drunk the first time we met. Was Blaire looking to help out a couple of travellers or just looking for some friends?
The next night hitchhiking I got picked up by another middle-aged man named Shawn and his girlfriend Becky. They were friendly, kind and very fond of Canadians. They were on their way to have a drink at the beach and Shawn asked if I minded if, on the way, we stopped at his house to pick up ice. I said I didn’t mind. While he was in the house, Becky turned and asked where I was living and I explained that we were sleeping in our van.
“You should talk to Shawn, he has a room that he rents to travellers.”
When he returned she brought up the subject. He gave me his number and told me to be in touch about the room. I thought it was fate, it all seemed too good to be true. When his number didn’t work I suggested we stop by his house and talk to him in person. He was welcoming but some of the things he said made me nervous. He didn’t like closed doors in his house, because he felt they promoted bad energy. Our room was at the end of a hall and impossible to see into so I hesitantly agreed. He also REALLY didn’t like other people in the kitchen while he was cooking. He referred to a situation with Japanese student and casually mentioned that he’d wanted to “rip off his head and spit in his neck.” We weren’t entirely comfortable with the situation, but felt we had no other option. We needed somewhere to live and we could always continue looking.
Immediately, Shawn was a crazy nuisance. He had some brain damage from a bad car accident and would forget things quickly. He micromanaged our day-to-day activities (“You should hang your laundry this way…”) He spoke very openly about sex, religion and politics and talked over us the entire time. He was an amazing artist, but he was constantly showing me pieces, photos of his kids, keepsakes. He never gave me a minute to myself. He drank too much and would get louder and more obnoxious and then talk extremely close to my face. He told how his ex-girlfriend was in jail for kicking down his door a few days prior.
One week we lived there and it felt like a lifetime. How can someone so unbalanced host so many foreigners? Obviously, it was so he could always have someone around to rant at.
Kennedy had met a girl at work who was leaving town and offered us her room. We went to check it out: spacious, two beds, lots of storage, a private deck and it was way cheaper. The house itself was quaint and currently residing in it was a British guy and a German guy, both laid back surfer types. The landlord, Gerry, lived in a gated-off shack at the back of the property and kept to himself. He was friendly, soft-spoken, kind of odd, but nice. The house seemed like heaven after the hell we’d come from. We moved in and all was good. Our flatmates would do bong-hoots in the living room and they’d always share this free weed from some mysterious source.
Then, one night we were drinking with a couple friends before going out and had the bong on the kitchen table. Gerry walked in and told me that there was a cop living across the street who may be able to see into the kitchen and that he’d prefer if we stayed in the living room when blazing. I apologized, explained that I didn’t know and that we were just about to leave. But he still reprimanded all of us the next day and threw away the bong and remaining weed, much to the chagrin of my flatmates. My one roommate, Bob, explained that the free weed came from Gerry, but that he was really weird about it and extremely paranoid. I began to notice how much time Gerry spent puttering around the property, doing nothing. He talked on about the perpetual pain he was in due to a childhood accident and I began to wonder just how much he was smoking. When he would dish out weed, he would give it to each of us personally and almost in a rewarding manner. He never gave any to Kennedy. I felt like he was using the weed to try and control us. It felt very wrong.
One night we were all a few drinks in and Jordan and I were sitting on our deck having a smoke when we heard Bob and his girlfriend having loud sex. As it was a common occurrence, we tried our best to not listen and to finish our conversation. After they finished we heard a shuffling in the bushes below and realized it could only be Gerry, perched silently next to Bob’s window, listening. That slight rustle was all we needed to hear and we both immediately knew the implications of what was happening. Our mouths dropped and we look at each other in horror and disgust. I refused to even look down beneath the deck, for fear of what I might see…
In the morning I tried to convince myself I’d imagined it, but it was no use. We both agreed to tell Bob, but were terrified. How would he react? Would he tell his poor girlfriend, who was staying with us? Maybe he wouldn’t even believe us. Surely he would be upset and may even confront Gerry. Most importantly, would we get kicked out for spilling the beans? We had no lease, no contract, no legal rights. I wanted to tell Gerry he was a disgusting pig, but I was afraid of being homeless so instead I took the cowards way out so as not to rock my own boat. I felt small and powerless. Kennedy and I wussed out on telling Bob several times until finally he came into our room and asked, “Seriously, what is going on?”
With a trembling breath, I recounted what we’d heard. He listened solemnly and sadly admitted that he wasn’t surprised. He tried to make an excuse for Gerry, explaining that his shed was located in that area. We were surprised by his calmness, but relieved.
The next day when Bob walked in the door, he was shaking with anger.
“I’ve been thinking about what you told me all day and I’ve gotten more and more pissed off. I don’t know what to do.”
I wanted to cry for him and his beautiful girlfriend, newly in loved and marred by a total lack of decency and invasion of privacy. In the end, he moved out with his girlfriend. He tried to convince us to move into their new house and away from Gerry, but the rent was too high. Kennedy, and I, resolving to always keep out blinds closed, convinced ourselves we were okay. For a while, things were fine. Two new people moved in and the weed suddenly stopped flowing. I was sitting on my bed watching a movie when there was a knock on my door. It was Gerry.
“Hey, I need a ride out into the country, I’ll give you money and weed if you do me this huge favour.”
“Sure,” I agreed reluctantly. “When, tomorrow?”
“In an hour.” It was nearly 9 at night. I tried to back peddle, claiming I had no gas, but he insisted there was a pre-pay pump on the way and he’d fill the tank. He started gathering a shovel, a flashlight and his bike. Were we going to bury a body? Or beat someone up?
“I need to know what you’re doing if you want me to be a part of it,” I told him.
“I have weed hidden in the country and I would rather go at night to collect it.”
Cool, weed I can deal with. It’s actually pretty smart that he has plants scattered.
How wrong I was. There were no plants. He had his weed hidden, buried underground in a random field in the middle of nowhere. He wouldn’t even let me see where, he made me drop him off and then meet him down the road. Then, he asked me to drop him off way out of town and not tell anyone what we’d done. Obviously, I recounted the events to Kennedy and Ben as we smoked the weed I’d received. Gerry had mentioned in passing that he was going to put the house on the market. The next morning and without warning he turned up with two realtors, woke up Kennedy and asked to come into the room. Needless to say, she was furious and we started discussing finding some new digs. Gerry was surprisingly absent for a few days, but today I finally saw him and his face was all scratched up. “I was in the hospital,” he said without me asking. “I thought the cops were after me so I swam across the channel and ran 10k, naked. I went a little crazy.” Understatement of the year. He tried to blame it on low blood sugar or some bullshit. I’ve lived in so many homes in so many cities and the most messed up living situations I’ve ever encountered have been here and back to back. What is with the people in this place? What is this all leading to? Surely, my landlord has gone crazy. And it’s on to yet another home…