The threat of an eviction throws my unstable life into further chaos. Can I cope?
by Jane D.
It began when my landlady, who'd moved down South, dropped in unexpectedly for a seemingly friendly visit. Over wine and sangria, I pointed out that it had been almost a year since a mutual friend introduced us. In me, she'd found a quiet and professional working woman who would pay her rent to live in her newly vacated New York City penthouse apartment (under the table since she wasn't legally allowed to have tenants but still needed to make some money to cover the cost of maintaining the apartment). Through her, I'd found a penthouse apartment well below market rate. The situation seemed like a win-win for all.
It also had been almost a year since I made the decision to go to the ex-Boyfriend's friends' wedding as his last-minute date. After several dates he'd asked me over dinner whether I would accompany him, becoming teary-eyed as he said that it would mean a lot to him. "Especially since I want us both to look back and share this memory," he'd said. Even though my intuition told me something was off, I decided to take the plunge: He was charming. So I thought, What's the worst that can happen?
"Ah, I remember that night," the landlady said. "I remember that you were antsy about going to that wedding. Sometimes we should trust our gut, don't you think?"
Nodding, I told her how I regretted having shared my attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) diagnosis with the ex-Boyfriend and the ex before him (the Fridge), since both chose to blame our relationship problems on my ADD/ADHD and my family history -- before walking out, giving up on us.
"I sometimes dream of revenge," I confessed to her. "But mostly, these days I realize that if I were in a healthier place, I would have seen the red flags and not allowed this to happen."
"It took me a long time to come to peace with the fact that I might be single for the rest of my life, but I decided I would dedicate my life to doing good work and making good friends -- and then along came my husband," the landlady replied, happy and at peace with herself at last at the age of 50. "I think you put up with too much with these men. You're right: Healthy people don't date men like that. First, you need to be happy with yourself."
At the end of drinks, she delivered news more unsettling than these now (slowly) fading memories: Our cover for the penthouse was busted. The building's superintendent, having installed a new air conditioner in the apartment unit while I was at home a few weeks earlier, was onto us. And through him, the super-rigid co-op board -- who up till now had denied my landlady the right to rent out her apartment legally -- had proof that the person living in the penthouse apartment (me, a mid-30s professional) was not the owner (her, a middle-aged Jewish woman). And the doormen had long ago figured out that I am not a real member of the family. The apartment, which I had grown to love and had taken advantage of, might no longer be a place I could call home, she told me.
For a brief period of time I was truly happy. I had everything I dreamed I'd have -- a penthouse apartment, a dashing Prince Charming boyfriend, a somewhat stable job, and the promise of a glowing future. Now, one by one these shooting-star fantasies had crashed to the ground -- reality's gravity pulling hard. Shocked and unsure of what to say, I held my breath as one last shooting star passed before my eyes: There was a slight chance that the landlady could salvage her reputation as an owner by submitting official paperwork, which if it went through, would mean that I could legally rent the place for another year.
"We'll submit the paperwork and see what happens," the landlady said.
I shrugged. "Yeah, that's fine with me."
My own stages of grief flashed fast. First, furious at the thought of my future hinging upon the decision of a bunch of snooty rich people! Then overwhelmed: The uncertainty, instability, and loss of control facing me in this new future made me want to burst into tears. As if everything else weren't enough. I'm going to have to start over, I thought. Then, resigned. Maybe I'm destined for a lifetime of short acts and adventures, and if that's the case, then so be it. I'll keep taking the Adderall and going to a shrink just to say I am trying.