Apart from Xena and Star, who had become really good friends themselves,
I didn't surround myself with anyone else. How could I make new friends
when I spent my days fearing that I wouldn't be able to sleep? Sure, the
person who woke up everyday and went to work had my history, my face, my
friends and my background. However, the real me joked around and had a
laid-back disposition. I didn't want people to know me as a shell of my
The only significant additions to my life were the two kittens I'd
adopted. They were brothers with medium length black hair. I named one
Mazel -- Yiddish for luck. I'd need plenty of it. The other I named
Strider, because looking at his thick pitch dark fur reminded me of
Strider from The Lord of the Rings silently sitting in the shadows at
The Prancing Pony. I knew that dudes with cats had a negative cultural
stereotype and that naming a cat after a king from a fantasy series was
super dorky. However, I had companionship. In the loneliest hours of the
night, Mazel was always up for being scratched behind the ears and
Strider could be counted on to flop onto his back and request a belly rub.
Friday October 22nd started off as one of the most promising days in a
while. I only took half a sleeping pill, but I still managed to get a
long, sound night of sleep. One of Star's friends was throwing a party
that night and I told Star that I didn't care how late we stayed. In my
former life, I'd been out late plenty of times and I'd be damned if any
of this sleep stuff was going to hold me back. It was the first time I
felt empowered in a long time.
On the way home from work, I relaxed into the back of my plastic bus
seat and took in the start of the weekend. As always, my body ached, but
I was determined not to let that dampen my enjoyment.
My cell phone rang. It was Xena. She probably wanted to know what Star
and I were up to. "Hey, what's up?" I said.
"Heyyyy," she said. "I don't want to alarm you, ummm... but there's
water leaking out of your room."
"What!?!" The woman next to me shot me a look and got up and moved to a
different seat. Ugh! I'd become that guy who shouted into his phone...
"The carpet's wet in the hallway outside your door."
"Is it leaking into your room?" I asked as my heart thumped away.
When I lived with Clark Kent, our room had flooded. On a winter morning,
the next-door neighbors' window had blown open. The sprinkler pipes had
frozen, causing water to explode out of the damaged ducts. We got off
easy, as only our carpets were soaked, but none of our belongings had
been ruined. However, a waterfall soaked our downstairs neighbors in
their beds, destroying many of their possessions in the process. The
crooked management company had claimed that the windows couldn't have
opened on their own (even though they did all the time) and they'd tried
to get anyone whose property had been damaged to sue my neighbor.
How could I have been so stupid? I didn't have renter's insurance to
protect me from a lawsuit. If I'd flooded other apartments, I could be
out tens of thousands of dollars that I didn't have! Still, it was
relatively warm out. The pipes couldn't have frozen. In fact, the only
time I could remember turning on the water that morning was when I took
a shower. Whatever was going on, this couldn't have been my doing.
"No, it isn't leaking into my room," said Xena. "Do you want me to open
"Yes, please do." I'd given her a spare set of keys to feed the cats
when I went home over Labor Day weekend.
"Okay, I'm going in," said Xena. I could hear the door creak open, and I
was pretty sure that Xena gasped. "Debacle, don't panic."
"What?" I asked, shifting in my seat.
"The bathroom sink was on," she said. "I just shut it off."
Oh shit! That sink didn't drain well. I'd been meaning to mention that
to maintenance for a few weeks. Why was it on? I must've forgotten to
shut the water off after I'd brushed my teeth. "How bad is it?"
"Well..." Xena hesitated. "Don't panic."
"How much water's in the room?"
"It's about an inch deep."
An inch!?! If an inch was standing in my room, my downstairs neighbor
must've been experiencing a torrential downpour!
"How are the cats?" I asked.
"They're on the desk. They look upset, but I think they're okay."
"Oh my god!"
"It'll be okay. I'm going to go get someone. I'll see you soon. Don't
worry, it'll be okay."
Pain exploded across my neck, chest, jaw and upper back with a
vengeance. So much for feeling empowered. It wasn't until just before I
got off at my stop that I realized I'd been rocking in place. No wonder
there were so many people on the other side of the bus.
I raced home and found Xena standing outside my open door with a
maintenance man. Beside him was an industrial sized water suction device
that resembled R2-D2.
Xena gave me a hug. "It'll be okay," she said.
"This room yours?" asked the maintenance man with a thick Eastern
"Yeah," I mumbled. I poked my head in the open doorway and was assaulted
with heat. My apartment must've been 100 degrees! A light mist rained
down from the ceiling into the inch-high pool below. My pile of dirty
clothes in the middle of the floor was drenched.
The kittens sat wide-eyed at the high ground on top of my desk, their
hair sticking straight up and their tails wagging furiously. Strider
made eye contact with me and let out a soft, pathetic, mew.
Water sloshed against the maintenance man's feet as he wheeled the
suction device into my room. As soon as he turned it on, the grinding of
the motor caused both cats to curl back and lower their heads onto the
wood as if to say, Haven't we been through enough already?
A drop of water drizzled onto my head. Looking up at the wet ceiling, I
said to Xena, "The water must've come from upstairs."
"It was your bathroom sink."
"That's not possible! The ceiling can't get wet from the bathroom
sink!!!" No matter how upset I was, it wasn't right to take it out on
Xena. I couldn't imagine how I would have reacted if I'd opened the door
to my place without her warning. I sighed. "Sorry, I..."
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