The Beast in the Hall
When Don and I moved into 21-20, we were given explicit orders from our landlady, Mrs. Talgot.
“No guest,” she said. “No party.”
“No guests?” we asked. “We’re from Michigan. Our relatives don’t live around here. We’ll definitely have guests.”
“It’s okay,” she said. “No long stay.”
Okay, we agreed. No parties. No guests for long stays. Should be easy enough.
The week after we moved in, our friend Rion from high school came out to visit. He was planning on moving to New York and he needed a place to crash while he looked for an apartment. We were not real excited to break one of our two rules in our first week living there, but we thought as long as we kept it quiet, no one would ever know. Rion would hang out with us for a few days, find a place, go off on his own, and no one would be the wiser.
We really should have known better. Mrs. Talgot lived in the apartment next door, and no one who lived in our building ever left. With Scary Gary patrolling out in the front and his mom rooting around in the garbage all the time, it was impossible to go in or out of our building without everyone knowing you were there.
The second day Rion was there, Mrs. Talgot knocked on our door.
“I see man. He leaving. Who he?” she asked, suspiciously.
“Oh, that’s our friend Rion,” we said. “He’s just here for a few days.”
“I don’t like. He leave,” she said. God knows what Rion had done to upset her. He did have blue hair, but then, so did she.
“Well, he’s looking for an apartment,” we said. “He’ll be gone in a few days.”
“Okay,” she agreed. “Few days. After that, gone.”
The few days stretched into a week. Rion was having no luck finding an apartment and in our estimation was not trying particularly hard. We told him about our predicament, but he didn’t seem to grasp the difficulty of the situation.
“She’ll be fine,” he said. “Who ever heard of an apartment where you weren’t allowed to have guests?”
Which, in retrospect, is absolutely true. It was our apartment, we were fully grown adults, and if we wanted to let our friend crash on our couch for two years it was nobody’s business but ours. But we were fresh off the boat; we didn’t know how things worked in New York, and we didn’t think it was advisable to piss off our landlady who lived right next door in our first week in the apartment.
Everything came to a head after about ten days. Rion went out for the night and for whatever reason, we neglected to give him our keys. He got home early in the morning, around four o’ clock, when Don and I were both dead asleep. He rang our buzzer repeatedly with no response. Somehow, he managed to get in the building … I’m still not sure how that happened, ’cause that place was locked down tighter than Al Capone’s vault.
We woke up around 7 to find Rion and Mrs. Talgot engaged in a screaming match in the hall outside our door. I went out in the hall to find out what was going on.
“He sleeping!” she screamed. “He sleeping in hall!”
“I had to!” he shouted back. “They wouldn’t let me in!”
“I want him out!” she said to me.
“You get out, you old bitch!” Rion screamed back.
That was the last straw. Rion had no money, so Don and I gave him $100 to find a hotel for the night. He begged us to stay, but we felt like we didn’t have an option. We sent him out into the streets, and I didn’t hear from him again for almost eight years.
It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, and I still regret it. Yes, he probably could have been a more conscientious guest. If I’d been in his position, I would’ve found an all-night diner to go to instead of sleeping in the hall of our building, right outside the door of the woman I knew was gunning for me. But hindsight is 20/20, and as one of his close friends, it was a pretty shitty thing for me to do.
The next time I saw him was at my going-away party, when Sarah and I were leaving New York. He had gained about 30 pounds in muscle mass and he was now a renowned hairdresser who operated under the name Orion. Things had turned out well for him, it seemed, which eased my conscious a bit. I don’t know where he is today. But Rion, if you read this and you ever need a place to crash in LA, please know that you’re welcome to stay as long as you like. Just try not to call my wife an old bitch.