Guns and Jesus*

Or What Happened on February 4, 2012

I can’t find a Starbucks open at 6 a.m., so I sit in my car and think. I can’t go back to my apartment. Paco is there, all white teeth and ready to sink them into me.

I know, I’ll take Lucas for the longest walk of his life.

So I go back to the apartment building, park my car, and start walking Lucas in Parque Luis Muñoz Rivera, which is right across the building and it’s absolutely beautiful, and you should visit, ok? The first female governor of Puerto Rico, Sila Calderón, did a damn good job of revamping it.

So I walk and walk and walk. Lucas is at first, dumbfounded. But then he is schnauzer elated.

He can chase iguanas to his heart’s content. He can mark every single tree he can see. He can fart to his heart’s delight. He can sit down and look up at the sky (something he does periodically) to watch a helicopter or an airplane go by.

I swear my dog is a freaking genius, but I’m getting tired though, so I decide to go back to my prison of harassment.

When I get back to the building lobby, I bump into a guy that is bearded and wearing a blue bow-tie. He looks familiar, he’s in his 70s, but I can’t quite place him. I know I’ve seen him before though.

He starts asking about my dog: “Is that a schnauzer? He’s too big to be a miniature, so is he a standard? What kind of dog is that? Does he bark a lot?”

I answer his questions and keep examining him: he looks like someone I know (or knew). He also looks like a professor from Oxford…but Puerto Rican style: shorter, hairier, darker skin. All he’s missing is some kind of ceremonial academic robes.

Next thing I know, he asks: “Do you want to buy my apartment?”

“Well…um, right now, I have no money, and actually, the apartment I’m staying at is also for sale, and I’m looking for buyers for THAT apartment.” [this is all true since this was part of the deal with Lisa]

But he goes, “Excellent! Then you should see my apartment and look for a buyer too! You get the commission if you find me a buyer!”

And I think, Well, what the hell? Might as well, right?  It’s a buyer’s market, no one’s buying, but what the hell, right?

Then again, this is a total stranger. My mother warned me of these.

Suddenly, Paco appears in the lobby and mouths at me: “¡Tu café está listo!” [“Your coffee is ready!” I never asked him to make me coffee]

Paco is now gyrating his pelvis at me in an obscene manner, and my decision is final: I’ll go with the bow-tie.

The bearded bow-tie shows me his apartment. It’s huge: it’s a four-bedroom. He’s all self-effacing, saying things like, “Pardon the mess, it’s a bachelor pad….” and “You know how we men are, very messy.”

It’s not that messy, but there are stacks and stacks and stacks of papers in a few places. Fine, it’s a bit messy.

The place though is decorated with a trillion crosses: crosses made out of wood; crosses made out of sterling silver; crosses made out of Travertine marble; crosses made out of palm leaves; crosses made out of cardboard; crosses made out of plastic made in China, and crosses made out of dried pineapple and coconut fruit chunks.

There are also images of every kind of Jesus imaginable: Jesus with blond hair and blue eyes; Jesus with brown hair and brown eyes; Jesus with a beard; Jesus without a beard; Jesus as a baby; Jesus chastising people in a temple (his mouth is open, he’s pointing at something, and he’s screaming); Jesus in the manger; Jesus with a flock of sheep; Jesus sitting on a rock reading science fiction stories to children; Jesus being kissed by Judas on the cheek; Jesus walking on water; Jesus alone in the desert with a serpent, looking defeated, following him; Jesus on the cross with his ribs showing and looking quite upset with his situation.

And then there are rosaries hanging every where else: from nails, from hooks, from red tacks, from doorknobs, from furniture, from the toaster, from the Krups coffee machine, and from a Saint Jude candle.

Most of the population in Puerto Rico is Catholic (I grew up in an extremely conservative Catholic household myself), but I’ve never seen anything like this. Not even my mother, who was educated by the nuns of Sacre Coeur and expressed a desire to become a nun right before I left for college, would go this far.

Bowtie shows me all the bedrooms, the bathrooms, the kitchen, the balcony, and even the Puerto Rican furniture (“This was made two years before the Spanish-American War. It was made in 1896.” I join him in his moment of silence) that he owns [“It’s made of caoba; this is worth thousands of dollars!”].

I notice though, that one room remains closed. It is also sporting what looks like a security key from Matlock.

“I assume this is the fourth bedroom, correct?” I say nodding toward the closed door.

“Ah!” he says reverently. “Let me show you this room. This is a very special room.”

He opens the door, and I see a beautiful wooden desk with a decrepit Tiffany lamp. There are more crucifixes on the walls and what appears to be an autographed picture of Pope Benedict XVI himself. (He who is infamous for wearing cherry red Prada shoes in Rome.)

Next to the desk is a kneeling bench. He had the windows replaced with stained glass, and there’s window with a South Rose motif from the Notre Dame Church in Paris. Quite beautiful really. The sun is coming in and casting sun squares and squiggles of all colors on the desk.

“Don’t be shy! Come in come in!”

I come in and make the sign of the cross.

“No no,” he chides. “Look look!”

He points toward the wall behind me. I’m waiting to see the sarcophagus of some saint that he stole from Rome.

But no. All I see are guns on pristine white shelves.

There are revolvers, rifles, shotguns, Falconets, Howitzers, AK-47s, M16s, M4s, a FAMAS, and personal handguns. There are no Nerf guns, but there are bullets of all shapes and sizes lined up according to size on every single shelf.

He takes a rifle delicately, with the fingers of a pianist, and opens its breech. Then, he moves the lever upwards and pulls the bolt as back as he can. He does this several times.

I take two steps back.

“Oh don’t be afraid,” he says kindly. “It’s not loaded.”

“Well, that’s good, but can you stop doing that?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, didn’t mean to scare you. But I love guns. Here, hold it.”

“No thanks.”

“HOLD IT,” he commands.

So I hold the rifle. It’s actually heavier than I thought it would be. I quickly give it back to him.

“Now isn’t that grand?” he asks to no one in particular. He places the rifle back on the shelf. “Now, I want to show you something special. Oh wait, before I do.” He pulls out a gigantic thing, and I know I have seen this gigantic thing before. He places it at my feet in front of me.

I saw it on Terminator 2.

“This baby here, this is an MM1 Grenade Launcher.” He pulls out some body armor. “You never know, you want to be prepared. And these,” he takes out a string of grenades and places them around his chest, Arnold style, “go here because they’re easier to lock and load, you know?”

“Excellent!” I hear myself say. “Now, um…” I want to get out of here as soon as possible.

Too late: he has gone over to a safety deposit box and is entering a code. He takes out something wrapped in black velvet.

“Do you know what this is?” he asks, his eyes shining.

“Another gun?”

“Yes, but not just ‘another gun,’” he says smiling. He removes the black velvet wrapping just like Daniel Day-Lewis removed Michelle Pfeiffer’s glove in The Age of Innocence: slowly, sensually.

“This,” he says. “Guess what this is.”

I shake my head.

“This is a Colt Paterson No. 2. It was designed in the 1800s. It has the name of its former owner engraved here,” he says pointing to some illegible calligraphy on the shiny silver barrel.

“Touch it,” he urges.

“No, thank you.”

“TOUCH IT!”

“Fine,” I touch it with my index finger, he closes his eyes, and exhales slowly.

“Now didn’t that feel good?”

“Not really.”

He ignores me, but I am now back at the door. “Well, a good thing about this room is that I can sell it as a panic room.”

“Exactly what I was thinking!” he trills. He puts the relic back in the safe and leads me to the kitchen. “Here,” he says taking out a notepad. “Here’s my phone number, let me know if you get a buyer.”

I take the paper, fold it quickly, and place it in my jeans’ back pocket.

“Oh, and one more thing,” he says. Who is he, Steve Jobs?

He opens a drawer in the kitchen and pulls out a petite gun, the kind of gun a prostitute would use “just in case.” “This one’s loaded, you know.”

He points it at me.

I knew it. All my life has been building up to this: being shot by a 70-year-old man. All my triumphs and failures, my successes and heartbreaks have been preparing me for this very moment.

“Good for you!” I hear myself say. “Did you know that Stephen Colbert calls his gun Precious?”

He frowns. “Who’s Stephen Colbert?” The gun is still pointed right at me.

“It’s this guy that’s like super funny, and he pretends to love guns, and get this. He had ear cancer.” I keep looking back and forth between the gun’s barrel and the man’s eyes. I decide I need to keep contact with the eyes.

“Ear cancer?”

“Yeah, how odd is that, right? It turns out that you can get cancer anywhere, including inside your tympanum.”

He keeps pointing the gun at me.

“You can ever get cancer, get this, on your eyeball. Or worse, inside your cornea.”

“Really?” He takes out handkerchief and wipes his brow, and yet the gun keeps pointed at me.

“Yeah, and there’s this place in Boston called the Schepens Eye Research Institute where they research just that: eyeball cancer. In fact, I worked there. They made me give eye cancer to mice.”

“And did you give eye cancer to mice?”

“No, sir. I said, I can’t give eye cancer or any kind of cancer to a mouse. They’re just so cute, you know?”

“Good girl,” he says, and the gun wavers. “But who the fuck is Stephen Colbert?”

Shit, he just used the “f” word. This could now go either way.

“He’s on Comedy Central, and he fantasizes about Jane Fonda every night.”

The old man drops his gun. “Jane Fonda, huh? She’s hot.”

“Yes, she is. Have you seen Barbarella?”

“Of course I have seen it. I own it. Barbarella keeps me company at night.”

“Right, Barbarella is like your guardian angel, right?”

He lets out a laugh and says: “Something like that.”

He suddenly drops the gun and places it back in the drawer. He doesn’t close the drawer though.

I am an unstoppable word salad. “When Stephen was a kid, he got a tumor somewhere inside his ear, ok? A very very rare condition. He got an operation, and now he can only hear out of one ear.”

He’s looking at me pensively. “Interesting.”

“And get this,” I say trying to sound excited. “He had Jane Fonda on his show, and guess what she did to him?”

His eyes open in curiosity.

“She kissed him on the mouth, ok? And she told him that he has the softest lips she’s ever kissed.”

He closes his eyes for a moment and murmurs: “If only we could all be so lucky.” He closes the drawer. Perhaps I will live.

“What’s his name again?”

“Stephen Colbert.”

“Coalbear?”

“Yeah, that’s how he pronounces it, but it’s spelled C-O-L-B-E-R-T. He’s on Comedy Central. I highly suggest you watch him. I think you’ll like him. He talks about Jane Fonda all the time now.”

Then, I hear myself say, “I would like to know how to shoot a gun.” [What is wrong with me?]

“Great! You should, especially since you’re a woman. Every woman should know how to shoot, just in case. I can take you to the shooting range whenever you like.”

“Awesome,” I hear myself say. “Well, I’m going to go walk Lucas now.” I hurry towards the door, open it myself, and start running to my prison of harassment.

Finally, it hits me. The guy was my father’s lawyer during my parents’ divorce.

*Thank you to K. Genelin for suggesting such a wonderful title.

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Harassment Starts Punctually at 5:45 a.m.

Or What Happened from January 28 to February 4, 2012

After having attacked my friend’s housesitter with pepper spray, and offering him a Dove chocolate in peace, he decides to strike back, all passive-aggressive style. And here I was thinking that I was going to get a standing ovation from him because I’m a woman armed with pepper spray and a stun gun.

For the next nine days, Paco gets to the apartment at 5:45 a.m. and just SITS THERE in the living room, while I either prepare for teaching my SAT classes, copyedit high school essays, get ready to go serve breakfast at the restaurant at 7 a.m, or study physics.

The days where I got to leave the apartment before 7 a.m. are my favorite because:

For the next nine days, Paco just SITS THERE in the living room asking me over and over whether I have a boyfriend, whether I have ever been engaged (I deflected that one with “engaged in what, exactly?”), and whether I would be interested in dating a man his age. (Mind you, he’s married.) And hey, do you want to go see Red Tails with me, Pola?

I give curt answers and continue working. When you have to correct 27 SATs, especially their math sections and let the kid know what and how he did the problem wrong, plus 7 essays, you really have no time to talk. Plus, I don’t want to talk to this guy because all he wants to talk about is sex. Witness:

“Have you ever seen horses have sex?”

“Have you ever seen a stallion’s penis? Lucky guy.”

“Did you know that a man got arrested in one of the Lesser Antilles for having sex with a mare?”

“Is it true there’s a photograph of your aunt naked on the Internet?” (huh?)

“You have a beautiful smile.”

“Nice cute little ass.”

Excuse me, sir? Aren’t you 58? Has it occurred to you that I could be your daughter?

I am beyond disgusted and horrified on a daily basis.

Here’s the problem, when you have no place to go, you really have no choice but to sit there. Plus, I have Lucas. I don’t trust leaving Lucas with this psychodirtman. At one point, he said: “Are you afraid I’m going to hurt Lucas?” Yeah, exactly.

If I hadn’t had Lucas, then I would have gone to a Starbucks and sat there with my laptop. But no, I couldn’t have done that either because I have so many books laid out in front of me when I work, that even that possibility would not have been a possibility.

On the seventh day, I thought Paco would give it a rest. But no. On the seventh day he drops the following bomb: “You have a great body. You look like a little porcelain doll. I think you’re sexy. A man would be so lucky to have sex with you.”

And that’s when I almost had an apoplexy.

Let me tell you something about my physical appearance right now. I look like shit. I’m pretty honest when it comes to my own physical self-assessment. You see, I’ve been dealing with a serious thyroid condition since last year. As a result, I have lost 10 pounds of weight (and I am slim to begin with), my hair has fallen out (I have to use a wig sometimes to step out in public because it’s that bad), my eyebrow hair has also fallen out, and my overall skin has a sickly pallor. Not only that, but thanks to the thyroid, I’ve gotten back my adolescent acne. So I’ve been using Tazorac, which is a retinoid, to get rid of it. When you use Tazorac, your skin gets bright red, flaky, and sloughs off during the day. It also pushes whatever acne you may ever have in the future right to the surface of the skin in the present.

So, my face is full of cystic acne. And if you’ve ever had cystic acne, you know it’s the kind of acne that is extremely painful to the touch and to your face.

I also have braces, and I wear glasses all the time because my vision has changed drastically with the thyroid having gone haywire.

In short, I LOOK AWFUL. But it’s ok, because I know it’s going to get better. I have complete faith. Of this, I have no doubt. What’s that platitude? “This too, shall pass.” Thank you, platitude.

Now, you may ask yourself, “Why haven’t you spoken up for yourself during all this time? Why haven’t you done something about it?”

Well, let’s talk about the fact that I’m not supposed to be in my friend’s apartment in the first place. You see, the apartment belongs to her parents, and her parents abhor dogs and anything belonging to Nature. There’s a rule in that apartment: no dogs allowed, Snoopy.

Plus, let’s talk about the fact that Lisa has made Paco swear not to tell her parents that I’m there with a dog. If I were to defend myself, he would directly go to her parents (who are currently in NYC), and then they would have me thrown out, and then I would have to end up living in my car in the parking lot of the Presbyterian Hospital. Something I’m trying really, really hard to avoid. When you have nowhere to stay, you have nowhere to stay, so I decided I was going to put up with it.

But I couldn’t rationalize nor justify Paco’s last comments anymore.

I don’t answer him, but I do load up Lucas with his leash. I place my laptop in its case, take my purse, and walk out the door. It’s 6:00 a.m., and I hope to God that a Starbucks is open somewhere.

Why Mickey Rourke Named His Dog Loki

Remember The Wrestler? Remember Mickey Rourke’s comeback? Remember how all he talked about was his dogs, especially Loki, a chihuahua? Were you ever bored and thought, “Loki, now that’s a strange name for a dog.” Why would Mickey do that?

It turns out that Loki is in fact, a great name for a dog. Witness:

I highly suggest you read the poem Lokasanna (Poetic Edda), where Loki (a son of Odin that is a trickster, a jackass, a backstabber, and an all around grade-A a-hole) is not invited for a family meal with the other gods. He finds out through a third-party that he’s not invited (he kills the third-party as revenge), and then decides to crash the meal like a true berserk.

Once he enters the hall, he hurls scathing insults at every single Norse god there. He manages to call every male god either a coward, an idiot, a weakling, or a bastard. Not content with that, he calls every female god (including his own mother) a whore, a cheater, a seductress, and a liar. It’s just awkward moment past awkward moment past awkward moment.

Finally, someone says: “Now you see why we didn’t invite you? You always do this, Loki!” At which point, Loki starts a new insult at this person. During the insult, the gods murmur among themselves: “Wait til Thor arrives! He’s going to go crazy when he sees Loki here doing this!” Loki overhears this and starts talking shit about Thor.

And of course, Thor arrives at that precise moment. It takes Thor only a second to size up what’s been going on here.

Thor has had enough of his brother’s crazy, so he drags Loki out, and straps him to a rock with Loki’s own dead son’s entrails (his son was not very nice either; so don’t feel bad for the son nor his entrails), while another god placed a venomous snake above Loki’s head. You know what that snake did?

It dripped poison from its mouth down onto Loki on a daily, continuous, 24-hour basis.

Luckily, Loki had a wife (she must have been a saint) who stayed with him day and night holding a wooden basin so as to collect the venom. But alas, at some point that basin must get full.

And it did.  The basin got full, and she ran out with it to empty it someplace else, leaving Loki all alone.

So the poison finally reached Loki, and he writhed, struggled, and screamed in so much pain that he made the Earth tremble.

The moral of the story:

First, don’t hurl insults UNLESS they’re justified. Hurling insults just for fun leads only to trouble.

Second, don’t walk towards trouble, walk away from it.

Third, know your family. Some will not hesitate to place a venomous snake above you, while you’re strapped naked to a rock in the icy cold waters of Scandinavia.

Did you know that “loco” [“crazy” in Spanish] comes from “Loki?” Exactly.

Did you also know that he shapeshifted into a mare so he could have relations with a horse? Yeah, that’s Loki for you. He also  convinced Thor (Thor of all people! Thor, ok?) to be a cross-dresser at a wedding.

Fun times with Loki, right Mickey?

The Reason Cockroaches Exist

While scientists will tell you that cockroaches are actually needed for the ecological balance of a habitat because these critters help biodegrade everything—ants, old food, new food, dust, newly shed-off human and animal skin cells, newspaper, and cardboard—I say differently.

These beings were put here so we could shit on ourselves every time they make an appearance and force us to make a choice: do we continue our mission or do we abort?

No, my friends, we do not abort, we never abort. We wage war. Cockroaches are here to tell us that violence is the one and only answer to a problem. Notice that cockroaches come from the order “Blattaria or Blattodea.” Let’s call it “Blatt” for short. Notice that if you move the “l” to the end of the word, you now have the word “Battl.” Add just one letter and you have: Battle.

I mean, they’re just begging for it.

I’m not going to elaborate on common knowledge surrounding the cockroach: that they would be the only things to survive a nuclear holocaust (by the way, this is not entirely true: turns out the fruit fly is a lot more resistant to radiation than a cockroach would ever be, for now); that they can survive for three weeks after having their heads cut off; and that they can go 45 minutes or more without air. We also know that cockroaches are univerally known both for their element of surprise and their sense of timing (or “humor,” as they prefer it to be called).

No, we are all too familiar with these horrendous facts.

In order to coexist, we need to accept the inevitable existence of cockroaches and more importantly, what that existence means to us, spiritually.

Cockroaches are life’s little (or big, if you live in the tropics like me) disgusting way of reminding you that you can’t do something, that you must be afraid, and that you can’t achieve what you dream of. They are the animal kingdom’s major buzzkills: their sole purpose is to destroy your sense of resolve, bring you to your knees, and cut your soul into irretrievable pieces.

But are they really life’s major killjoys? Or are they something else? Are they here to test our character, to see whether we can actually overcome Fear and start doing and achieving what we want instead of what society dictates?

My friends, cockroaches are life’s intangible problems made disgustingly and distinguishably tangible, so that we can see that we have a choice. Either we shy away from confronting an issue when it becomes too big for us, or we actually garner strength and speed and gallop like Phar Lap toward the problem, ravenous to destroy it so it stops destroying us.

If you find yourself dreaming about cockroaches (like I have for the last two nights in a row) or, even better, you find a cockroach in your home (like I have for the past week), don’t fret. This is life’s little way of telling you to be resilient, and what better embodiment of resilience can there be than the cockroach?

So go ahead, and show the cockroach that you too are known for your element of surprise and sense of timing. Murder that little bugger* and let life know who’s the boss. Because you’re worth it!

Thanks Maybelline.

*With absolutely no apologies to the CLF (Cockroach Liberation Front). Even I, an animal lover, has to draw the line somewhere in the sands of Puerto Rico.

La Cucaracha Puede Caminar

I apologize for falling off the face of the planet…stealing WiFi here and there turned out to be harder than I thought. I finally moved into my new apartment this past week, and I got Internet installed late Friday night.

The new apartment is great…only that when I got home Saturday night, I found a black bird flying in my bedroom. Since I was so tired, I just stood there, trying to figure out what kind of bird in his right mind could be stuck in my bedroom. How did you get in, little birdie?

Lucas, however, wasn’t convinced. He started barking at it. It was the kind of bark that alerted me.

[Lucas has over 200 kinds of barks, I’m convinced. After living with him for 5 years, I can tell, just by his bark, whether he’s excited, afraid, trying to be funny, stuck behind a sofa, upset, sad, wanting to play, the wake-up Pola bark, or just plain desperate to go outside.]

Tonight’s bark, however, was the bark reserved for emergencies. He doesn’t use this bark very much; perhaps, once every three months. Let’s call this bark the Alarum bark, ok?

So I straightened up and took a step back. Lucas had already taken two steps backwards. He’s so much smarter than I am. I peered at the flying object, which seemed deranged in its flight course.

It wasn’t a black bird. And it definitely wasn’t Superman.

It was a giant cockroach with wings. What in Miami is known as a Palmetto bug. Here it’s just known as la gran cucaracha con alas, carajo.

At which point, I had to ask the Universe: is it personal? Is there a personal agenda against me?

I look at my bed, and oh yes, right there on the brand-new white linens, is another cockroach. Its antennae are moving lazily back and forth. He’s looking at me with curiosity. Then, I look at the lampshade. Nice touch! There’a German cockroach there, just hanging out. [German cockroaches are like the dwarf ponies of the cockroach world; they’re small and for me, easier to kill. I just can’t stand that crunchy/liquidy sound when you kill a regular-sized cockroach.]

Ok, so the Universe has a personal agenda. It’s personal. And here I was thinking that all the shit that had hit the fan in the last two years had to be a statistic outlier. Fine, bring it on.

I close the door and sleep in the living room WITH ALL THE LIGHTS ON on Friday night.

On Saturday, a nice man named Carlos came to fumigate. After he left, I went to Walgreens and bought cockroach guns: 40 roach motels, sprays, and that fogger BOMB thing that causes irreparable neurological damage in you and your loved ones.

I come back home and open the bedroom door: ” I know how this ends. Either leave, or I will murder all of you and your children.” I close the door.

I’ve been trying really hard to be a Buddhist, so every time I find a living organism that is lost (like a bright green iguana in a white parking lot) or confused (like a fly trying desperately to get out a closed window), I actually take my damn time to help the critter back to its natural habitat. Now, I’ve heard that in order to be a true Buddhist, you don’t kill anything, NOT EVEN COCKROACHES.

But the flesh is weak, the flesh is very weak. And even I, an animal lover, must draw the line somewhere in the sand. The most Buddhist thing I could do was elicit a warning, and hope they understood.

Of course, the cockroach is known for not having a sense of respect in the animal kingdom, so I’m sure they all laughed at me, called more of their peeps, and are getting ready to start a cockroach convention on my bed. Complete with a few that fly for their own version of Cirque du Soleil: Cucaracha Fantastique.

Well, cucarachas, your deaths are imminent. Later that day, I sprayed everywhere that I could think of in the bedroom. Then I sprayed all over the apartment.

But then, for the last two days, I’ve been sleeping in the living room with all lights on because I’m too chickenshit to sleep in the bedroom.

I need courage.


Break-In

I slept well in the new apartment, as did Lucas. (Little did I know that it would be my first and last time of sleeping well for the next week and a half.)

At 5:45 a.m., I hear some noise coming from the kitchen.

The way the apartment is laid out, so you have an idea, is as follows: the kitchen, living, and dining area are all near the entrance; then, a door near the dining room gives way to the three bedrooms.

Now, at 5:45 a.m., someone (or something) is moving in the kitchen. My first two thoughts are: someone has broken in, or it’s an iguana. Theoretically, an iguana could have entered the lobby unnoticed, hitched a ride on one of the two elevators, gotten off on my floor and then…broken the lock to what?

No. The iguana is now discarded.

Did I leave the balcony door open and now there is a water spout convention in the apartment?

Lucas is already standing on the bed and growling at the door. I put my hand on him, and he calms down a bit. I just need to listen. I remember that I made sure to close the balcony door last night at 2 a.m., when I got up to drink water.

The water distiller machine starts making a clicking sound. SHIT, someone has broken in and is actually serving himself (herself?) a glass of water from the refrigerator’s water dispenser. A small bang, then I hear the morning news.

WHAT THE FUCK?

I can’t believe it. Karma really has it in for me. I must have been a pretty shitty person in my past life.

And just last night Lucas was finally wagging his stubby tail after months of schnauzer moroseness.

I get out of bed, put my hair up in a bun (I don’t want the person pulling me by the hair), and search for my glasses.

BANG.

Shit, now it sounds like someone has taken a bat to the kitchen.

Lucas starts barking, and I notice that my arms are shaking. I find my glasses tucked underneath the pillow.

It’s time to take down this B-52.

I get my pepper spray and a stun gun. I take the pepper spray in my right hand, and the stun gun in my left. I open the bedroom door slightly and listen.

It sounds like the person hasn’t made his way to the bedroom area. Good. I jump into the hallway and place my ear on the door that leads to the kitchen/living area. I hear feet shuffling and the morning news. It sounds like a radio. I didn’t see a radio anywhere last night.

For a moment I consider the element of using nudity as surprise.

I had read somewhere that a general in Africa would make his men take off their clothes and attack naked. A brilliant tactic since the victims were more frightened by the collective nakedness than by the fact the soldiers had guns. As a result, no guns were ever fired, because the victims would just be standing there with their mouths open.

No, no nakedness. I decide I’m just going to open door, run toward the guy, and spray him squarely in the eyes. Then, I’ll stun him on the neck, near the jugular.

I check the pepper spray bottle and make sure the nozzle is pointing outward. I’ve managed to spray myself not once but twice with pepper spray. Neither time was on purpose. I turn on the stun gun, see the little red light indicating it’s on.

Then I decide I’m going to rush out, screaming. The screaming will not only surprise the intruder, but also remind me that I have a voice through all this.

I grip my weapons, open the door, and run out into the kitchen, screaming:

“For Narnia!”

The man has his back to me; he’s washing dishes at the sink. PERFECT. As he is turning toward the screaming, I grip the pepper spray, point, and push the button.

The spray hits him perfectly in the eyes. Awesome!

Only, that he’s wearing glasses.

Oh no, I had not considered that the burglar might be wearing glasses.

Still, that spray is a mofo.

¿Qué carajo? ¡Carajo!” He puts his hands to his eyes, and I step back. He’s six feet, shit. I was hoping he would be smaller. He also looks familiar, oh shit.

“Tell me who you are or I’ll destroy you!” I scream. I have now switched the stun gun to my right hand.

“Pola! It’s me! Paco!”

Paco, the man who had given me the keys to the apartment yesterday.

“What are you doing here?” I scream.

“I house-sit, goddammit. I house-sit this apartment every day.”

“What?”

“Lisa’s father pays me to house-sit every day, Monday through Friday, from 6 a.m. til 3 p.m.”

“What?”

He can’t talk because he can’t stop coughing. Lucas is barking from the bedroom like a deranged German Shepherd.

Paco can’t talk because he’s too busy dying in front of me. I pay no attention to this, so I press the stun gun’s button, and the thing makes its loud crackling noise. He jumps.

“You hear that?” I hear myself say. “You know what that is.”

“…fuck…” I hear him swear.

“I’m going to call my friend and confirm this!” I yell at him and run back into the bedroom area and lock the hallway door. Then, I rush into my bedroom, lock the door, and push an armchair against it. I get my cell phone and call my friend. Hopefully she’s up.

She IS up.

“Hey! Good morning! What’s up?” she says chirply.

“Man in the kitchen, man in the kitchen.” That’s all I can get out.

“What?”

“Man with the keys in your kitchen. Man from yesterday.”

“Paco?”

“Yeah, Paco. What is he doing here?”

“Oh! I forgot to tell you. Shit, sorry. He comes in every single day, Monday through Friday and stays there from 6 a.m. til 3 p.m. Dad pays him to keep the apartment clean and make sure no one gets in.”

“Oh shit oh shit oh shit.”

“Why, what happened?”

“I just attacked him with pepper spray.”

“You did what?”

“I thought he was a burglar, and I just pepper sprayed him. I’m so sorry.”

“Get him on the phone,” she says. She sounds pissed. She hates me now and will boot me from her apartment. I’m going to be living in my car in the parking lot of the Presbyterian hospital after all. Never trust happiness.

I run out, still with the pepper spray, and find the guy sitting in the living room, coughing, his eyes are red and tears are coming down his face.

“Here,” I say. “It’s Lisa. Sorry.” I hand him the cell phone.

He takes it. “Oh my God, Lisa. Your friend is crazy.” And then, “Oh, I forgot to tell her that I come here every day…yeah…yeah…sorry, right. Ok, bye.” He hands me back the cell.

“He should have told you. I should have told you. I’m so sorry,” my friend says apologetically. “I can’t believe you just pepper sprayed him. He has diabetes.”

“Oh no. I’m sorry,” I say to her. Then to him, “I’m sorry Paco, I didn’t know that this was your job.”

He just shakes his head.

“Think of him as extra security,” she says. “I have to go to the gym now, but we’ll talk later. Make him coffee or something so he feels better. And remind him to take his pill; otherwise his sugar gets too high.”

“Ok.”

I hang up. Lucas has now run toward Paco and is meticulously peeing on him.

“What the fuck?” Paco screams. “I thought he was housebroken.”

“He is, but he’s been trained to attack.” Then, “Would you like coffee?” I look for a Dove chocolate in my purse and run back out. I peel off the wrapping, which says: “Draw yourself a bath.” I offer him the chocolate. He shakes his head. “Just give me a moment.”

“Ok,” I pop the Dove in my mouth and start making coffee.

First and Last Sleep

After all 27 boxes, 2 lamps, and 1 schnauzer are packed into the Rogue, I drive over to what will be my new home. Freddie Mercury is singing “The Show Must Go On” in the background.

As I’ve said before, thank goodness for friends. My friend in NYC very generously decided to let me stay at her empty apartment until the apartment I will be renting opens up. My friend’s dad’s employee, a man in his fifties, is waiting in the lobby with the keys.

The last time I had been in the apartment, my friend had been remodeling it, and now it really shows. It’s absolutely beautiful. It’s a three-bedroom, with a balcony, all overlooking a huge park. She has excellent taste, and the furniture is all woods chic with Persian rug je ne sais quoi. I can’t believe there is so much space.

And neither can Lucas. He is flying at faster than light speed all over the apartment. He is the schnauzer neutrino.

[In the guesthouse, we were staying in the smallest and cheapest room available, which was 150 square feet. Lucas and I were sardines in a can.]

“He doesn’t pee, now does he?” The man asks.

“No, he’s house trained.”

He exhales. “Ok, so Lisa said she’s sorry there’s no cable and no Internet.” He looks at me mournfully.

“I don’t care. I don’t need any of those things.” He stares at me.

“What do you do for fun then?”

I realize I don’t know how to answer this question, without sounding boring. But I’ve realized that life is thankfully, not high school nor college. You don’t have to “be cool” or pretend to be someone (or something) you’re not for the sake of other people’s opinions. Not everyone who meets you will like you, nor will you like everyone you meet. So why continue the pointless circus?

“I read.” I respond.

“That’s awful.” He lets out a polite scoff. “Don’t you like to go out to the beach, travel, see a movie, play a sport?”

“I prefer going places in my head.”

“Uh-huh. Well, here are the keys, and have a good night.”

“Thank you! Thank you!”

The man exits.

Lucas then goes over to the door that leads to the balcony and ejaculates a small bark. I know he wants to go outside and investigate the balcony so I open the door. He shoots out and smells everything: the patio chairs, the patio table, the potted plants. Then he stands and looks down at the park. He is enchanted with the fact that the balcony’s rail is all in glass, and that he can actually see everything, without having to stand on two legs. A dog god has finally heard his prayers on the architectural structures of balconies.

His stubby tail moves back and forth slowly. It’s been months since Lucas has wagged his tail.

I could not be more happy for him.

All I can think of is sleep now. When I see the bed in the guest bedroom, I dive into it, but without the grace of Greg Louganis. It is 5:30 p.m., and a Friday. I fall asleep quickly and dream of Bill Nye asking me to marry him. Instead of a wedding ring, he presents me with a graduated cylinder full of rose water.

Later on, Lucas wanders in and wants to go to bed too. I pick him up and place him next to me. He makes three circles and lets himself fall on the bed and against my leg. In two minutes, he’s snoring. In five minutes, he’s dreaming, his popcorn-smelling paws moving slightly along with his dreamscape.

I could not be more happy.