I can tell you how people act and predict how they will act. I can even tell you why. I don’t just listen to the things they say, but I listen to what it is they need people to know. And then I learn something about them they didn’t even mean to share. They just can’t help themselves. When I meet someone new, I will defer. I will show them my underbelly and allow them to think they are in charge until I can get a sense of who they really are and then I adjust accordingly. It’s saved me many a time.
I’m at this cute AirBNB. I’m in the shed. It’s 10′ x 6′, which is perfect for one person. I came to this realization August 2018 when I stayed in a sublet in Bed-Stuy. It prepared me to pair down my life to things I could see and how to maximize space use. The place is great and you can tell the owner really put thought into it.
There’s another AirBNBr here. She’s an old hippie ex-army nurse who’s in town to deal with her brother who’s in ill health. She talks terribly about him.
The first day she was here, I gave her my autism intro. I’m weird. My body language is odd. If you don’t understand something or something bothers you, just tell me. “No,” she said…over and over…”You seem incredibly normal…blah blah blah.” Same thing people always say.
Only she’s a nurse and she’s worked in mental health facilities. And she thinks her brother is autistic. So she claims to know things. But, of course, she doesn’t. She told her brother to stop being autistic…this week.
Self-isolating is not easy. I’m doing it in the best of circumstances here in Tucson. But it’s still lonely. I wanted to have one of my dogs with me. I asked the owner and she said sure, as long as I checked with the AirBNBr. First she said ok. Then she said no because she didn’t like her neighbor’s dog and she really enjoyed the spa experience she’d been having: taking long baths in the outdoor tub; showing in the outdoor shower; talking on the phone out in the yard. Basically taking over the shared space as her own. I don’t really care because I have a private yard.
But then she said yes again.
I waited almost two weeks to bring Hugo. He’s a seven pound Maltese. She’s supposed to leave on Monday and I’m going to be alone here til April 30th. I had to figure out a good time for my father to come and bring him. My dad’s 73 and lives in Nogales. There are limited options. So it had to be yesterday when he was willing to do it.
She saw him for two seconds and flew into a rage. He managed to bark once during her evening reverie in that goddamned outdoor tub because he was alerting me, and she nagged, “This is what I was afraid of.” I called Hugo and he went right into the shed.
All I responded was, “We’re all making sacrifices.”
I would have been earnestly sorry for bothering her but she’d spent days saying awful things. Like telling me to read “American Dirt” because, though it was fiction, it was based on the truth. It isn’t. It’s actually highly controversial. I mentioned to her that the book had been controversial and she told me I should read it…and then told me how exciting and entertaining it was. I don’t have a perfect analogy for you, but basically she was telling me to read Gone With The Wind for its historical accuracy.
That wasn’t so bad. I’m used to having white people explain my culture me. But then she started in on the homeless and how Arab men like to rape women and how other “we” can’t travel alone around the world because men see “us” and want to rape us. Brown men were dangerous because their culture and their religion made them so. I asked her who “we” were, and she said, “Americans.” What she meant was white American women.
I was in a bad mood. I was barely awake. And I’m not my best in the morning hours. I told her that men all over the world rape and take advantage. It is not limited to other cultures. That she was naive to think those things didn’t happen here. That only entitled people think they should be able to go around the world and think they should be safe from harm. That no one ever invited her to their countries to galavant. There was more to the conversation…she said she had heard that women get raped in the U.S….Indian women. But the only reason their accusers don’t get convicted is because of jurisdictional issues…she’d read a novel about it apparently. I told her that the government intentionally puts jurisdictional roadblocks down all the time when people take advantage of civil rights. And then I took the food I’d just cooked and went to my room.
I could have been diplomatic. I could have been strategic and batted my eyes and pretended she was so wise and brilliant. But I’m hardly human before noon.
So after she got out of her evening bath and took her outdoor shower, she shouted at me from the yard, “Are we going to discuss this now or in the morning?” Like she was my mother and I was some pouty teenager. I was on the phone, so I told her so and kept talking to my sister about her day working with patients. She went away.
This morning was nice. Hugo has just laid at the end of my bed and slept, like he always does. The only time he barks is to alert me when someone is coming. So when she came through the gate from wherever she’d gone (she goes wherever and comes back saying things like, “I think I’m inoculating myself to Covid by exposing myself to it all over town.”) he barked. I picked him up and put him in my shed and closed the door. He didn’t bark again.
She flew into a rage again and opened my door to come in…to my shed. I held onto Hugo and told her to get back. Calmly but firmly.
And then she went into this frenzy, running back and forth through the yard, her hippy ponytail flipping all over the place, and calling me every name in the book. I’m not exaggerating. She was like some cartoon character. She called me a drama queen. I was washing dishes, she was screaming. And I was the drama queen. Ok. She said I was hard. I was black and white. Again, funny, because…yes, there is right and wrong…but I’m nothing if not nuanced. I can’t help it if she wasn’t capable of grasping that. There are way more dummies out there than people like me.
She said she would tell the AirBNB owner. I told her to go ahead. I wasn’t worried. I’d already told the AirBNB owner the night before that this woman was unhinged and she assured me that the AirBNBr would be gone by Monday and she’d block her from staying any more days. She offered to dog sit. She offered to have the renter watch Hugo. She said I’d have the place to myself for the month of April. All great solutions. I told her that I’d be willing to throw in extra money if it would help keep her afloat.
The problem isn’t Hugo. The problem is that this woman is having the reaction that insecure women have around me. They are unable to deal with me…maybe because I am frank (though rarely rude) or because I’m not overly emotive or because I’m just not interested in bullshit. All autistic traits. They project their own motives onto me. They call me passive aggressive. I’m not. I’m extremely chill. I don’t care enough about much to do anything. And if I’m aggressive, it isn’t going to be in a passive way. If I do resort to passive aggression, it’s a self-defense mechanism around women I find dangerous. I just stand back and observe and let them tell me who they are. And this woman is nuts.
After she left in a huff I talked to my roommate Gianfranco in Brooklyn. He’s lived with me since November. I asked him what he thought. He laughed because he knows me well enough to know I’m none of the things she said. But because I grew up in a home where my own intuition was denied, I sometimes have to check with other people to see what’s true.
I just have to make it through Monday. I’ll be fine. People are under stress. I’m under stress. My city is suffering. My friends are anxious. Some of them are very much in harm’s way. My sisters are both in harm’s way. My parents. I’m far from home for who knows how long. I am alone and lonely. I’m trying to self-isolate as best I can. I have limits.
My dog wasn’t the deal breaker. This is who this woman was. She finally let down her mask. There had been tens of little signs I’d gathered in the two weeks she’d been here that let me know she was unstable. She’d been a 13-year old runaway. She had problems with authority. She’d spent her teens and early twenties running from ashram to commune to ashram all over the country. She’d been married three times.
She never once named a friend. She never once called a friend. Only her husband. Sixty-four and she never named a friend. In the middle of a worldwide pandemic, she never once mentioned a person for whom she was worried…on the entire planet. That says a lot about a person.
Why do I say all this stuff? Because this is how I think when it comes to survival. I’m not at home. I’m alone. And I have only myself to rely on. So yeah, I don’t have time or the inclination to mince words with someone I find will not yield to reason.
I just have to look out for myself. But that’s something I know I can do.