These are the people in your weird fucking neighborhood…

Okay, so Classless made me laugh my ass off by posting a list of the freaky folk in her apartment complex, and it immediately made me think of my old apartment in Galesburg, my favorite place that I ever lived pre-Catherine. 

It was a former YMCA building, complete with haunted rumors and all, and it was perfect.  The old gym was still in the basement, with elevated tracks running along the walls of the second and third floors.  (You know that caged arena thing in the AC/DC video for “Thunderstruck”?  Picture that, but just not so…jail-yard looking.)  The lobby had a commons room, and the whole place hadn’t been decorated since about 1963.  Paneling, carpeting, apartments themselves…and, it was across the street from the best damn coffee shop in the entire Midwest, Innkeeper’s Coffee.  The two years I lived there were really great, made even greater by the fact that, for the last five months, Catherine lived there with me after I spirited her out of her dorm two weeks after meeting.  🙂  That’s luuuuuuuuuuvvvv, baby.

But even the most perfect apartment is not complete without a few screwballs sharing your communal space.  I will recite these in order of crazy:

Smelly Man (least crazy)
Smelly Man wasn’t really crazy, he was just odd.  Skeleton thin with a scruffy red beard and Coke-bottle glasses, he also lived on my floor, so I was able to smell his pungent aroma on more than a few occasions.  SM was self-explanatory – take a pair of the sweatiest, nastiest gym socks you’ve ever smelled, lock them up in a tiny box for about twenty-five years, then open it.  Roll around inside said box until this smell is so deep in your pores that you radiate almost visible waves of stink (like in cartoons, when someone falls into a junkyard or something).  Then, you, too, will be like Smelly Man.  He was truly gag-inducing.  If you saw him coming, you held your breath or you suffered the consequences.  A delight for all the senses, if you enjoyed huffing corpses or burning trash as a hobby.

Pizza Joe (moderately crazy)
This man weighed about 300 pounds, had a crazed, vacant stare and walked around giggling to himself like John Wayne fucking Gacy.  Truly, all he was missing was the clown makeup.  He was a pizza delivery guy in Galesburg and had been for as long as I could remember – in fact, he used to deliver pizzas to me and my friends when we were in high school.  So, we’re talking a good decade later, here he was, two floors below me.  There was a rumor corroborated by several reputable sources that he was more than a little interested in child porn, and once, he was discovered by my best friend pissing in the elevator lobby behind the building.   Yeah.  What do you say about that, really?  Make the sign of the cross and shout, Back, Pogo?

And, finally…

RUTH.

Ruth was, without question, balls-out fucking nuts.   I first encountered this wizened little eighty-year-old with the squinty, suspicious eyes the day I moved in. 

“You moving in?” She asked on the elevator.  (Of course, she lived on my floor.)

“Sure am – nice to meet you!”  I held out my hand, which she didn’t shake.  “I’m Chris.”

She stared at me like a weird little kid, all squinty-like.   “Ohhhh, yeahh…you’re the mystery writer, huh?” 

At this point in my life, I was writing screenplays.  “Well, yeah, I guess I am.”

“I don’t like mystery stories.”  Not convinced that I wasn’t evil or something, she then tried her damnedest to get into my apartment and  look around, and mistook my mother for my girlfriend.  I was sickened and disturbed by Ruth on Day One.

Things went downhill from there.

About six months after I moved in, my best friend, who lived across the hall, noted that he’d seen Ruth wandering around the building, looking disoriented.   We both took her for a little daffy, maybe even a bit senile, even though she would still converse normally.  Then, one fateful Sunday, I decided to do laundry.

There was a small laundry room on each floor, and the floors were U-shaped, so mine was on the opposite side of the floor from my apartment.  Now, the laundry room was little more than a converted pantry, with one washer and one dryer, and a marble top counter that was only about four feet wide next to the dryer.  This was the width of the room itself, so when you walked in, the dryer obscured part of the counter and the space below it. 

I walked in, unloaded my clothes from the washer, opened the dryer door, and began stuffing them inside…when I noticed a body, tucked underneath the hidden half of the counter.

To say that my blood went cold would be an understatement.  When I realized that A) it was Ruth, B) she wasn’t dead, and C) she was crawling out to greet me, I was calculating how long it would actually take me to run to my apartment and board the door.  This is it, I thought.  This is the first wave.  Ruth is officially the first zombie.  TO THE ROOF!

“Uh, Ruth?” I said, backing up a bit as she emerged and dusted herself off.  She looked like she hadn’t slept in days, and she had a Big Gulp.  It was a David Lynch movie come to life, right in front of me.  If she’d opened her mouth to reveal a tiny man tapdancing on her tongue or something, I don’t know how surprised I really would have been.  “Are you okay?”

“Oh, yeah,” she said.  “They can’t get me down here, I don’t think.  They can’t see me.”

“Who?”

“Well,” she said, “[the landlord] hired them, you know.  To get me out of here.  They’re up on the roof, and they shoot those lasers through the ceiling at me.  They aim for my head, you know.  But they can’t get through this.”  She banged her knuckles against the faux-marble counter.  

“Who are you talking about, Ruth?”  It was starting to make some degree of sense – the building owner had hired roofers to re-tar the whole building, and they’d been up there for about a week, banging away. 

“The TOM CAT KILLERS!  On the ROOF!”  She was getting impatient with me.  What did I have on me that could deliver the necessary head wound in the event that she lunged and tried to bite my arm?  Detergent bottle?  Should I flip backward and hope that she misses me, nailing herself on the doorknob instead?  Where the fuck was Ken Foree when I needed him?  “I know you don’t believe me!  I know it sounds crazy!”

“Oh, no!” I said quickly.  “I don’t think it’s crazy.  I know what you’re saying.”  I figured I should play along or suffer some further manifestation of her lunacy.  I didn’t want to see what tricks of her crazy trade she had tucked away under that counter.  “Do you need me to…call someone or anything?”

“No, no,” she said.  “My apartment isn’t safe, all I have is my car…I’m on my own for this one.”  Then, she started whispering and muttering to herself, and I backed up and got the hell out of there.  I went straight down to the building office, where I found out that Ruth had been exhibiting signs of dementia for a while. 

In the coming weeks, Ruth’s estranged daughter was called, and they entered her apartment to find the entire thing covered in tin foil.  Furniture, windows, counters, everything.  Lasers, you know.  Tom Cat Killers have verrrrrry high-quality lasers.  Or something.   :/  After the landlord insisted that she move out, Ruth found another apartment with some supervision.  But not before my best friend and I returned to the building one night after a Taco Bell run to find Ruth in her parked car, face and hands plastered to the glass, staring at everything that moved past the window.  Nearly shitting ourselves, we beat a hasty path to the building, and we never saw Ruth again. 

Man.  What a cool building.  I still miss it. 

(Note: I wrote a screenplay about this building and my experiences there, a horror film called “The Tombs” that features the batshit-crazy greatest hits of my fellow residents.  Let us pray that one day I can unleash it upon the world.  Galesburg’s tourism will skyrocket, my friends.

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~ by thismarriedguy on March 25, 2009.

One Response to “These are the people in your weird fucking neighborhood…”

  1. hahahahahahhahahahahahahahaha!! Good glory! I forgot about Ruth!!! Those were the days, my son! Remember the ancient exercise-crazed guy and the creepy middle-of-the-night forays out into the darkened hallways to find sources of the ambient voodoo music? I have to admit that it was totally fun having you live there! I miss the Friday afternoon coffee breaks, too. Lots of writing fodder in that place!

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