If you have followed me thus far in my misadventures with roommates, and read about all the problems I had with my tenants for several years, you may wonder how I had the patience to endure all this trouble and distress, all this disrespect and abuse — of which there will be more still to come!
The answer lies largely in love and joy, which in me are unstoppable forces. I love my life, I love my house, I love the Divine, and I love goodness and beauty, truth and justice, music and art and nature, and many other things, and I don’t let the nasties of the world get in the way of any of this. The thoughts we think, create our world, and so my world would continue to unfold as love and joy, in spite of all the difficulties I had to experience, because love, joy and gratitude were where I chose to put my energy. So through all of my difficulties, I experienced myself being buoyed up by the power of the spiritual realm.
Though I’m not Christian, but Pagan, I find great beauty in some of the Christian music and mythos. “The Pure of Heart Shall See God.” And the DooDoo that set up traps for others to fall into — well, they shall see something else!! And the Christian mythos eloquently speaks to that as well: (I like to modify some of the Christian story to fit my Pagan orientation)
“Behold he has labored with injustice, and brought forth iniquity — he made a pit, and dug it, and is fallen into the hole he made. His evil shall return upon him….but I will praise Gaia. Sing praise to Gaia, who dwells in the Beauty of the Earth and Sky. “
So I would carry on with my mission of love, joy and gratitude in life, and leave the Demented Duo to Miss Karma. She tends to take care of those loose ends pretty well.
After the Demented Duo ( see part four of this story to read about them) moved out of my house, I had a few other more minor misadventures with roommates, but for the most part things were fairly peaceful for the next 2 years, including with Jonathan. Jon was very quiet, and very clean, and I very much appreciated those things about him. He didn’t seem to mind too much that I had deprived him of his budding co-revolutionaires the Demented Duo, but I got the sense that he could contently do his political organizing elsewhere. He seemed to adapt to whatever situation I had in my house. And I adapted to his “Occupy” poster on the front window of my house — I never liked it entirely, and later on I would get to the point where I would take greater ownership of my entire house, but I wasn’t there quite yet.
Quiet Robb and Marie “You- wont’- have- a- problem- with- me”
Eventually, I had a fellow artist in the room where Elizabeth had formerly stayed. I was delighted to have this shy, sweet, very polite young man at my home — a thin blonde twenty-two year old student at an art college in my area, Robb was also very quiet and clean, and one of my best tenants. His art was fascinating, and he spent long quiet hours making his detailed drawings and paintings. (This image shown here is one of Robb’s real artworks, really created by him!)
Things went very well at my house for about a year. Eventually, I got a new roommate with the arrival of a young French student, Marie. Just like Elizabeth, Marie had said before she moved in, “You’ll never have a problem with me”, I should have taken heed, knowing that this meant I would have problems with her. But in she came, and things went well for a few months, until the time when she broke up with her boyfriend. Usually a break up means one sees less of a person, right? True for everyone, except Marie. After Marie announced she had broken up with him, he started coming over every day. She knew that this was not permitted, but dismissed me when I reminded her of that, raising her voice, waving her hand at me, and insisting that she could not be bothered with my trivia at this delicate time. As well, I found her out on my front porch smoking, and her boyfriend out smoking in my backyard, when they both knew or should have known that I did not allow smoking anywhere on my property. There were also cigarette butts being strewn on the sidewalk in front of my house.
Having learned something from my experience with the Demented Duo about the problems that can result when I fail to put my foot down in time, I was not going to be blown aside this way. I sat Marie down, and I told her how it was going to be in my house. She insulted me and complained how mean and heartless I was, for wanting her to abide by the rules she had agreed to follow at the start.
Later, I would find out that she had complained nonsensically to Jonathan and Robb about me, saying, “since the house is hers, she thinks she can do what she wants.” So what did she think, that since the house was mine, I should NOT have things go how I like in my own house? It was very difficult to understand the childish petulance and self-centered orientation of some of my tenants.
I throw Marie’s boyfriend out of my house
To her credit, Marie was honest enough to give notice that she would be moving out. Other tenants (notably Jon, in time to come) were not honest enough to simply leave my house when the situation was no longer working for them. So although Marie gave notice, during her last weeks at my house, she refused to follow the rules, and continued to have her boyfriend come over nearly every day. Again, I was to the point now where I had endured enough disrespect to last several lifetimes, so there would be no more of this. All the crap I’d had to endure, and the lawsuit, and all the injustice, gave me strength and spine and I was now going to most definitely stand up and take care of problems in my house. The next time I found him in the house, I just went right up to him and told him to get out immediately. He yelled at me about how he wouldn’t go, but when I persisted and kept saying, “get out! get out now! Get out of my house!!!” he finally relented and left, saying he didn’t want to be in my house anyway, as horrible as I was.
Marie scolded me right and left, backwards and forwards, how could I do that, being so horrible and mean as to chase her boyfriend outta my house (the one she had ostensibly broken up with several weeks ago?) !
Meanwhile, Jon, who had become friends with the young women who were tenants in the house next door to mine, had heard that they were having a roommate move out, and so there was a spot opening up for a new roomie next door. Unfortunately, he told Marie about this opening next door, and she lept at the opportunity. She pranced on over to the house next door, (which by the way was about fifteen feet away from my house!) and introduced herself, and before I knew it she was getting on right swell with the three women tenants next door. I even saw her idiotic jerk boyfriend smiling and running up the steps next door and going inside there. I was disturbed at this. I was perturbed at this. I did NOT want Marie and her ass of a boyfriend moving in right next door to me!! I realized I had a phone call to make.
I foil Marie’s plans to move in next door
The three young women next door thought they would just pick whomever they wanted for their new roommate. And apparently, from all I could see, they wanted Marie. She had charmed them, as she had charmed me, with her large green eyes and French accent, and promises to be good and courteous. But, like many tenants, these young women next door failed to realize one important thing — they were not the owners of that house. Now tenants have their wants and wishes, and landlords have ours, and generally landlords are very keen to know when a fellow landlord has a problem with a tenant. I knew my neighbor, Tom, owner of that house next door — I had known him for several years, since I first moved into my house. He and I had got along well. He lived in another city, but we were in touch regularly. So I called him up and gave him the low down. Once he heard the tale, particularly the part about Marie being a smoker, he said he would call up his young ladies and quickly put the lid on that plan of theirs to have Marie as a new roomie. He had smartly set up his rentals so that while he allowed his tenants to choose who they wanted as a roommate, he had the final say and had to give his seal of approval and write a rental agreement with the person. I told him to wait until Marie moved out of my house, before he conveyed the news that she was not welcome in his, because I didn’t want any retaliatory behavior in my house for her last few days.
Marie was due to move out tomorrow, and she was insisting that I give her back her security deposit immediately, the day of her departure. Now I might do this for someone who has been an excellent tenant, as a courtesy to such a good person, but never for a disrespectful brat. But again, I did not want to give her cause to start acting out before she moved out, so I didn’t directly tell her that she would not get her deposit refunded immediately.
When she finished moving out of her room, Marie approached me and demanded her deposit. I went in and saw that she had done no cleaning whatsoever, and informed her that if she did not clean the room, then I would be deducting cleaning charges from her deposit. Again, the brat swore at me, declaring loudly how mean I was that I would force her to vacuum her room, (oh, poor baby!) but she hurriedly grabbed the vacuum and ran it to and fro a few times. It didn’t do much, but I was willing to let that go. So I told her okay, now you’ll get your deposit back in 3 weeks. (this is the legal requirement in my state: security deposit must be returned in 21 days) “Three weeks!!!” She yelled at me, that I had promised to give her back her deposit immediately. I had done no such thing.
So now, I insisted it would be three weeks and no less than 3 weeks, and she said she would be calling the police about this. I smirked inside — fine, let her call the police, you might as well call the police because I didn’t bake you a pie today.
Marie continued yelling as she ran out the door. I guess after she went outside, she must have called a friend or two, because she did not give up with her threats that I must fork over her security deposit refund right away. She sent me a half dozen text messages, all of which I ignored, and when that did no good, she took to banging on my front door, which I ignored as well. Eventually, nutty Marie went away, to my relief. I wondered what would happen when she found out she would not be moving in next door?
The answer to that came in a couple days, when I received threatening emails from her. Marie was threatening to sue me for causing her to “lose my home.” She declared, insanely, (but with a cute bit of non-native English speaker charm) , “You cause me to lose my home, so think I should cause you that you lose yours home.” I was upset, because when I had spoken to Tom, I had made very clear to him that Marie was not to know that I had anything to do with why she wasn’t going to be moving into his house. He had promised me no worries, but when he spoke to his tenants, he had slipped, and told them that he’d heard from me that Marie was a smoker, and “I never rent to smokers: smokers lie.”
I continued to recieve email threats in second rate English from Marie, all attenuated in their violence by the charm of their improper grammar and syntax. I ignored all of these, believing that by refusing to reply I could best avoid escalation, as well as pointless arguments with an insane point of view. My neighbor Tom’s house was in no sense whatsoever “her home” , and it was inappropriate of her to even have interviewed with the ladies there, given the problems I had had with her. Any decent person would have understood that. Seriously – I had had to throw her boyfriend out of my house, and she thought the two of them could just happily move in right next door to me?? If they got in there, there would be no end to their bullying of me, attempting to retaliate. It would have been very bad.
So, particularly after all the dastardly events with the Demented Duo, I was very happy to score a success with putting the lid on Marie’s plan to move in next door. Eventually, she quit sending me the ludicrous threats — though she had stated defiantly in one of them that she came “from a long line of French revolutionaries” —-perhaps she finally realized that you shouldn’t start revolutions over trivia and nonsense.
Around the time that Marie moved out, I began having a few difficulties with Jon, which I will describe more in Chapter Six of this story. For now, however, let us go back to Robb, the quiet, shy, young artist tenant. Unbeknownst to me, Robb was distraught about school, which I would find out later from his parents. He had obtained a loan and was attending a highly rated art college, studying animation, with the intent of becoming a professional animation artist. But he felt discouraged — just like manufacturing jobs, animation jobs were going overseas,and he worried that he would never make it in this career. Aside from that, he was worried about all the debt he was accumulating, paying the expensive tuition at his school. He worked at a lowly Starbucks job, and again, unbeknownst to me, was having trouble meeting his bills, and his parents had actually been giving him money to pay his rent recently — and my rents were still very low.
One day, out of the blue, Robb asked to speak to me. We had not done much talking apart from light chat during his tenancy. But now, he seemed to need to talk to me about something. I sat down with him in the kitchen, and he began telling me a story, of how, on his birthday, he went on a hike with a friend of his, up to the top of a local hill. When they got to the top, his friend gave him a Jewish prayer shawl as a birthday present, and said what I surmised were a few words of prayer or blessing for Robb. For some reason, Robb was either confused or disturbed by this. He called it a “ritual” and asked me what a ritual was. I was taken aback, as I could not fathom that someone would be perplexed or thrown off by something as innocent as a few words of prayer or blessing, particularly if given by a friend. This was hard for me to understand, since as a natural mystic, I had since early childhood had easy, friendly and plentiful contact with the numinous or divine realm of life. For me, ritual of all type (whether the magnificent and solemn ritual of Catholic Liturgy, or the earthy and simple beauty of solitary prayer time with a zafu and a candle) was as comfortable a thing as an old pair of jeans. Hence, it was very difficult to understand the viewpoint of someone who stood so far outside this powerful spiritual center of all our lives.
I had the intuition that for Robb there was something disturbing about this thing called ritual, in fact the whole spiritual realm. During his entire time at my house, this was the only occaision he had ever sought me out to talk to me about something specifically. As I spoke to him about the prayer shawl experience, there was a vacant, uncomprehending look in Robb’s face, that concerned me, and I wasn’t sure what to make of this whole situation. Robb had never been a very grounded individual, but I had never seen anything like this in him before. When later on I would see the inside of his room, I would notice he had put up on his wall a Tibetan prayer rug, as well as an occult Magical Square above his desk, the Sator Square . The presence of these symbols in his room, suggested he had interest in the spiritual realm, but as a quite ungrounded individual, he was, unfortunately, likely blocked from any meaningful access to these realms.
A couple months later, at 4am in the morning, I was awakened by a knock on my bedroom door. I wondered what the matter was, assuming some emergency. Answering the door, I found Robb, who stared at me with a vacant expression in his face, and said to me, “What the hell is going on???!!” What the hell indeed. I thought there was some emergency, and expected him to now tell me that there was a huge water leak pouring into his room or loud music from a neighbor, or something very serious. Instead, he declared that I was running a power saw in my room. It took me but a couple seconds to realize Robb was having a mental breakdown, and was in the grip of psychotic delusion.
I told him I did not have a saw in my room, and went out to sit at the kitchen table to talk to him. As we spoke, Jon was awakened, and came out and sat at the table along with us. Robb kept talking about the noise of saws, saying he had seen power saws and had seen his parents being cut apart with saws. Both Jon and I tried to ground him and tell him there was no saw and that these things were not real. I held his hand and asked him to put his feet on the floor and sense his feet. Robb sat there, with a sort of glassy look in his eyes, and said that he was having a spiritual breakthrough. Psychotic delusions often seem like spiritual breakthroughs to those experiencing them, which is why matters of sprituality and religion are so difficult for those who have mental illnesses with psychotic aspects.
After about a half hour with Robb, Jon and I said we had to get back to bed, and so we encouraged him to try to sleep. I went back to bed, and hoped all would be well, but just minutes later, there was Robb knocking at my door again. I went and opened and he insisted he had to come into my room to check for power saws. I went out again, as Jon did, and we sat Robb down again. Now Robb was more restless, and kept getting up and going in and out the front door of the house, mumbling to himself something about “Just deal with it” and it seemed to me he was hearing voices. I went upstairs and pulled out his rental application, and found his parent’s phone number. I called them then and there, at 5am. It was later now, their time in Iowa, where they lived. I explained that Robb was having psychotic delusions, and then went and put him on the phone with them. His mother Carol spoke to him, and he seemed to calm down and do better after being on the line with her. I then spoke to Carol again, and was glad to hear that she and her husband Darren had asked Robb to come home to Iowa to visit them.
Eventually, I had to leave to go to work. I asked Jon to watch Robb and to let me know or call 911 if there were any serious problem. I thought that Robb might be turning out to be schizophrenic, as it is often around this age — in their early 20’s — when many schizophrenic individuals first show signs of their mental illness.
When I returned home from work later that day, Robb was gone. I learned later that after spending that night at a friend’s house, he had boarded an Amtrak train for Iowa the following morning. It wouldn’t be until several weeks later that I found out that the reason Robb spent the night at his friends’ house, was because Jon had yelled at him at my house and he felt afraid. I could easily see that Jon would be neither patient, nor compassionate and mature enough to deal with someone in psychosis.
I hoped all would go well with Robb’s visit to his family, though I was quite concerned that his mother Carol had not seemed willing to accept that her son had had psychotic symptoms. “He has not been sleeping much” she insisted, “He is stressed about school, he has been anxious and when he gets like that he doesn’t sleep well.” I didn’t think it was so safe for someone to travel alone while in a psychotic state, but to tell the truth I was relieved that his parents were acting quickly to take care of him in any way, since the alternative was that he would stay at my house, and I worried about a repeat of my experience with Loco Linda years before. I also did not want to be continually awakened by Robb knocking at my door in the middle of the night demanding to come in my room and check for power saws.
The following day, I got a call from Robb’s mother Carol, asking if I had heard from him. It turned out that he had never arrived in Iowa. The train had arrived, but he had not been on it. A big “I told you so” alarm went off in my head, as I pictured Robb, in a state of psychotic delusion, getting off the train and wandering to god knows where. I wished his mother had been more willing to accept what I had said about his state of mind. Later on, she would say that if she had known how bad it was with him, she and Darren would have come out to my city to get Robb herself.
Over the next two days, I heard more from Carol: Robb had been seen exiting the Amtrak train in Omaha, Nebraska. His belongings had been found still on the train at its terminus point in Chicago. No one had seen or heard any sign of him in Omaha. Carol and Darren believed that Robb was just confused and hadn’t had enough sleep, and would turn up eventually. But still they called the police, and filed missing persons reports.
A week later, still having heard nothing from Robb, and the police not having found him, Carol and Darren drove to Omaha and began a search. They combed the city and put up missing persons flyers everywhere.
I wondered if Robb had wandered off into some remote field somewhere, and died. His parents felt sure that he was just needing time alone, was overly stressed out and needed a break and would call them soon, but I was not optimistic. At the end of the month, Darren drove across the country to my city on the West Coast, to collect Robb’s belongings from his room, and Jon and I met him at that time. What most struck me about Darren was how very distressed he seemed, and how he did not seem “embodied.” He also seemed estranged from his own heart — as sad and harrowing as the story of his son’s disappearance was, I could not see sadness or grief in him. Only tension and anxiety. I felt the hollow pain of the narrow room in which he made his life.
As a person who trained as a psychotherapist and who worked as a professional counselor with clients for a couple years, as well as someone with a strong natural intuitive capacity, and an earth-centered spirituality, I had an ability to grasp the quality of a person’s relationship to their body and to the earth. Similar to that of his son Robb, Darren’s energy felt exlusively and entirely mental, and given that his mental state now was so tense and disturbed, without a connection to the grounding energy of earth and body, he had no source of rejuvenation.
I could see him sucking himself dry with the torture of his cyclical thoughts. I would later see Robb’s mother Carol with the exact same plight, and thus grasp more of the story, and understand why in their posts about their sons’s disappearance on their FaceBook page dedicated to him, there always was a focus that the solution somehow would come by mentally figuring things out. As a natural “Sensitive”, I was so aware of the tension they carried, that it actually hurt me physically to observe Carol and Darren in the news stories and TV shows where they were featured, talking about Robb.
Weeks passed, and then months, and no one had heard from Robb. There had been no definite sighting of him anywhere, but Carol and Darren seized on any possibility, any clue. They interviewed homeless people, staff at shelters, cafes, and hired a private investigator. They pressed the Amtrak police and Omaha police to do more to pursue all leads. They thought, and thought harder, believing that if enough thought were applied to the situation they would certainly succeed in figuring this out. Darren mentioned that one of the last books Robb had been reading, was about changing one’s identity, and they thought he had been so desperate to get away from his debt and his frustration with art school, that he decided to go and live “off the grid”, perhaps with a group of homeless teens in a major urban area. As the wheels of Darren’s mind turned, struggling to figure things out, they turned in repetetive circles, trapping him in the same narrow realm of painful thoughts.
I was skeptical. I observed all of this with sadness. From what I had seen of Robb’s mental state on his last day at my house, he was not very likely at all to have had the clarity of mind to just easily slip off a train and, without being seen by anyone, make his way into an off-the-grid or homeless community in some major city. More cogently, Robb had loved his parents. He had been in regular contact with them. Hence it would have been quite out of character for him to just try to slip out of his identity and never contact them. If he was struggling with mental illness, someone somewhere would have come across him, as a person in the grip of psychosis is not going to be able to just readily find his way about the nation, with no money (his wallet had been left behind, together with all his belongings). I did not have a good feeling about this — in fact I doubted that Robb was still alive.
As months went by, then years, Carol and Darren pursued possible sightings of Robb in many cities around the country. They traveled to New York City, where someone said they had seen him sketching on the sidewalk, calling himself “Tree. ” They went to Las Vegas, where another reported sighting had occurred. They visited Portland and Phoenix to drop off missing persons flyers and pursue leads there. They tried hard to get publicity and attention, hoping that the more people who saw Robb’s face, the more potential for someone recognizing him, and their ability to bring their son home at last.
Eventually they got a TV show to do a segment on Robb’s disappearance, “Unsolved Mysteries” I believe was the name of the show. Carol and Darren were in the show, seen traveling all over the nation interviewing people at sites of “possible sightings”.
Every so often, I would get a call from Darren, asking some question about what I had noticed about Robb during his last days here, as the two of them sifted through the facts straining for the clues which they felt would ultimately lead them to their son. Darren said that he would rather die of cancer than not know where his son was. I could not imagine their pain and suffering. They both attested that their lives would never be the same again until they found their son.
Robb is Found
I didn’t actually think Robb would ever be found. But due to a stroke of luck, the fact that a train maintenance worker was in the right place at the right time, Carol and Darren got an ending to the story at last, though it was not the news they hoped for. Robb’s remains were found in a remote desert area in Utah, beside the train tracks far from any town. The train maintenance worker was doing track repair in this desolate area, 15 miles from any road or structure. Robb’s remains were so
decomposed that detectives had had to identify him with dental records. The remains were skeletal, and the coroner declared they were in a similar state as if they had been lying in the desert for 75 years. A bit of clothing remained, and a bus card, and the keys to my house were there beside him, and nothing else.
I wondered if in a confused mental state, Robb had fallen off the train. Doing research online, I found that over the past 15 years, 43 people or about 3 a year, have fallen off Amtrak trains to their deaths. Carol rejected this idea, and insisted this had been a homicide. Talking to detectives, Carol reported that they stated that the situation “reeked of foul play”. She pushed police and the FBI to pursue the investigation, and expressed great frustration when they did not do so. She said she would never rest until the killer of her son was brought to justice. Carol and Darren believe, and I think their idea is plausible, that Robb met with some unsavory characters on the train, and was lured outside the train in Omaha, where he met with violence in the trainyard. Then his body was put on a freight train heading back west,and dumped out in the desert. I do think that his confused mental state played some role in all of this, if in no other way than making him much more vulnerable to criminals and predators.
And yet, whether he fell off the train while in a delusional state, or whether he was murdered in the Omaha train yard by hoodlums, or met some other unknown end, the sadness and the grief and the loss are the same, and there is the same need to let go of trying to mentally figure things out, and accept Robb’s death.
We will probably never know what happened to my tenant, Robb, the young student from art school, with so much talent and creativity. His parents mourn the loss of him and his friends and community grieve for him, and I say prayers for him and wish well to his sweet spirit.