[Or so I wished]
On Monday July 26, I woke up with new hope. I picked up the suicide prevention hotline number pondering whether I would call or not. I decided against, certain that they would think me off my rocker with my conspiracy story, and recommend that I see a therapist or commit myself to a mental hospital. I was afraid that if they failed to understand me, I would feel lonelier and more helpless, disappointed once more in human beings, and that it would tip the balance in favor or suicide.
The Daily News horoscope for Scorpio was saying "Use your bursts of energy in a practical manner. You can be powerful when faced with challenges. Sacrificing friendship for material gain is something that you could soon regret." Since the landlord was also a Scorpio, at least he had said so, I thought that the last sentence applied to him perfectly and said in just one sentence what was spinning in my mind. And the previous one encouraged me to keep fighting.
He came knocking at my door around noon. I opened the door a crack and he cast an intense look at my computer. Since I had stopped playing in the street I had spent all my time holed up in my room typing away. He asked if the check had cleared yet and I said it hadn't. I didn't want to let him in so I went out and we talked in the hallway while returning to the lobby. I expressed annoyance at the banks who were taking so long just so they could earn interest on my money while keeping me waiting. "You know how some people will do anything for a buck" I added. "You're right" he said. I felt elated. I had a sense of confidence that I would manage to come all right out of this mess. The horoscope predicted his doom in no uncertain terms. I decided to psych him out and went in and out of the building singing "Que sera sera, whatever will be will be, the future's not ours to see, que sera sera, what will be will be" with headphones on.
Around two, the BNP called to say that some money had arrived for me. I said I would be right there and at five minutes before three showed up at the teller's desk. "I have only fifites" he said, pulling from a drawer a pile of bills with a band around them that said "$4,000". I didn't feel like counting them but I felt it was good etiquette to do so and I started counting. While I was busy, a woman came at the desk and inquired about the balance in her account. I didn't look at her or pay attention but I overheard "How much did you say I have on my account?" "Fifty thousand" "Ah. Thank you" Then she left and came back "How much again did you say I have?" "Fifty thousand." "Oh, thank you, I wasn't sure." Don't worry, the teller woman said, you have enough." What a strange exchange. We were together in the elevator but I was abstracted in my thoughts and didn't even look at her but I felt she was looking at me. I returned immediately to 103rd street and called Slavit to inquire if they had receive the Doctor's report. He said that there would be no written report this time, that the doctor would come to testify in person.
The next day I bought a padlock from Dial-Lock on W96th Street. I asked for something strong and the locksmith recommended the "American" brand. I also bought detective magazines about true crime, some floppy disks, ate at an Indian restaurant in the com- pany of Mad magazine and relaxed. I saw an ad in the street that offered a room to rent in an apartment and specified "Musicians OK". I felt it was insulting to musicians but I also felt it was intended for me, like four years ago the ad in the New York Times had been.
While I was putting my books back in order, I handled a color catalogue of mosaics from the 5th and 6th Centuries A.D., which I had obtained at this strange place on West 14th street where I had shown up to check a "room to rent" ad. At least I hadn't thrown the catalogue away with the other books. I had kept it since august 1989, always promising myself to do something about what I had perceived was a stolen art business.
I didn't want to die without reporting the art theft I had witnessed, if that was the only thing humanity could thank me for. So I read again the August 1989 article that had appeared in the New York Times about the same topic and around the same time, which I had kept inside the catalogue. I got the number of the Arts Research Foundation and callep up.
I said I had information about stolen mosaics and a catalogue, if they were interested, and they were so I promised to send the catalogue. I opened a new file in the legal department of my PC memory and started to write the account of what had happened when I had visited that 5th floor loft on 14th street, in August of 1989.
But I wasn't clear about how much I should say about myself. Should I pretend that I was living an ordinary life and just happened to be looking for lodging in a leisurely way, or should I give a little background information and explain in what state of near-terror I was, and why? Was the way my sister had treated me relevant to the theft of the mosaics? Would I just say that the room offered was unsuitable or would I detail the sense of danger that I had felt? Would I mention that I had particular reasons myself to be wary of thieves and explain why? Did my own problems have anything to do with the mosaics?
I stared at the mosaics in the catalogue with a sense of pain and unease. [They showed geometrical shapes in various tones of light tan to dark brown. Most of them gave an optical illusion of three-dimensional intricate braiding, which revealed a deep knowledge of mathematics by their maker; the sense of volume made one forget that they were composed of thousands of little bits of marble. They were the work of a genius.] Their beauty hurt, but I could not explain the unease. It was dreadful perhaps like some excruciating shame, a shame too devastating to deal with, a shame that would annihilate me. And every time I felt it, I tried to block it off by going mentally blank. The mosaics had been stolen, ok, but there was more than that. Some hideous truth was working its way into my awareness and I was afraid to know, I was afraid to lose something important, a big illusion I had clung to for survival and that proved, like all illusions, not to work at all. I had sheltered myself in an illusion and it was going to be shattered and I would stand naked. I was about to gain knowledge and therefore, as a functional human being, I would have to change according to the knowledge newly gained, and I was afraid the shock would be so hard I couldn't survive it.
The emotional oppression weighed more and more. I had to deliberately open my mouth wide and stretch my jaw muscles to counteract the invisible stranglehold of dread.
I saw myself walking back from the vet with Bibi's dead body in my arms. I would look at her. Maybe the vet would have asked me why I wanted to kill her and I would have had to give him an acceptable answer. I couldn't say "Because I intend to kill myself and I don't want her to fall into bad hands". I had to check on that. I would feel the irreparable loss of my only companion, remember her idiosyncrasies, her fail-proof biological clock I had come to relie on. I would feel the void and continue on the path of disappearance I had started on by getting rid of my books. I would be next.
But something in me kicked and protested whenever I started to indulge in the idea of giving up the fight. It was life itself that didn't want me to close shop. I hadn't tried everything. I hadn't tried to play in Washington Park yet and I was sure it would work well. I hadn't tried to ignore the creeps who followed me and play in spite of them. But I didn't want to return playing until I had written this account, because I feared that I would be harmed, and if I lost counsciousness, I wanted this account to fall into the hands of those who would come to my help. So I would always carry the diskette with me when I went to play outdoors, and the password, I would write it on my skin.
I knew that the reason I was considering suicide was because I felt the only alternative was to be shot at if I played outdoors, and this thought so terrified me that suicide seemed preferable. But maybe I could protect my skin by not being stubborn. Playing in the street might very well be the pits after all, more dangerous than four years ago when I first tried, with more homelessness, crime and insanity. It might be wise to heed the warning, bid my time and wait for better opportunities. But I wanted so much to play for other people. I felt so frustrated, so outraged. What was all the fuss about the First Amendment if people could terrorize you into silence and seclusion?
But while I felt the most resolute to die, I couldn't help remembering the brothers Grimm's fairy tales, where the simpleton ended up winning because his good faith saved him, when his scheming brothers lost everything. I remembered the stories about the little guy who outwitted his enemies and won against appalling odds. I remebered David and Goliath. I remembered the ant who, kept prisoner all winter by the Ice Queen, resumed its pilgrimage in the spring with courage intact, as if nothing had happened, having lost nothing of its purpose.
Now that I had started writing this story, I wanted it to have a happy ending. It was no longer a pre-mortem statement, a two hundred pages suicide note, it had taken up a life of its own and demanded a happy ending, and demanded from me that I, with my bare hands, slay my own seven-headed monster.
Still, these notions of my possible victory were fleeting, an I felt my critical mind dismissing them as so much "Who-do-you-think- you-are?" crap. The next morning I felt the end was near.
With the feeling of loneliness someone doomed would have during his last conversation, I called the lawyer who represented the church of Cyprus in Washington. He was mentioned in the New York Times article of August 89, relating the successful
prosecution of an art dealer who had bought mosaics stolen from the church of Cyprus. I told the receptionist Mr. Kline didn't know me but I had some information about mosaics. He was with me right away. I explained briefly what my experience had been. Then unexpectedly I told him that I had myself been the victim of art theft and I started to cry. He exclaimed "When?" and I told him around the same time as I saw the mosaics. He asked me who I thought did it and I wasn't sure which theft he was referring to: the mosaics or my photographs, and in a flash I understood that the thief was the same for both, and with a spasm wrenching my gut I exclaimed in a wail "My own sister!" Instantly I felt as if an intolerable tension had been released. I regained my composure and asked him if he thought the Arts Research Foundation was able to take care of it and he said that they had access to international files and had the support of many agencies like the FBI, Interpol, the UN, the UNESCO etc. So I finished my letter. All that was left to say was that I had suffered repeated thefts of art myself and that I thought the same people did it. So I wrote this letter to A.Kisluk of the Arts Research Foundation.
All week-end the water to the toilet had been turned off. I had looked for the valve, then removed the tank lid to show users that the tank was empty but they pissed anyway and on monday the smell was getting big.
On monday August 2 at 8 am, I called Jose the super a little pissed off myself. I asked why the water was shut off and he said it was because of a leak in the basement. I had heard this leak story one time too many to believe it. Since the beginning of the year, there had been several incidents which had been very incom- modating, and they were all explained away by a leak in the basement. Now I understood that it was harassment pure and simple.
On tuesday morning, August 3, 93, I entered the landlord's office, sat down and asked if he had got my check. He seemed surprised for a second and then said yes. I told him that the ceiling in the bathroom needed fixing, that the faucet in my kitchen was leaking, and I inquired why the water to the toilet had been turned off. His soothing voice almost convinced me that it was because of a leak and that I was wrong to suspect him of harassing me. But in the corridor to my room I realized that I was being taken in again, rushed to the phone and called him up with anger rising in me. "There was no leak -I said-. The water was turned off because you asked Jose to turn it off." "What makes you think so?" "Because he looked embarassed when he talked to me, he didn't look at me in the eyes. If you do anything like that again I'm going to press charges of harassment against you." "Why don't you talk to me face to face?" he asked, trying to make feel like a coward. "Because the only way to talk to you is on the phone" "And what if someone calls me while you're talking to me?" "You've got to listen to me" I said. "Do you think I would ask Jose to turn the water off during the week end?" he asked. "Absolutely"! "But that would incommodate not only you but everybody else." "So, what do you care?" "But that's not harassment!" "Yes it's harassment. After harassing me sexually for two years, since january you've been harassing me with water problems." "It was not sexual harassment, it's only that nothing can happen between us -he said, with not a shred of emotion- because I'm the landlord and you're the tenant." As if he'd just found out. It always boiled down to that, he pulled rank when I was questioning his behavior. A coward, he was taking refuge in the social status when the heat was on, and didn't have the guts to relate person to person.
Then he switched the conversation to the toilet in the bathroom upstairs, which sometimes overflowed and dripped in front of my door. He asked if there had been any flooding since the last three weeks ago. I said that no, wondering if he expected me to be grateful for no leak, and I explained the problem to him, that it was a mechanical problem in the water tank. He promised to look into it and tried to end the conversation on a good-will note but I brought him back to the topic.
"I know that you're up to no good, that's why I left these horoscopes near your office." "What horoscopes? Where in my office?" I knew he had found them. "I'm not going to take your harassment anymore. Physically you're OK but you have a character problem. If you do anything against me you'll regret it." "I'm going to check the toilet today."
The next day Eliel, the super from another building came to fix the faucet in my kitchen. I observed that my watch and my clock, which were next to each other, didn't show the same hour. The watch was exactly one hour earlier than the clock. And I think, but should be sure, that the password was missing from part two of this manuscript. But how could that be? Hadn't I been home all the time? Could anybody have had the chance to break the password? Or had I deleted the password by mistake?
The following day, Eliel and Glen started early on the ceiling of the bathroom. I saw them when they left. Eliel said that they would finish the job the next day and I said OK. Later on, he returned to get the ladder and again he said, with eagerness in his voice, that they would finish the job the next day. I said nothing and smiled knowingly. From the beginning I had interpreted this eagerness as an admission of guilt on the landlord's part. Eliel understood the meaning of my smile and must have reported it to the landlord, because after all they did not finish the job the next day.