A few days after I moved into my temporary apartment in New Orleans, Gilligan moved into the apartment next door. The unit was also owned by my landlord, Scott. Monday night I walked out the door into the after-dark heat and saw Gilligan, a skinny, white hipster in a wife beater and straw hat, talking to Scott. Gilligan had recruited two local kids to move his things from the U-Haul truck into his apartment. I went to get food.
When I came back, the same kids were moving his things to another unit owned by Scott. Scott explained that Gilligan wanted more space. Scott would accommodate as long as M cleaned up the new unit which wasn't ready for occupancy. Before I get in the door, Gilligan stopped me.
"Hey, Scott tells me you're a grant writer."
"He did," I said.
"Yeah, man. Hey, I'm from Mississippi, but I'm coming here from New York. I'm a musician, but that's not what I'm down here for," he lit a cigarette and squatted on the broken pavement. While he spoke, the next door kids moved his things, one weird shaped box by one strange instrument at a time to the new unit. "I've been traveling around from one city to the next. I'm working on making this non-profit website where people can post videos talking about how much they love the United States, how much they love their city. Because it's all about love, man."
I looked over my shoulder at his truck. "Love" was written on the windshield in spray paint. It took another ten minutes to escape his monologue.
The next day, Scott was amused and horrified. "Last night Gilligan brought a woman home and I told him he couldn't have house guests without prior notice. A few minutes later I heard this ding-ding-ding sound and I went outside and found them in the U-Haul. The guy is serious about this love thing." I hadn't heard anything, but for some reason this seemed reasonable.
A few days later, Scott was fuming on the porch. "Do you know what he did?" Scott demanded. "He hasn't paid rent. I've driven him all over town to get health insurance, to get registered, to meet people in the music scene and he hasn't paid rent. Today I told he needed to pay and he wrote me a fucking poem! He even folded it up into a little airplane and threw it at me. It's all about love and talking about how I'm the man. Man, suck my dick."
The next day I could sense that fox holes had been dug between the two units. Scott was in the kitchen, pacing. "He hasn't cleaned up the place. He keeps says that was never our agreement, but it was. Now he's pissed off because the unit doesn't have air conditioning when I told him it didn't and if he wanted air conditioning he could live in one of the other units. This is ridiculous."
Over the next week, Gilligan-updates became a regular and entertaining feature of my day. I never witnessed any of this, but I could sense a tense, wrathful paranoia settle around my apartment and the two immediately adjacent. It reminded me a little of 2008, when all anyone could talk about was how the word was Ending, but I still went to work every day.
After I got home one day, Scott carried in a bag full of locks and knobs. "I removed all the locks from his apartment," he declared. "He tried to change the locks. Last night he broke into Naomi’s apartments and tried to steal one of the air conditioning units. I'm done with this."
On Wednesday I had to stay late at the office working on a grant. Grant writing is a strange process. You're responsible for the financial health of an entity in which you have no time or ability to invest yourself outside of the facts and numbers. It's a delightfully absurd and alienating endeavor.
When I walked into my apartment, Scott, two very large friends of his, and one of the other tenants - a young woman, bartender from New York named Naomi - were sitting in the living room celebrating. Gilligan was gone. He had, once again, broken into Naomi's apartment and sat there until Scott and his friends came and forcefully evicted him.
"I think there's something wrong with that guy," Naomi said. "He started hanging around the bar where I work. My coworkers said that he made them nervous. He slept with one girl and ever since all three of them don't want him around. My manager banned him from the bar for life."
"He got banned from a New Orleans jazz club?" Scott looked at her with shock and revulsion. "There's no greater low."
Yesterday I came home to discover my apartment locked. Due to a complicated series of poor decisions, I didn't have a key and so I called my Scott, my housemate, and anyone I could think of who might reasonably know how to get in. My housemate, Lee, eventually called me back. "Dude, didn't you here?" Lee asked. "Gilligan came back and started something in the street. He and Scott were both arrested."
"Oh," I said.
It was a hot night and the street lamps were shining. Across the street a high school party of Hollywood proportions was in full, angry swing. There were kids on the street screaming into their cell phones, beer in hand. About a tenth of the houses on the street are blighted, but two streets over all the houses are newly renovated and the pavement is fresh and flat.
And that's mostly how things stand. There really is no conclusion to this story. No revelation. I asked a friend to move me out that night and now I'm crashing at another Americorps member's house. It just seems odd to me the way stories relayed and related suddenly turned my one-time home into a locked apartment.