A landlord I do quite a bit of business with left me a voicemail for a service call.
In the message he snickered as he said the tenant was a little odd. I didn’t think anything of it, given how many different people I run across. Before I headed that direction I gave the owner a call to get the scoop and let him now I was on my way. He again told me the tenant was a weird one, and again I shrugged it off.
I arrived at the house early dusk. Pulled in the drive, checked for my phone, keys, wallet and made certain my shirt was tucked in. Walking up to the front door, I did my best to ignore the trash strewn across the lawn and patio. It was pretty bad. I had to walk around old pieces of metal and piles of debris. Empty trash bags tied off on the chain link fence with piles of trash laying underneath them. Again, it was pretty bad.
I knock on the front door and wait a few seconds. No answer. Knock again. No answer.
I knock a third time, no answer. Standing on the porch, still avoiding the piles of trash, I call the landlord who tells me I need to knock really loud. I hang up with the landlord, walk back to the front door and using the bottom of my fist, pound on the door as though I’m there to conduct a police raid. Within a flash I hear a man’s voice say “Just a minute”.
Two or three minutes go by and the door finally cracks opens.
Theres a disheveled old man standing on the other side peering out through the four-inch crack that he allowed the door to open. I announced myself as Brandon with Plumb Crazy and I was here to fix the plumbing issue. He opens the door all the way and giving me a confused look says “I aint aware of any pluming problem, maybe my wife knows. Give me a minute and I’ll go ask her.” Without giving me a chance to respond he shuts the door abruptly.
Ten minutes pass and I’m still standing outside. Curiosity got the better of me at two minutes and I had to look to see what all the trash consisted of. LOTS of dirty magazines. I don’t think typing LOTS in all caps conveys how many dirty magazines were on this mans porch. There was a boatload of dirty magazines in one form or another of degradation. For 8 minutes I pondered why someone would use their front porch to dispose of their smut collection.
Now I’m feeling extremely out-of-place. I’m standing on a strangers porch, surrounded by piles of his (I’m assuming) old dirty magazine collection. I called the landlord but got no response. I knock on the door lightly and got no response. OH yeah, I have to ‘knock loudly’, so I pound on the door like I’m mad at it, and I hear a womans voice say “Just a minute”. Another ten minutes go by (I’m still standing on the porch with the cities largest thrown out dirty magazine collection) and I get irritated. So much so that I call the landlord, and because he won’t answer his phone, I leave an irritated message for him.
The door finally opens. I don’t know if it was fear, disbelief, or a simple instinct to remain living that made my legs start to move backwards, but that’s exactly what they did. A completely involuntary motion moving me away from the door. I damn near tripped on a pile of smut mags. Ten feet from the door I politely asked my legs to stop moving… there was a train wreck standing in front of me and I wanted to see just how bad the carnage was.
Standing in the doorway was a little old man (even more disheveled than previously), wearing a summer dress. He had on a blonde wig that looked as if it was backwards. He had a full complement of makeup on his face. If you could call it makeup. I think it was makeup. It didn’t really look like any makeup I’ve seen, but I’m pretty sure his goal was to look like he was wearing makeup. Lipstick smeared all over his mouth. Black circles of paint around his eyes. Dark red circles on his cheeks. Did I mention he had a moustache? At least he had a moustache when I met him the first time. It was now shaved clean. If it was a moustache to begin with. Who knows. He had on bright red high heels and had apparently put on his women’s hose too quickly, because there was a run from his ankle that lead up under the dress. He had on white gloves with lace on the wrist side. Costume jewelery hung off his neck to his waist.
You might ask yourself how I can recall so much detail. Well, I’ll tell you. That image has been burned on to my brain. Not in… but on. Tattooed. It will always be there. If I come down with Alzheimer’s, the last memory I have before the disease takes me will be that little old man dressed as a woman.
A few seconds go by…or an hour. Time slows down for the individual being sucked in to a black hole. And that’s where I was. The world was all around me, but I couldn’t interact with it. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t look away. I could hear my brain telling my eyes to avert, but they wouldn’t listen.
He stands there for what seemed like an eternity before speaking, presumably to let me take in what he thinks is a very attractive woman. When he finally speaks, he says in the worlds worst woman impersonation “Hi, I’m so & so’s wife. I’ll take you to the problem in the basement.”
Eyes still wide, I shook my head no. I didn’t yet have the ability to speak, and my legs wanted to start moving backwards again. The only thought going through my head was “It rubs the lotion on its skin, or it gets the hose again”. I just shook my head no. He gave me a confused look and said “Aren’t you the owners plumber?” I shook my head yes. He said, “the leak is down in the basement, I’ll show you”. I forced myself to say some words, “nuh uh”.
Again with the confused look he says “you are the plumber, right?” I said “yeah, I’m a plumber,(in a higher tone than what I normally speak) but I’m not going in there. I need to make a call”.
Please don’t fail me now legs!
I trot to my van and call the landlord. No answer. Hang up and call him again. No answer. I send him a text. “Answer your damn phone”. A few seconds later my phone rings. Its him thank god. The first thing I hear when I hit the talk button is hysterical laughter. He’s laughing so hard he can’t speak. When he calms down, get gets out the words “Did you meet so & so?” followed by more laughter. My brain still wasn’t working properly and I honestly didn’t know how to answer. I said “What the hell did you get me in to here?”. He tries to tell me the tenant is totally harmless, but I’m not buying it. I wasn’t going anywhere near that door until HE showed up to escort. Still laughing he not only agrees, but tells me he started in that direction the first time I called him!
The landlord shows up as I’m sitting in my van. I no longer care about this job, or anything to do with it. Morbid curiosity was all that kept me from driving away. We meet in the driveway and he proceeds to explain in a joking manner how harmless the old man is. So many questions flooded my brain I didn’t know which to ask first. I decided on the easiest. “What’s with all the dirty magazines, and why are they all over the front porch?”. He smiles from ear to ear and says, “Well, the old man said his wife made him throw them away”. I’m so confused that normal thought process is broken. I paused to absorb that information. I stuttered over my own words and said “You mean… wait… his wife?”. And he says “Yeah, you just met her”. W T F
I said “That’s his wife, the person dressed in drag staring at us through the front door?”.
He says “Yup, that’s her”. I paused again to absorb the information. Then I said, “But that’s a dude. That’s him! What are you telling me?”. He says, (and I’ll never forget these words) “He’s married to himself”. “You can’t be married to yourself!” I yelled at him. He replies “Tell him that”. I said “You’re telling me the little old man thinks he’s married to himself. Not jokingly. He actually believes he’s married to himself?”. The landlord says “Yup. Has been for 12 years”. W T F “Ok, (sigh) as long as you go in first, I’ll take a peek at the plumbing”.
The inside was worse than the outside with trash. Except now I had a path between the piles. On the wall were pictures of a couple. No. That’s not what they were. On the wall were pictures of the little old man looking like a little old man. There were pictures of him dressed in drag. And there were pictures which looked like he had glued separate pictures of himself together…as a man and woman. He even made it look as though he had his arm around himself.
I don’t remember what was leaking in that house. I don’t even remember if I fixed it. I will forever remember a very nice, polite, little old man who was married to himself.