When I first saw where my boyfriend, now ex (let’s call him Thor – he would like that) was living, I was actually relieved. I hadn’t lived in Santa Fe long at that point and it was a new relationship. For a little over a month he had been the single most evasive person I had ever met in my life. We met in a whirlwind of hippie love and anyone that was around will tell you that it was specifically a whirlwind of hippie love. Whatever you are picturing? That’s probably it. Actually, we met over sugar snap peas making it all the more poignant. He was older and beautiful and unlike anyone that I have ever met before – and ever again. But he wouldn’t tell me where he lived. He always had me drop him off in the parking lot of the same grocery store-we always met out somewhere. I was beginning to think that he was either homeless or insane, possibly both. Hot homeless insane man.
I can’t remember what led him to finally bring me to the storage unit he was living in but I can tell you what it looked like. It was jail cell – bachelor chic. He slept on an old bunk bed mattress WITHOUT A SHEET. (Sweet Jesus!) And everything that he own was tossed haphazardly here and there. Cups filled with urine lined the floor up against the walls, a stack of unopened personal mail greeted you at the door where he had stacked some milk crates. Remember the requisite cinder block and plywood shelving that I will bet you $20 that you had when you were 19? This was worse. He was thoughtful enough to burn Nag Champa for me as soon as we got there so um, that was sweet. The unit was unique in that it was totally underground. Main steps took you to the main door which led to a clean, dry hallway with more doors behind which were units of different sizes. If you’re going to live in a storage unit, that’s the way to do it!
It was only a few months later that he invited me to live with him. Swoon! You know you’re jealous.
I had a few requirements before I would commit:
1) We had to redecorate.
2) I wanted carpet. Wall to wall, baby.
So in true hippie love fashion we went dumpster diving. While cramming the wall to wall carpeting (Plus padding!) into my little Mazda (He only had a bike. Of course.) he got angry and broke the handle off of the door in anger which a normal person may have seen as a sign but I observed with empathy. Carpet? Check. For the paint? A nice vivid purple and green. My lord the pot I used to smoke. We painted, laid down the carpet, stole about 30 more milk crates to create a false wall, jimmied the electricity and then went to management to tell them our big “we will be at the unit a lot to rehearse” lie. (He a drummer, me a singer. I think I also told them I would be beading because I thought they should know? Sigh.)
The false wall was his idea. By now I had learned that what I originally thought to be evasiveness was actually a deep rooted paranoia. He was always concerned that the rental company would discover us, burst in on us and arrest us. (The entire time that I lived in the storage unit I was managing a juice bar and coffee shop. I had no phone (for some reason this was OK) and I wasn’t “allowed” to tell anyone where we lived. I became as evasive with my employees and friends as he had been with me in the beginning.) Eventually, this led to more and more extreme behavior which I may get to later. The crates stacked floor to ceiling, secured by classy duct tape and stuffed with crap that could pass for “storage” items. If you knew to go around the wall (we made that hard by tossing junk in the way every time we left the unit) what you saw would stop your heart. It was so beautiful. We had a queen sized mattress ($10 futon – used), a night stand, I hung a mirror, strung up a place to hang my clothes with hemp (of course) between two nails, some photos hung, and a nice lamp. It was home.
Within a month we rented another unit down the hall. For storage. (Oh! The irony!) I began sleeping 14, 15, sometimes 16 hours at a time. We had no windows and no air. I slept like I was in a coma. Yet I would wake up exhausted. It was awesome. Within a couple of weeks Thor created an air circulation system – basically one fan (painted purple and green, of course) mounted in the doorway and another at the top of the main stairwell. Each night, Thor would wake up and open the doors, bringing in a burst of fresh air at about 2 am, late enough that we wouldn’t be discovered. I’m pretty sure it didn’t help at all. Still, it was sweet.
Thor’s fear grew and grew. (I’m sure the copious amounts of pot we smoked was a real help here.) He attacked and assaulted a homeless man that slept in a puddle of urine at the bottom of the main steps to the storage facility. He insisted that we were being watched by a man in a truck parked many yards away from the building. He bought a gun and began shooting lessons. But this isn’t a story about him and I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. I tell you this so you can understand the intensity of living there. We weren’t the only “tenants” and someone HAD already been evicted for living there, so on some level, that fueled the fire for my ex. (Also, the pot.) It also made me pretty nervous. But for $36 a month, what do you expect?
Let me read your mind. I peed in a bucket. I don’t poop because I am a dainty lady so, that wasn’t an issue. Getting my period sucked ass. We worked at a natural food store and ate on the cheap or for free, although sometimes we used my coffee pot to cook rice. We scored (by one of our unit neighbors) a cheap membership at Ten Thousand Waves, a Japanese health spa set at the top of a mountain. That’s where we showered. It was like, 1 or 2 hours of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous (in the nude) and 22 hours of ghetto. If I left anything out, ask away.
Thor comes off wrong here because really, he was an exceptional person. He had issues, yes, but if you don’t, then I’m not sure I want to know you. He once found a baby bird by the side of the road, came back with a shoe box to take him home in (this was post-unit), then he built a nest for it and fed it through a tube from his own mouth. He soaked all the seeds and ground them into a paste first to make it more digestible. When the bird died weeks later, he was inconsolable. There is no replica of Thor and I hope there never is, for he is not to be duplicated. He is a novella (and possibly a blog post) all on his own. He loved me better than anyone had before and never once judged me. Ever. And he’s the one that led me to my husband, so although he has disappeared (his typical MO) I still consider him my favorite ex-boyfriend.
This is a fraction of the story that there is to tell. When I look at pictures from this time in my life I barely recognize the girl in the picture. And telling this to you feels almost as if I am telling someone else’s story. Like it was happening all around me. Has this ever happened to you? If it has I want to hear about it . . .
We left Santa Fe in the middle of an ice storm in January, with the futon (10 whole bucks, people!) strapped to the roof of my little Mazda and Thor’s bike attached precariously to the trunk. Heading to Tucson, our days of living in a storage unit was officially over. My only requirement for our next place?