Allow me to skip ahead slightly. I need to tell you about the people I lived with in Norfolk, but first let me tell you about someone even worse.
When I first moved to Newcastle, I slept on my friend’s sofa for a few nights. Well, that’s where I was meant to be sleeping – however, I immediately found someone with lots of ketamine and speed so I didn’t really sleep at all for the first few days I was here. But at least I wasn’t on the streets.
My friend knew someone who had a spare room and wasn’t too fussed about getting rent in advance or a deposit, and as I didn’t really have much choice over where I was going to live I just took it. Had I not been so inconveniently fucked/up, I might have noticed all the red flags that were right there in front of me. And there were A LOT.
Firstly, she was very interested in the fact that I used to look after my grandparents. Now, this lady – let’s call her Anne, mainly because I just looked up at a book and it was the first name I saw – had a disability. I didn’t really care about that (in an ‘it doesn’t bother me’ way, not in an unkind way) because I figured she’d lived alone long enough – she was 40 – to know how to take care of herself. And she had. But she didn’t. Now, had I known what I was signing up for, and had I not been a complete fucking mess, I might have been better equipped to deal with this. As it stood, I wasn’t. I was happy to clean, take the bins out, walk the dog, feed the cats, sort the garden, whatever. It was the little things I couldn’t handle. It was being interrupted from writing to open a tin, when she had an electric tin opener. It was phone calls when I was staying at my friend’s house, saying that she’d accidentally cut herself and I needed to get home. I couldn’t cope with the responsibility that I hadn’t asked for. This was red flag #1.
So I started avoiding going home. I hate confrontation and my response to anxiety defaults to flight mode so I just avoided the problem entirely. I was still paying to live there, but I found it too difficult to actually be around Anne so I stayed away whenever I could.
Red flag #2 was a particularly sneaky one. Anne had recently come in to quite a bit of money and she was just blowing through it like crazy. The flat was full of things that she’d bought and hadn’t opened, or things that didn’t fit, or things that she’d bought and simply had no idea what to do with. She was very generous and I was totally brassic, so she’d lend me her nice clothes for job interviews and for going out with her, and she’d also buy me things. Most of the time they weren’t useful things (or even things I wanted – she went to London and somehow found me the most hideous handbag in the entire city, along with one in a slightly different colour for herself) but I felt as though I couldn’t say no without offending her. She never tried to give me money or anything like that, but I hadn’t quite cottoned on to the fact that each gift I accepted from her was indebting me to her more and more. After a while, I realised what was going on and just started keeping the gifts to one side so that I could give them back to her at some point.
One day she got cross with me for not being home when she needed me and when I came back she’d gone through everything in my room and taken back every single item that she had lent me – and all of the ‘gifts’ as well. Red flag #3. But thank fuck for that. I was 26, I didn’t need any Hello Kitty snowglobes or terrified looking Beefeater teddy bears.
I mentioned here that Anne was very interested in the fact I had tarot cards. She pestered me to read them for her, and I refused because I didn’t want to cause her any psychological stress. What may seem like an innocous question to me and thus generate a flippant response may be over-analysed and taken far too seriously by someone like Anne. If she asked me what starsign the next bloke she fucked was going to be, and I was like ‘Oh I dunno, Cancer, whatever’, you can guarantee that Anne would have amended her dating site trawling to exclude anyone other than people born in late June to mid-July. I also mentioned in that post about her ‘friend’ the psychic. The ‘friend’ who she had to use a premium-rate number to talk to. Red flag #4. Although this one is more of an ‘oh mate’ than cause for grave concern. I think. I’m actually a fucking terrible judge of character.
The trouble was that she genuinely had no idea how to be alone. I didn’t understand this. I actively want to be left alone most of the time and I didn’t really see that she wanted a companion, someone to drink wine with while she recorded every single episode of the X-Factor (red flag #5). When she realised that I was literally just a lodger, she turned her focus back to finding someone to fulfil her emotional needs in other ways – she stepped up her hunt for a boyfriend. This is when I actually genuinely got a bit scared. During one of the conversations where she left her bedroom door open (there was a phone downstairs – there was literally no need for her to do this upstairs other than to make sure I could hear) she was chatting to some bloke she’d found on a dating site. I say chatting, but really I mean yelling and sobbing uncontrollably – screeching ‘I’ll sell my flat and come to you, or you can come here, I’ll tell you where I live, blah blah blah’ and I just remember lying in my bedroom with a pillow over my head lamenting the fact that I’d moved in with someone who was probably going to get me killed by a rapey axe-murderer.
Bear in mind, I’m still ill at this point. This is in the midst of benzo withdrawal, changes of drugs, psychiatrist appointments… I was really trying to heal and this was stressing me out so fucking much.
Once I realised that she was trying to trap me by buying and giving me things, I stopped accepting them. She decided to get a puppy and another cat. I suddenly developed a bad back and a ton of allergies and I moved out. See, red flags #6 to #20 or so were to do with the animals and the state of the house. She couldn’t look after herself properly and she really shouldn’t have been collecting more animals. When I first moved in, she had a dog. The dog was a Good Dog. I used to let her sleep on my bed because I missed the dogs I’d had in Norfolk. One night, the dog got sick. I had come home ridiculously late and passed out. Once I actually get to sleep I’m ASLEEP so I didn’t hear it at first, but the dog was whining and whimpering and she was obviously suffering. I went out to check on her, and Anne appeared at the top of the stairs. She said, ‘Oh Kim, she’s been doing this since last night. I don’t know what to do.’
She’d just left her to cry.
I buried the dog in the garden the next morning.