As a child, I never thought that I’d spend my twenties being voluntarily homeless.
But by age twenty-three, after surviving conventional housing in 3 other countries, I knew I wasn’t doing this renting-rip-off thing a second longer.
I’d been living in a flatlining suburb that wilted over the edges of greater London. I told myself I lived in London, but the reality was my commute caused arterial constriction and the more I saw people loading meditation apps on the bus, the more I wanted to punch them.
I shared the house with a graphic designer who was barely home and a nanny, who was a psychopath. She was unapologetically french, still clinging to her arrogant accent, despite being in London for over twenty years. She had also adopted a blind cat and smoked an average of five tobacco-racked joints a day. She didn’t blaze around ‘her kids’ but instead crammed her useage into a three hour evening slot, rendering the living room into a cannabinoid gas chamber that conveniently knocked her unconscious before the watershed.
In hindsight, how the fuck she was allowed around children is baffling. One evening, when my mother was visiting, she’d prepared a zealous main course of assbergers for dinner. She showed her socially inept cards to all of us who withered in attendance; a ninety minute, uninterrupted monologue that caused numbness in our legs and bleeding from our ears. She had the temper of a mousetrap and although seemingly normal during the first two times we’d met, had ‘allowed’ me to rent her spare closet for a room because she wanted a new pet (with unobstructed vision).
She never had any blokes over. Or girls. There was an asexual streak to her sadism. She became angry after she’d realized that I didn’t want to be her friend. And that I found her eyeless cat having a better headbutt than me, to be hilarious. After living there for three weeks, she stated that a condition of renting her spare cupboard was that we had to hang out, regularly. You let me out of the cupboard, and I’ll be your friend. Ok then, Fritzl. My retaliation to her attempts at Stockholm Syndrome were equally as mature. When she would pass out, I would steal from her, cleverly appropriating traces of ground-weed from her grinder. I used a spoon to redistribute the remaining contents in such a fashion as to leave no trace. She was clueless and I was thrilled at playing the four-twenty equivalent of What’s the time, Mr. Wolf?
So when Sean the builder said he’d spotted rot on the structural beams of the building, and the landlord slapped me with an illegal two-week eviction notice, I leapt at the chance of escape. This London thing wasn’t for me. I’d been building my teaching business whilst working some shit jobs on the side, but still it didn’t feel right. I was even losing my temper at work. Once, I nearly knocked out this predatory, Roger Moore look-alike, lurking in the bar’s peripheries. He was dressed in a nauseating cream suit that screamed sex offender and three minutes into my shift, had the audacity to state that the way I poured his chardonnay lacked care and attention, and that this job was above me. Instead of spitting in his glass, I offered him outside, stating I’d break his nose and ruin his grooming efforts. Two shifts later, I quit, and just a week after, my beloved 1973 Raleigh Nimrod bicycle was stolen, leaving me with only a severed chainlink and decimated padlock as souvenirs of my former independence. I struggled to find sense staying in the city any longer, so I figured to buy me some time, I’d get a van and live in that for the summer, reassessing in September.
What I didn’t realise is that I was about to live like a caveman, for the next seven years…