“That is the beauty of the teachings of Yoga: they’re not asking you to believe; they’re asking you to understand.” – Anand Mehrotra
I cried the day Super Garth moved from Victoria to Vancouver, late January 2011. We met six months earlier when he moved into the basement suite (of a character house) across the hall from me. I was 6a for asshole, and he was 6b for bitch. We lived on the corner of Woodstock and Marlborough.
“It’s ok, Jill,” he said. “I know it feels like a boyfriend is leaving you, but I will never leave you. I live just across the ocean. We’ll see each other lots.”
I visited him a week later. Vancouver lights were calling.
Going into my second year of university, I found myself living with a guy we’ll call Buck, who not so secretly wanted me to be his submissive wife on a subsistence farm made by the Landmark Forum. The year before, I had rented a room in a house without meeting the landlord, and paid both rent and damage before moving in. That landlord wouldn’t let me move in and wouldn’t give me back my money. Not moving in worked out in my favour, though, as it turned out the man received visits from the cops almost daily for belligerent behaviour and had a history of abusing women.
Suffice it to say, Buck and I talked on the phone for over a month before I moved in. We had spirituality in common! Once we were living together, however, I wasn’t too impressed with how Buck gave me “homework” assignments, aggressively encouraging me to pay for everything (for the community…) and go to Forum school.
“It’s worth the $500,” he’d say.
I knew living with Buck was a bad idea after he fed me Ecstasy and massaged my naked breasts. I moved out four days after I moved in, and moved into a house with four other girls—two I got along with, and two I didn’t. When I moved to Vancouver to be closer to Super Garth on July 1, 2011, a roommate from that living situation, Ann Marie, needed a roommate. How perfect! We got along great five years ago. I would regularly tell people that she was the only roommate I’d consider living with again. I also told people that if I ever lived in Vancouver, I would live in Kitsilano. She lived in Kitsilano!
Before I moved in, Ann Marie made it clear that she didn’t want me smoking pot in the apartment—which I respected, when she wasn’t around. Pot smoke dissipates, especially if you keep the windows open, and it was summer; Ann Marie didn’t know. After the first night, she told me that I couldn’t burn incense, and three weeks after I moved in, Ann Marie sat me down and told me that she couldn’t live with someone who gets as depressed as I do.
I couldn’t believe it. I’d stuff my face to calorie load (when I could), and then I’d watch TV quietly instead of actively listening to her whine about her mother, or her boyfriend, or how the girl at work was being mean. My particular birth date is characterized by highs and lows, but I couldn’t do anything when Ann Marie was around except engage with her. I must have been well-fed when we lived together the first time.
The night of the lecture I had eaten a pizza from Whole Foods to myself, followed by a brownie. I had literally overdosed on sugar opiates, but Ann Marie took it personally anyway.
“It’s already happened three times!” she cried.
“This has nothing to do with you,” I charged back.
My fire startled Ann Marie. To that point, I had been profusely accommodating of her moods.
“I have no energy,” I continued, “my body is digesting. I can’t watch TV without talking now?”
Ann Marie started crying.
“It makes me feel bad when you are quiet!” She yelled, tears streaming down her cheeks.
Jesus fucking Christ, I thought. This is how men must feel.
“Would you like me to go to my room when I’m like this?” I asked, adding, “I just moved in. I have no money to move, and I’m barely working. You can pay for my move if you want me to move out right now.”
Ann Marie said she would appreciate it if I went to my room when I wasn’t feeling chatty.
A few weeks later Ann Marie wanted to get high. I rolled a joint, at her request, and was preparing to step outside when she stopped me.
“Let’s smoke inside,” she said, smiling. “It’s cold outside.”
Interesting. We could only smoke in the apartment when Ann Marie wanted to get high.
“Just not all the time,” she said.
Fortunately for me, Ann Marie spent most of the summer vacationing or sleeping at her parents’ house in West Vancouver. And I couldn’t complain because I’d smoke at Kits beach when I couldn’t smoke at home. I’d smoke in my car if it was late or raining, but mostly I smoked at home. Ann Marie didn’t know, and the smell didn’t linger. I also burned incense.
Because Ann Marie was gone a lot, I kept up with the cleaning of spaces I used and washed most of the dishes, with the exception of the two weeks after I accidentally punctured my hand stabbing an avocado pit. Even then, Ann Marie only washed her own dishes. No one cleaned.
I ended up cleaning before a visit from my mom mid-August. Two weeks later, I debuted my donkey at Wreck Beach—Vancouver’s premier nude beach—with Super Garth. That same Labour Day weekend, Ann Marie was home and wanted to clean, but she didn’t want to clean alone. She wanted to see me contribute.
Ann Marie was transparent, so I knew she was pissed that I intended to spend my free time basking in the sunshine instead of staying home to help her clean, even though I had cleaned the apartment all summer with no help from her.
I had taught one yoga class on the Friday evening of the long weekend, three classes on the Saturday, and one class on the Sunday. I had Monday off teaching between Sunday and Tuesday. Work was picking up.
After teaching my last yoga class downtown on the Saturday evening, I ran into a childhood friend from Saskatchewan at a bus stop on Granville. Incidentally he was my first friend ever beyond siblings and cousins. Buzzing with excitement, we decided to hang out. One of his friends rolled me a joint to help me calm down (I’m a water dog in Chinese astrology), and sent me home with a free baggy of pure, creamy MDMA.
After teaching my last class of the weekend, I spent the Sunday afternoon accumulating Vitamin D at Kits beach. I had a sneaking suspicion that I’d arrive home from the beach to a note, and I returned home to a note. Ann Marie had been living in the apartment for over a year, me two months, and somehow she expected me to participate in a cleaning overhaul. Fuck you, I thought, and immediately called her out.
Sunday evening I meandered back across the Burrard Street Bridge—one of my favourite walks—and into the West End, where I had been Saturday night. The West End is like the California of Vancouver.
Looking back, I’m impressed that I had the good sense to savour the last days of summer before (unbeknownst to me) moving away from Vancouver six months later. Summer 2011 was my best summer yet. Vancouver slow-roasted consistently with blue skies all summer.
The battery on my Blackberry was almost dead on the Sunday evening around midnight when I gambled on texting Super Garth.
We gleefully reunited and wandered serendipitously through shops, bars and streets in Vancouver’s West End. We pranced around like delicate fairies, stopping in at the Junction (where Super Garth made out with a stranger), then we fervently felt up rubbers dicks and vaginas in a porn shop. We crouched behind cars parked in a concrete lot, sprinkling white powder onto outstretched tongues—our heads cocked back—while the warm summer breeze kissed our faces. We danced along the beaches with beer in our hands, music playing softly from Super Garth’s iPhone. At last, we crossed the Burrard Street Bridge and strolled barefoot through the cool sands of Kitsilano Beach as the hot Sun rose in the morning.
I returned home with Super Garth to sleep for a few hours before kicking off our naked beach adventure with breakfast at Bon’s Off Broadway. I can’t remember if I woke up to Ann Marie crying, or if I stopped at home between breakfast and the beach to find Ann Marie crying, but I do remember having it out with her in the foyer. She, of course, cried and wanted me to believe that she tried really hard to sound nice.
“I’m 28 years old, Ann Marie,” I said. “Three years older than you. I’m not paying half the rent to be told how to live and what to do. Funny, I have to smoke pot outside rain or shine, but we can smoke pot inside when you want to? Well, I smoke inside every time you’re not here and you never smell it. It doesn’t stick to everything—go smell my room,” I said, pointing to my bedroom.
“You can’t tell. You never can.”
Ann Marie’s jaw dropped to the floor in utter embarrassment.
“Ann Marie,” I continued, “I have done nothing but respect your wishes and try to make this a comfortable living situation for you. Christ, you make me go to my bedroom when I’m not being all about you. That’s ridiculous, Ann Marie. You didn’t help me clean all summer and I never once left you a note. I’m a grownup. I don’t need you leaving me notes telling me how to contribute—I don’t care how nice you think you sounded. From now on, I’m going to worry about making myself feel comfortable in this apartment. You no longer have any say in anything I do.”
In 72 hours, I’d taught five yoga classes, participated in an 18-hour MDMA-a-thon, and made my debut appearance at Wreck Beach. Ann Marie could give me a weekend.
At Wreck Beach, I was naked, all tits out when a guy I knew through mutual friends approached me mid-afternoon.
“Hey Jill, you look great!”
Chris walked out from behind the Sun wearing shorts and a wide grin.
Of course I look great, I thought, I’m basically naked.
“Hi, thanks,” I said as he hugged himself against my naked breasts.
He asked for my number and we made tentative plans for burgs and beers the following day.
I was on a date with Chris the night I received the eviction notice from Ann Marie. We ate hamburgers and drank beer out of green bottles at the Local in Kitsilano, and were having a good time until I saw the red light blinking on my Blackberry. I only read the email because it was from Ann Marie with “Moving” in the subject line.
I just wanted to send you a quick email. I am really unhappy with the way this situation played out and I do not feel you handled it fairly. I have been filled with so much anxiety over the past few days that I do not feel comfortable coming home or being there at all. I have felt constantly sick and unwell and I just don’t want to live this way… it’s too hard for me. You said to me when we spoke that you had to think about yourself and now I am doing the same. I just think we are incompatible roommates; I do not want to tell you how to live, nor do I think it is my right; however, I also deserve to live in a way that makes me comfortable and right now I do not feel comfortable. This is not the first time I have felt this way, but it is definitely the worst. I am sending this in email because I wish to avoid conflict but I have decided that I do not want to continue living together. Right now the lease is under my name so if you wish to stay in the apartment I will talk to Joe and transfer the lease to you, or if you would prefer you can move your things out. Please let me know your intentions as soon as possible so I can make the appropriate arrangements with the landlord. So just to clarify, either I will be moving out or you will as of October 1.
Ann Marie Piscova”
So I sent her a quick email back.
“Sure, Ann Marie, I’ll move out October 1.”
It was September 6, and she had given me less than a month’s notice to find a new place to live with $500 credit, and I still owed money from the previous move. I didn’t make a fuss, though, and moved on deadline again. I had been paying her $36 a month for my share of utilities, which she fully expected me to pay for September despite her lack of integrity in giving me proper notice. I once moved out on a roommate on the second day of the month and left $100 for the first two days. Well, this time Ann Marie could stand in line with the rest of the bill collectors.
Poor Chris. I raged, not at him, but in front of him.
“You know, Chris, things aren’t going well and haven’t been going well for a while,” I confessed. “I moved to Vancouver for Super Garth, but I wasn’t making enough money to survive in Victoria, so it was also kind of a leap of faith. Ann Marie and I lived together before and got along, but I suppose all the signs were there…”
It didn’t seem to matter to Ann Marie that I counselled her—for free—on countless occasions during the course of our “friendship,” or that I read her tarot cards for free at Kits beach, or that I bought her lunch at Earl’s on my credit card when I couldn’t afford it. Truthfully all Ann Marie ever gave me was bad dating advice. Okay, to be fair she shared chicken sausage and dessert with me from Whole Foods once, maybe twice. And, to her credit, she also brought it to my attention that I wasn’t properly washing dishes with the dish wand.
Otherwise, I had to persuade her to drive me to St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver after puncturing my hand after midnight (she happened to be awake), a drive ten or less minutes out her way. I told her I would be keeping the $10 in my purse for the cab ride home, but I didn’t expect her to wait at the hospital with me. Naturally I was in a state of shock, with blood spurting out from the center of my left hand, yet she was the one who needed consoling.
She even accused my friend of stealing her sunglasses, which she later found on the backseat of her car. If only hugging children in Africa could save us from our mental slavery.
“She doesn’t know from broke, and she feels guilty for being privileged,” I went on after reading the eviction email from Ann Marie. We were sitting on a bench in the beach area above the grass across the street from the Local. The plan was to grab a bite then smoke a joint together.
“She feels guilty when I don’t eat for a few days, because she has never had to starve. I don’t make her feel bad, but I have no energy to actively help her process all of her problems. She feels bad because she knows she’s greedy and completely unreasonable. She’s just used to throwing fits and crying until she gets her way.
“And to be brutally honest,” I continued, “I might have Chlamydia.”
I had been waiting on test results from a walk-in clinic and had Ann Marie convinced that she could catch Chlamydia from sharing a toilet seat with me. Chris sat next to me looking horrified.
Shortly after my rant, Chris offered a polite goodbye and hurried away without looking back. It turns out I took one for the team, considering Chris married one of my friends six years later—almost exactly to the date.
As an aside… How nutty is it that as I was moving out of Buck’s house several years earlier, a guy named Mark was moving in, who coincidentally went to high school with Ann Marie? I later learned that Mark lasted all of two weeks living with Buck.
A couple weeks after eviction, Super Garth was with me on Davie Street the night I got recognized for being awesome at Wreck Beach.
“Hey, I know you!” a flaming stranger yelled.
“Who, Super Garth?” I asked.
“No,” he exclaimed, pointing at me. “You!”
Super Garth and I stood there confused while I swallowed a mouthful of donair. The stranger stood facing us with his arms crossed. He tapped a finger against his lips a few times before shouting, “I know, you’re Jill from Wreck Beach!”
He then turned around and beckoned to a harem of homos.
“Hey guys, look! It’s Jill from Wreck Beach!”
The harem hurried over, surrounding me and Super Garth. They began recounting stories they’d heard me tell at Wreck Beach, applauding me with jumping ovations when I would finish them.
Darling Super Garth. He clapped his hands and jumped for joy, too.