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She wanted to be a writer and filmmaker, she said, and was hoping to get into NYU’s film school for graduate studies.
It sounded awfully close, as if from inside the apartment instead of the backyard one story down. I suffer from allergies — through spring and summer I have a persistent itch in my nostrils, and the lightest bit of pollen or dander or even a freshly mowed lawn sets off sneezing spells that leave my entire body sore. Jenny (not her real name) kept her eyes downcast, and when I told her she was being inconsiderate and disrespectful and this was not the way grown-ups behaved, she said, “I know.
We were unlikely roommates, a Craigslist arrangement: I, a near-middle-aged man, several years divorced, with adolescent children of my own. We were living in Gravesend, an unremarkable neighborhood in a remote part of Brooklyn, where restaurants, bars and coffee shops are scarce, and when the friend I’d been living with moved out, finding a new roommate wasn’t easy.
At first, I had a parade of eccentrics, men who seemed to have something to hide, smelling of whiskey, with slurred speech, crooked teeth, telling me about jobs as investment bankers or corporate accountants, claims I found dubious. “Sweet.” Then she asked what she needed for moving in, and I told her: proof of employment, credit report, rent plus security deposit. I assumed this meant she had all those things, and at first, it appeared that she did.
I wondered about the practical aspects of her work: Does she have a Backpage ad? “We know Jenny wrote some poetry, so maybe we can find it on her computer.” He paused, then said: “I’m really sorry you have to deal with this.” When I hung up, I felt guilty for feeling as unmoved as I did.
I sat at the desk in my room, a blast of cold air from the air conditioning hitting my face, and thought about Jenny’s death, disturbed that I didn’t feel something more.