Her name is Hope and I really hoped that this was the right decision. She responded to my Craigslist ad for a short term rental. She only needed a room for a week or two while she was looking for her own apartment.
She seemed like an upstanding tenant at first – smart, compassionate and articulate. She worked as a coaching assistant at a local high school and had a freelance photography hustle on the side. She even did a gig as a special police officer for a corporate facility in the city. Her 5 foot 10 frame carried broad shoulders and big hips and she could whoop my ass with one arm blindfolded.
Despite her intimidating demeanor, she seemed pleasant. Wore a big smile and was generally polite. But then one day, she came home with a look of dejection. She had just gotten terminated from her coaching position and she would have a hard time paying her rent. I cut her slack at first, but then hope morphed to uncertainty and I began to doubt that she would ever come up with the money.
Hope ignored my requests for her to pay up or leave. There were no signs that she was going to budge, nor was she looking for any gainful employment. She just continued to dig her heels and insisted on staying permanently. Everything came to a head when she brought over an overnight guest.
“Who is she?” I asked, hoping she was just a relative.
“She’s my girlfriend,” Hope replied hoping I was naive enough to believe her.
Suddenly, her friend made her presence known.
“Hi, my name is Zahara – you can call me Zee,” as she came out of the room wearing a pink nightgown and jumbo sized curlers.
Zee was light-skinned, small framed, pretty with short curly hair and when she stood tall she only reached Hope’s shoulder.
Hope and Zahara continued to stay in the house in the same room without paying a single red cent.
In Washington, DC, tenants are allowed to bring guests who could move in without much recourse. And when the tenant left, often times their guests would decide to stay.
Then one relaxing spring night, the sound of crickets chirping was interrupted by a ghoulish scream.
“Stop! Don’t touch me!”
Zee stormed out of the room, draped in a comforter, and she proceeded to lie down on the sofa, shaking her head and fuming.
Puzzled, I asked, “Did you just get in a fight with your girlfriend?”
“She’s not my girlfriend. What do I look gay or something? She just said that to fool you to get me to stay for free.”
From then on, Zee started confiding with me – talked about her roots – that her father was Ethiopian and her mother Italian. That she was an only child that her mother lives in Richmond and that her father passed away overseas when she was just a kid.
Part of me didn’t know whether or not to believe her. She continued to say many things that I know were half truths or that was so outlandish that only a fool would believe them.
While Hope was not paying rent, thankfully Zee was willing to kick in a few bucks here and there. I let Zee stay in one of the two rooms in the basement, but eventually both would have to leave.
I had taken Hope to court, but Hope was pulling all her tricks in prolonging the process.
I got tired of her crap, so one day before going out of town for Front Royal, VA for New Years eve, I decided to change the locks.
“Go ahead,” Zee insisted. “I won’t let her in – I promise.”
Sure enough on New Years eve, Hope tried to enter the house but Zee stayed in her room and pretended she wasn’t home. After 15 minutes of constant knocking, Hope gave up and left.
“We did it!” Zee yelled over the phone”Hopefully she just leave us alone for the holidays.”
What good news we had was short lived. Two days later and now into the new year, Hope returned with the police who insisted we let her in.
“It’s against the law to lock anyone out,” they said.
Zee opened the door and gave Hope a copy of the key. I couldn’t wait until my next hearing in Landlord Tenant court, a frustrating experience that is mired in red tape
One evening, I returned home with a prospective tenant who wanted to see the room in the basement. Since it was vacant, I was occupying the room, when I was in town. But I hoped to rent it out since I was in need of some rental income.
To my surprise, I found Hope lying on my bed in the basement watching TV and eating Cheetos, like this was her palace.
“What are you doing here?” I asked incredulously.
Hope looked up, rolled her eyes and continued eating her snacks as if she had every right to be here.
“Get out of my room now,” I demanded.
Hope slowly started to get up, but was a bit too measured to my liking. Since my guest was in a hurry to leave and I was her ride, I stepped in and offered a hand, grabbing her snacks from the coffee table and throwing it outside the room.
Next was the remote control. Hope resisted and I pulled it away from her flailing hands and threw it out.
“I have a guest – I don’t have time to wait on you!” I affirmed.
“I’m going to call the police,” she threatened.
“Fine, do whatever you want – just stay out of my room.”
Obviously the prospective tenant lost all interest in moving in. She found the experience quite traumatic.
Meanwhile, Zee texted me and informed me that the police showed up and wrote up a report.
Ok, I’m not worried. I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t ask Hope what had transpired – I figured it was best not to confront her.
Thankfully the following week was without incident.
The next Friday I had to leave to Middletown, VA for truck driving school. I was attending part time on weekends so I stayed out of town from Friday to Sunday evening.
My roommate from my other residence on Bruce Place called me and said that the police were looking for me. Strange, was I a witness for a crime? Then it started to dawn on me.
I called the police department and was alarmed to hear that there was a warrant for my arrest.
The next week, I reported to my precinct in 7D to turn myself in.
“We don’t have any record of your name in our system,” the officer said.
“That’s good, thank you,” I happily left the precinct.
I had barely made it out on the street, when suddenly two police cruisers with sirens blaring stopped me to check my ID.
It was quite a scene on Alabama Avenue during rush hour traffic, and for once I hated to being the center of attention.
“Mr. Peppler, put your hands behind your back. You’re under arrest.”