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At first, the quiet girl from Craigslist seemed like a great match—we had just the occasional tangle over cats and cleanup. And then the men started coming over. It was late morning, and I was putting up a fresh pot of coffee when I heard the first meow. It sounded awfully close, as if from inside the apartment instead of the backyard one story down. Then I heard it again, and there was no doubt. I texted my roommate. You got a cat?! 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.
I was also concerned about the smell. And besides, the landlord forbade pets. I have a tendency to overreact, to exacerbate conflict. Instead I went for calm and firm, and maybe slightly paternal. We need to talk. Later that afternoon, in the kitchen between our bedrooms, we talked, leaning on opposite counters.
I was left somewhat unsettled. In the end, I told her she could keep the cat, but she better take care of it properly. We were unlikely roommates, a Craigslist arrangement: I, a near-middle-aged man, several years divorced, with adolescent children of my own.
She, a twenty-year-old recent college grad. 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. He left just as I was about to call the cops. So when Jenny showed up, I was inclined to like her.
She looked like a typical post-college young woman: hair dyed reddish-blond, large earmuff headphones over her ears. Her speech tended to the monosyllabic. I showed her the room. I showed her the bathroom. 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. She told me she worked two jobs, as a clerk in a stationary store in Midtown Manhattan and as an art-school model.