Random post note: So this is a blog post about a strange roommate myself and normal others encountered during our time as summer interns in Indianapolis. I was talking about Indy not long ago and decided that I needed to write this before I forgot some of the best details. Enjoy!
Indianapolis must have the fewest apartments of any city in America, and this cannot be disputed. I discovered this FACT in the spring of 2009.
I would be living there that summer for work at a newspaper, and three other interns – DeAntae, Justin and Jake – and I planned to live together. Through e-mails, we decided we could find the perfect place through the magic of Craigslist.
And Craigslist, in a way, is magic. You look on Craigslist* for free and then boom! You have a place to stay for the summer and hopefully not a serial rapist/axe murderer/mountain lion waiting at the door for you when you move in. And if you do, well, at least the place might come with one of those toasters that can heat FOUR pieces of bread at once.
*Wow, Craigslist didn’t turn up as a misspelled word on this Word document.
So from our respective homes around the country, we searched for the perfect sublease. Believe it or not, I thought I found one. A house was available in Brownwood, a cabin that offered space and a nearby lake. Four writers honing their craft in the watery wild, I thought, it would have been like Walden Pond, only with more drinking and more listening to Keri Hilson’s “Knock You Down.” Alas, the house was situated at least thirty miles from downtown. It wouldn’t work.
The end of May came around, and we discovered nothing would work, mainly because nothing was available. There were no subleases in the entire city. And the newspaper was really helpful, too. Our intern coordinator offered this sage advice: Look in our gutted classified ads.
So I was driving with my mom to Indianapolis without a place to live when I got a call from Justin. He had found a spot. It was just south of downtown. Nice. It had four bedrooms and a big yard with a fire pit. Double nice. But there was something else, a very Craigslistian something else.
“We’re going to be living with a chick named Jules,” he told me.
Justin didn’t know much else at this time. He gave me the number of our landlord, Jen, who I quickly contacted, finding out that I could move in within the week. I asked her about Jules.
She was 29 years old, Jen told me. She was a blond. She was a bartender. She was mulling an opportunity as a paralegal, which at the time I thought meant a fancy word for a law student.
I was thinking what any normal 22-year-old guy would think. Jules must have been super-hot and super-sophisticated, serving writs of habeas corpus by day and serving martinis at night, adding a splash of wit every bit as dry as the drink. My head filled with thoughts starting with the word awesome and ending with two exclamation points.
Yeah, just like that.
Paralegal, in case you were wondering, is, more or less, a fancy word for an assistant. I found this out at Crazy Street on Memorial Day that summer. Crazy Street, in case you were wondering, was, more or less, a bar that just happened to sound like a 1900s area of Hell’s Kitchen, though its electronic dart boards were surely not yet invented back then. I was there meeting Jules.
She sat at a table in the middle of the bar with a friend, smoking. I swear I’m not skin-deep or insensitive, but let’s just put it this way, Jules was not the classy, upscale lawyer I had dreamingly pictured. More than anything, Jules, and her friend, was a product of her environment. She was a South Indianapolis girl.
We quickly learned that South Indianapolis – and began pronouncing it In-duh-nap-lis – wasn’t quite like the rest of the city. Contrary to its official latitude, the Midwest ended and the Deep South started one mile south of downtown.
Confederate flag stickers appeared on cars, blown up like badges of racist glory. Accents changed from the neutral Midwest variety to Southern. People used the word y’all. You couldn’t go into a gas station without finding a statuette of Robert E. Lee showered with white rose petals.*
*OK that was not true. But it seeeeeeeemed like it could have been true.
My roommate, DeAntae, was black. A friend of ours, Lindsay, was Korean. Besides a very short Indian woman named Little Bit* who worked at a dive restaurant we once visited, I am certain they were the only two minorities on this side of the town. When we went to places like Crazy Street or Lizards, fellow bar patrons stared like they had stumbled into a twisted alternate reality, or as they might have called it, “Obama’s America.”
*That name actually was true. But it seeeeeeemed like it could have been false.
I once inserted a pocket of quarters into a jukebox at Lizards so that it would play Creed’s “My Own Prison.” I thought the Christian-tinged hard rock tune would ingratiate our group to the hostile gawkers. It didn’t. Expecting a barrage of flaming pitchforks, we left before Scott Stapp could echo his final cry of “SHOULDA BEEN THERE ON A SUNDAAAAY MORNING.”
One evening, as I pulled out of our driveway onto the main road on the way to work, a fellow driver stopped me, rolling down his window. He asked if I knew where the nearest trailer park was. DUH! It was a quarter mile to the north, just across the street next to Swifty Service Station.
Those places and experiences, I would find out, were South In-duh-nap-lis. At Crazy Street on that Memorial Day evening, I didn’t know yet, all I knew was Jules and her friend kept asking why I was being so quiet. They assumed it must have been because I went to Catholic high school, apparently a breeding ground for the silent.
The fools. I kept relatively quiet for a reason. I was calculating the odds of a mountain lion hopping out at any moment.
Often at work, I would meet a co-worker who was showing up at the office for the first time in several weeks and thus seeing me, the summer intern, for the first time. The introductions followed a similar pattern after the usual nice to meet you chit-chat.
“Where do you live?” he would ask.
“Thompson Road,” I would say. “I live with three interns and a 29-year-old woman bartender. It’s kind of weird.”
Then came the inevitable response: “You’re living with a CHICK who tends BAAAAAAR and you DON’T like it!?!?! WHO. Are. YOU?”
If only they knew who she was. This was admittedly a tough proposition because we really didn’t even know.
It turns out Jules wasn’t a paralegal. She was considering becoming one. In the meantime, she bartended at night and had a different job during the day where she worked at a strip club. She didn’t strip. She didn’t guard the champagne room, or as it would likely be called in South In-duh-nap-lis, the pruno room. She just sort of worked there. At a strip club. During the day. Presumably behind a desk. Presumably clothed.
When she wasn’t at work, Jules loved watching Jerry Springer and So You Think You Can Dance? It didn’t take long to figure this out because she blared them on volumes high enough to shatter the eardrums of grown elephants. She never cleaned up, once leaving a skillet full of sausage gravy on the stove for an entire weekend and a broken plate on the floor for an entire day, yet she wrote passive-aggressive letters to us explaining that us irresponsible guys needed to clean the house. And she loved drinking.
Now, I like drinking and I suspect the majority of all 20-somethings enjoy the pastime. But she really liked drinking. Sometime in June, Jules won a scratchers-esque lottery game, a prize of around $500. DeAntae and Justin found this out in a rather odd way. They were walking out of the gym in a strip mall when they heard a familiar voice yelling (read, slurring) from outside of a nearby bar. Guess who?
Somehow, Jules made it home. She could stand up, however, she could not complete a full sentence. She rambled just enough to explain her actions for the day, revealing that she had spent, oh, about $500 on alcohol before heading upstairs to sleep for six days.
We spent time with her during that summer but never too much. She did work a lot. And she had a boyfriend type of figure who would appear occasionally. But every so often, she would want to hang out with us and share stories with us. One night, not long after her lottery-induced alcohol spree, Jules walked into the family room where DeAntae, Justin, Jake and I were sitting, watching TV.
“I think I’m going to buy a dog,” she said.
On our second-to-last weekend we decided to invite a few friends over to hang out. Landlord Jen was pleased. She invited about 15 people to come to the party her tenants were throwing on her property.
Lindsay, Jake, Justin, DeAntae and I discussed the summer over a fire in the backyard. We talked about the good – the job, hanging out with each other – the bad – the inexplicable Southerness of the area – and the strange – Jules.
Two years have passed since then, a collage of changes, new people, new places and new perspectives. I can’t even remember Jules’ last name or if I ever knew it. I haven’t talked to her and rarely think of her. When I thought of Indianapolis I started wondering: Has she become a paralegal? Is she still a strip club consultant? How much shattered china litters the kitchen floor?
But in writing this, one other memory popped back up, above the deluge of South In-duh-nap-lis trailers, ray-cess ramblings and drunken Jules journeys.
Before DeAntae, Jake and Justin moved in, I lived for a couple of days with Jules by myself. One night, she rented the movie “Bride Wars,” the romantic comedy with Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway, and asked if I wanted to watch with her. So we watched the movie together, sitting on opposite sides of the sofa.
She thought the movie sucked. And I agreed.