(This is part of an ongoing series called “Tales from a Landlord.”
For the past twelve years I was a landlord. I owned 16 different places. Eight apartments and eight houses. I was the accountant, the maintenance man, the lawn mower, everything. I went into the business because Suze Orman told me through one of her books that real estate was a good investment. If I ever meet Suze Orman in the flesh I am going to kill her. I recently sold my last house and have finally escaped the landlord business. I figured I would write down some of the stories that have happened to me as a landlord. Some of it is unbelievable. Some of it is funny. Most of it makes you lose faith in humanity.)
Michael, one of my tenants, called me one day and asked me to come over and fix his ceiling fan. I grabbed my toolbox, ladder and went to his apartment. When he opened the door and invited me in, I didn’t notice he was nude. That’s not as weird as it sounds because it was dark inside. He was blind so he didn’t turn on the lights. I went in and flipped on the light switch.
That’s when I noticed his nudity.
“Michael,” I said, “I think you forgot something.”
“What?” he asked.
“Sorry,” he said. “I forgot I was nude. Can you see my pants anywhere?”
I saw something that loosely resembled something in the pants family laying in a heap on the floor. I kicked them over toward him. “They’re on the floor. Right in front of you.”
“Sorry about that,” he said. “I sometimes forget to wear clothes.”
“Hmmmph,” I said. By this time I was up on the ladder unscrewing the ceiling fan’s housing unit. “Turn the light switch off, would you?”
He felt around on the wall until he located the switch. He flipped it off. “You know, I’m a nudist,” he said as proudly as somebody else might say “By the way, I won the Nobel Prize.”
“A blind nudist,” I intoned. “Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?” I dropped a screw. “Damn, I’m always dropping those tiny little screws.”
Michael walked over to where the screw fell, picked it up and handed it back up the ladder to me. “Nudism doesn’t have anything to do with sight,” he explained. “It’s about freedom. Freedom from convention, freedom from the restraints of society’s clothes. Get it?”
“Sure,” I said. I tightened a loose wire in the fan. “I understand that. But sometimes people can become slaves to freedom, you know. Sometimes…” and at this point I put on my best scholarly voice, “Sometimes freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
He thought about that a while. Then he knelt and reached under the sofa. He pulled out a large sketchpad. “Peggy is an artist,” he said. “You knew that right?”
Peggy was his wife. She was deaf. At this point in the story, I realize you might think I’m making this shit up, but I’m not. A blind guy was married to a deaf woman. Sometimes at night when I couldn’t go to sleep, I tried to imagine them carrying on a conversation.
“Is Peggy a nudist, too?” I asked.
“Noooo,” he said, drawing out the syllables like I was stupid. “She’s an artist.”
He held one of the sketches up to my eye level, saying, “The problem is… I don’t know if she’s has any talent or not. Can you look at this drawing she did of me and tell me if it’s any good?”
I looked. It was blank. “Turn it around,” I said.
“Sorry.” He turned it around. It was actually a pretty good drawing. A little too artsy for my taste, but I know a lot of people like that sort of thing. “It’s good,” I said. “It really does look like you. And I like how she drew you holding your cane out like that.”
“That’s not my cane,” he said.
“Oh.” I climbed down the ladder and turned on the light switch. The fan’s blades moved in a slow circle. “Fan is fixed,” I said. I packed up my tools and ladder.
“Thanks,” he said. “If you ever want to just hang out and –”
“Later,” I said, closing the door before he could finish his sentence. I was halfway home before it dawned on me that he had picked up that itty bitty screw and handed it back to me.
(Up Next on “Tales from a Landlord”: The Blind Nudist Fires a Gun at Me)