The first time I tried to order pizza in my very first apartment, the local pizza place hung up on me when they heard my address. When I called back, they told me that they didn’t want my business anymore, thankyouverymuch.
The very first thing the building manager said to me upon my arrival? “I need to check your walls and see if they’re up to code. Esther built that room, you know, the little one, for her cats.
My father (and the Realtor who found the place) said to me, “She put a grand piano in the living room. Can you believe it?”
I can’t say that I did believe it, really, until I had actually moved in. The place looked harmless enough during the walk-through: four walls and one outdated kitchen and bathroom. It was pretty typical Chicago Apartment fare in my college-student price range.
To tell you that I took on the living arrangements of a crazy cat lady would be an understatement.
This woman was THE Crazy Cat Lady, with a dedicated cat-room and all. After I moved in and had been living there for a while, I made a few discoveries of my own. Esther had taped dried flowers to the windows in lieu of curtains. Esther had several cats (and cat hair is damn difficult to get out of carpet).
Esther’s legal last name was ‘Lester,’ and she had not forwarded her mail. I received several bills in very red envelopes with her name on them. Finally, several months after I moved in, the Esther Lester mail abated and the neighbors had essentially stopped talking about her and her crazy cat room (which became my office).
All thoughts of Esther The Crazy Cat Lady/Former Occupant were gone from my mind and I could concentrate on far more important things, like finishing my English/Secondary Education double major and writing thesis after thesis on whether or not Percy Byshee Shelly was doing the nasty with John Keats.
(They were totally humping.)
Then, one day, completely out of the blue, I received a package from Amazon.com with her name on it. As I mentioned earlier, Esther had left no forwarding address and I was compelled to open it. You know, to see if it was worth trying to forward it her new place. It could be important! Who knows, really, until you open it?
Inside where three copies of the same book: One Woman’s-Reflections-Esther by none other than The Crazy Cat Lady Herself. Holy shit, I thought, She wrote a book! She wrote a crazy cat book.
I wish I could tell you that I kept the letter that came with the books, but I didn’t. I do, however, have a real-life enactment of the letter based on actual events:
Dear Crazy Cat Lady,
Here are the last two Earthly copies of your crappy book. It was so very crappy that we couldn’t continue to sell it on Amazon.com. Only one person bought it. Ever. Please keep your crap out of our warehouses.
Of course, you know what happened next: I called everyone I knew. “She wrote a book!” I laughed into the phone to anyone who would listen. “She wrote a fucking book of poetry!!! And it’s BAD!!!”
Indeed, the poetry was bad. There was a poem about Lake Michigan that was such an obvious metaphor for sex that it could only have been laughable. It went something like this:
The waves crash down over me
pounding me, pounding
o! the waves!
Apparently, to Esther, everything was a metaphor for sex, including her trips to the grocery store (I squeeze the melons to feel their flesh under my flesh), the feeling of driving her car (O! how it vibrates under my control!), the Chicago wind (It pushes me and forces me to resist!), and drunken students wandering by her window (O! to feel virgin flesh on virgin flesh/the weight. O!).
She had two other topics of poetry: her grandchildren (O! but they bring so much joy to my lonely life/because my children don’t visit!) and thinly-veiled attacks on her neighbors:
O! they complain!
Complain about the noise!
About the singing!
About the dancing!
Don’t they know how to live?
O, the shame. O, the hilarity. O, the search that showcased her second and her third book.
Come on, Esther. You make this too easy.
I’m not embarrassed to admit that many a drunken night was capped off with readings of Esther’s terrible, terrible poetry. Many a poem was paused midway through to fake an uproariously loud orgasm much to the delight of the audience, who was, by that point, having an asthma attack from laughter at the crap that passed for poetry from a vanity publisher.
(In fact, if I can side track for a moment, your own Aunt Becky does a hilarious reading of some of Esther’s better works. I bet if you ask her nicely, she’ll videotape herself doing this and put it up on YouTube for you.)
The most lasting impression, though, is how many people have asked me to relinquish the last remaining Earthly copy of Esther’s book. My answer'”depending on my mood'”ranges from a polite-but-firm ‘No,’ to a very threatening ‘Fuck no’ with a little more ‘No!’ on top. I guard the damn thing with my life. It’s tried to walk out at parties and my English Geeky friends are constantly trying to ‘borrow’ it for ‘entertainment value.’
To this day, I don’t know what happened to Esther, but she can rest assured; her message will live on in my house as long as there is sangria to be consumed within 100 yards and an audience to fake-orgasm for. Her memory also lives on at Giordanos, but for a far, far different reason, I’m sure.