Crazy Like Jenya
By Laura Nielson Baxter
The day she moved in was gray and sleety. She unpacked, packed and unpacked her things three times before deciding to stay. “She’s foreign,” we told ourselves when she never smiled, “she doesn’t know any better.” We tried to be nice to her, but she could only walk around sad-faced and half-lidded. Mostly she kept to herself in her room, coming out once in a while to fry garlic and eat it, only to vanish again. “She must be homesick,” we told ourselves. “She needs to be understood.” Then things started to disappear: Nicole’s new leather belt, Pam’s handmade hotpad, my rusty muffin tin. We found them stored neatly, cleaned and newly labeled, underneath her bed. Then it got worse. She no longer allowed us to have guests, went weeks without showering, and sat on the couch talking to people none of us could see. “Leave me alone,” she said, and, “Don’t touch me.” “She’s crazy,” they said. That night five of us had the exact same dream: late at night, a bedroom door slowly opening and Jenya, silhouetted in the frame, holding a knife and talking to herself. “That’s it,” we said, “she has got to go.” Evicting her required everyone to sign. I was the last one to put my name down, but I did. The next day we avoided our apartment, knowing that no one would talk to her as she waited with her things to be picked up. Yesterday I fried vegetables with too much garlic. Kirk said, “Whew! That’s strong! It reminds me of when you lived with, that crazy girl, what’s her name?” “Jenya,” I said, garlic stinging my eyes.