It’s not you, it’s me.
That’s the gist of what I wrote to my landlord, Agon, when I broke up with him.
While I did find a better, cheaper place in a superior location, the truth was that our relationship had been deteriorating for months. I just couldn’t take renting from the man who owned the apartment at thirtysomething Ismail Dumoshi Street, across from Magic Park, the kid’s-themed restaurant and banquet hall.
At first the problems seemed small. Random text messages out of blue, announcing that he was going to drop by my place in a few minutes. They usually started with “how r u, man? Listen, OK, …” and ending with “look at the bills.” Evidentially, he thought I wasn’t paying the water bill because his bill-collector friend told him so. I, in fact, was paying them at the office. I just was never around when the collector dropped by.
I managed to spurn these random drop-ins. It wasn’t that I was averse to seeing my 24-year-old Peja-born landlord. He was a nice enough guy. He was just a bit odd, and extraordinary possessive about every last detail about his apartment, including the location of two wooden statuettes with a tribal motif. Encounters with him were always draining and usually resulted in excessively long coffees during which he’d discuss his string of online girlfriends in the United States. He also tended to refer to black people in terms of racial slurs. The wide grin that came with every utterance suggested he was trying to impress me and solidify the bonds of friendship.
Agon also seemed to see himself in the role of sagely older brother or father, although I am three years older. This generally manifested itself in advice about sleeping with women in Prishtina, which, had I taken, probably would have dramatically increased the ranks of people who can say that they’ve slapped me with good reason.
June ushered in the beginning of the end. The water heater broke, and Agon came to inspect. The visit resulted in Agon referring me to a cleaning woman who was a family friend. The place was in need of some de-bachelorization and the price was right. At first it was great. Teuta came every other week, leaving my place cleaner and more organized than I could imagine. But little did I know, Teuta was making reports to Agon about the goings-on in the apartment.
I was just returning from Exit Festival in Novi Sad, when Agon sent me a series of text messages. I learned that he knew I was in Serbia. I never told him, only Teuta. He also knew that a young woman was staying in the spare bedroom. He demanded to know who she was, how long she was staying and said rent was now 50 euro more. A representative from the property agency that found my apartment reiterated Agon’s demands, as well as a request that everyone entering the premises remove their shoes. (Which was something I generally did but never required of guests). Aside from rent already being too high and it being far from clear how the shoe thing was Agon’s business, I was troubled that Agon had planted a spy, Teuta.
A series of terse text messages and e-mails followed, and I decided to move out. I expected it to get ugly. There had been dubious demands for money, including a completely false claim of unpaid rent.
But when Agon showed up to inspect the place and collect the keys, he brought beer, vodka and chocolate. We greeted each other warmly with a male sort of embrace. He didn’t even want to inspect the place. He just wanted to drink a few beers and reminisce. He told me about his latest virtual girlfriend and his family back in Peja. We didn’t talk about the last couple of months. I didn’t say how I felt personally violated by the espionage and his ensuing demands. And he said nothing of how I’d broken the myriad unspoken rules of being his tenant. In fact, my younger landlord said, “I was a good boy.”
I had to leave after a couple of beers. A sullen look swept over Agon’s face. He looked alone. We embraced once again with vague promises of a coffee in the unspecified future.
The article was originally written in English.
Photo Credit: JONATHAN CALUGI
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