I didn’t remember there being garbage in my room. And yet, there it was. Scattered about the room in a circle, surrounding a spot conspicuously large enough for exactly one uninvited human to sleep. Thankfully, the human was not around.
My roommate and I had signed the lease two days prior, but due to having utterly no furniture and, evidently, even less sense, we skipped staying in the house for a couple of days. And so, when we finally decided to start moving our stuff in, we stumbled upon the pile of trash, food and pants that had materialized in our absence. It was unnerving to say the absolute least.
It’s a three-bedroom house so, naturally, the squatter decided on my room. Upon closer inspection, we found all manner of trinkets and food … bits, including (but not limited to) leggings, a pair of bedazzled jeans, two AA batteries, an MRE sleeve containing frozen burritos, cigarette butts and a marker. The marker, in my opinion, being the most interesting of the items. Scrawled at the base of the wall was the name, “Luigi.” Presumably. It wasn’t exceptionally legible, so I suppose it could have been anything. But we’ll go with “Luigi” for the purposes of narrative ease.
We found leggings, a pair of bedazzled jeans, two AA batteries, an MRE sleeve containing frozen burritos, cigarette butts, and a marker.
Luigi was nowhere to be seen, having most likely gone out to do whatever squatters do in the middle of the day. Needless to say, my roommate and I were not thrilled. Employing the wisdom of every detective show I had ever seen, I started inspecting the house, inch by inch. There was a microwave in the bedroom across from mine, plugged in and still open. Rude. Additionally, the heat in my room was turned up all the way. Very rude. Luigi cared not for my energy bill.
Outside yielded the biggest find, though. A wooden ladder, lying on its side, had been stored in the alley next to our house. It was, conveniently (depending on your perspective, I guess), just the right height to climb into the kitchen window. Which had a broken lock. Case closed. We brought the ladder inside to the stairwell, forced the window closed with weed-based engineering and turned on all the lights, establishing a very obvious “We live here!” presence.
But there was still the lingering anxiety of whether Luigi might return to fetch his things. Having your house invaded while you aren’t there is one thing, but being present when a stranger climbs in through the window is decidedly traumatic. Besides, what could I do if Luigi came back? I am not particularly large nor intimidating and I just can’t imagine mustering up the commanding voice needed to will someone out of the house.
So, I did what any good renter does, and called the landlord. Emailed her, really. Looking back on it, it was a fairly casual response to a tense situation. But what were the other options? Calling the police may have given them a report for their files, but it would have resulted in little beyond: “Yeah, that happens.” The house is located in the University District of Seattle, directly in the middle of, I’m finding out now, what is apparently the “sketchiest” part of the UDistrict.
But what does sketchy necessarily mean? That there is a large homeless population is a given in Seattle. And I don’t think Luigi intended to harm anyone. Granted, I don’t appreciate the violation of privacy and boundaries, but he clearly only came in because it was obvious no one was home. So why do I still feel on-edge?
There’s a notion that being amidst the homeless makes you inherently more prone to being a victim of a crime. And that’s probably true, logically speaking. But I’m hesitant to fall into panic at the first sign of trouble. Namely, because Luigi was, in all likelihood, just looking for a place to rest his head for the night. There is a fine line here, especially when considering the staggering effects of gentrification. On the one hand, I paid the exorbitant price that it takes to live in a decent house, free of unwanted guests. On the other hand, I just moved here and have probably spent less time in the city of Seattle than Luigi has. This doesn’t justify a break-in, but it begs the question of who is trespassing on who. Or perhaps I’m being needlessly pedantic.
At any rate, my roommate suggested we gather Luigi’s things into a bag and leave them out front. We didn’t want him coming back, but we certainly didn’t feel justified in tossing out his entire life’s possessions. When I came back the next day the bag was gone, and the house undisturbed. Luigi had respected our wishes.