This submission is a NOVEL! It is a looong read but you will get sucked into the drama and won’t be able to tear your eyes away.
I live and work in Asia. Last autumn, I was contacted by an old friend from high school, who I’ll call Jen. This woman and I have not spoken in over a decade, except for casual Facebook interactions, but she was always a funny and sweet person, so when she asked if I would be willing to house her for a weekend before she traveled around the country, I readily agreed.
As her departure date grew closer, I became a bit uneasy: she seemed a little needy and nervous. But hey, first time to this country, I understand. I have anxiety problems, myself, especially when traveling.
Then she sent me her reservation. Arrival and departure, from out local airport, were two weeks apart. Hmmm…
“Oh, it’s much too expensive to travel in that country. I’m just going to stay at your place the whole time.”
I balked at this, reminding her that my husband and I work full-time and, frankly there isn’t 10+ days worth of stuff to do in our area. After I reiterated that she was welcome to come for a weekend and even return for a day or two before flying out, but that we would be busy and so would our friends, she agreed to go elsewhere for part of the trip. I cleared out my own bedroom, set out a basket of toiletries, bought new towels, and stocked the pantry with snacks and drinks.
I didn’t find out until she arrived that she meant she would be traveling for only three days. Three days out of ten. The rest would be spent at my house. Also, she couldn’t eat a positive litany of common foods, most of which are considered staples of the local diet and are difficult to avoid even in our home country. All right, I would cook. I bought a new round of snack foods. Please note that I have IBS and also have to eat a modified diet, which relies heavily on foods that she claimed not to eat, so most of the snacks and food I purchased for her were inedible for my husband and myself.
After her first night, my husband and I were left with a deep feeling of unease and anger:
1. She constantly referred to my apartment as “ghetto.” It isn’t a palace, but it’s a nice two-bedroom that is much more luxurious than most of the local population can afford. Moreover, who denigrates a free, clean, comfortable place to sleep with a double bed and a private room? Especially to their host. Also, I don’t appreciate racially-biased colloquialisms.
2. After adding a few more foods she simply cannot eat to her list, and a prolonged period in which she moaned about being terribly hungry and shot down all my suggestions, my husband went out at 11:30 PM to find a few more staple goods for her to eat.
3. She never stopped talking. She literally did not stop talking for a full minute. It wasn’t a conversation, since I could not finish a single sentence. If I did manage to ask her a question, she answered in a sarcastic, incredulous tone, as if I could not possibly have said anything stupider.
She talked so much my ears hurt afterwards, and not once did she ask me or my husband anything about ourselves, our lives…anything, really. What did she talk about?
Almost entirely sex.
I’m not a prude, but surely there is a limit to how often ANY single subject comes up?
Jen was insatiable. She talked about every man she had ever slept with, and in detail. She talked about all the people she wanted to have sex with. She talked about all the people our mutual acquaintances had ever had sex with. I became very upset when she told me one of these friends had had an affair with a former teacher of ours, and asked her to stop talking about it; she responded with derisive laughter and half-screamed details of the affair. To be “funny.” She finally stopped when my husband, an education professional, asked her to stop because he would have to file a report if he heard any more details.
I took her downtown the next day and it became immediately obvious that I had made a huge mistake in allowing her to visit. The endless chatter did not dry up- if anything, it became more pronounced- and she continued to dismiss everything I said. Jen lives in a Middle Eastern city that my parents had also lived in for more than a decade, so I tried to express an interest in how the city was developing, what new attractions there were, and similar queries. Jen scoffed at everything I told her, insisting that my own experiences were wrong or made up (this city was a lot different before she moved there two years ago!), and spoke condescendingly about how things worked as if I hadn’t spent most of my adult life with that city as my “home base.”
During this second day, it became obvious to me that Jen had an odd relationship with her mother. When I woke up that morning, the first thing she did was say “Look!” and thrust a hand-written list into my face. It was a list of every man she had ever slept with, including their country of origin. Okay, well, interesting. Then she showed me a similar list- her mother’s. SHE HAD A LIST OF ALL HER MOTHER’S SEXUAL PARTNERS. And she brought it on vacation. I just…I still don’t understand.
Jen and her mother seemed to do everything together. They lived together, usually vacationed together, and worked together. Jen especially delighted in telling me random anecdotes about minor occurrences in her mother’s life. No incident, no topic, was ever too small or inconsequential for a detailed retelling. At this point, I used all the skills I’ve garnered over years of being forced in sit in meetings and was on robotic nod-and-smile mode.
I would also like to note that I had warned Jen before she arrived of two important things:
1. I live between 60 and 120 minutes from the nearest city, depending on traffic, necessitating a long time on public transportation. (She did not speak any of the local language and women aren’t particularly safe traveling alone in taxis here.)
2. People in my area are not accustomed to foreigners and often stare, point, laugh, and shout things when they see a foreign person. It’s not hostile and it’s usually just a minor annoyance, but it can be wearing.
She insisted that she didn’t care about point 1 and that she was used to point 2 because “the same thing happens where I live!” (It doesn’t.)
Naturally, she became frequently and loudly angry about both points over the course of the trip.
That night, as a gesture of welcome, I had arranged for my friends to meet at a local restaurant and meet Jen. That’s how she met my friend Tyler.
After flirting with the owner of the restaurant didn’t work, Jen set her cap for Tyler. And by “cap,” I mean certain areas of her body. She was hell-bent on seducing Tyler and nothing anyone did could dissuade her from it. Between whining at my friends to do various things for her, Jen was flirting with Tyler in a huge way. I was a bad friend, too, because I was so relieved at the buffer my other friends provided that I didn’t pay attention to what was happening until I realized that Jen was snuggling him and he was literally picking her hands off him and dropping them back on her body.
By the way, those dietary needs that I spent so much money on trying to accommodate? Yeah…not real.
I was not feeling well the next day- I don’t drink often and was hungover- but Jen was not sympathetic and got angry at me. I asked her what she would like to do and offered to write her a little manual to get around and see the sights she was interested in, but she refused to leave the house without me. My husband asked her nicely to give me some time to recover before making me get on public transportation (I get bus-sick on the best of days) but she apparently heard “climb into bed with my wife even though she asked you to stay out of our bedroom,” because that’s what she did. (I suppose that’s odd, but it was really cluttered and I was embarrassed about its appearance!)
So here I am- nauseous, bleary, headachey, in the spare bedroom with all of the personal items we had moved out of our regular bedroom in order to make her more comfortable- and suddenly there is this small, shrieking demon insisting we watch Jimmy Fallon videos in bed together. I hate Jimmy Fallon. We ordered food; she complained about the food. And refused to pay us back for it because “it doesn’t fit with my diet plan.”
She went off on her own the next day when we were at work, but since she wasn’t leaving until the evening, I still had to come home and deal with her. There was no “How was your day?” when I walked through the door. She retold her own day in excruciating details, griping about everything from the rudeness and stupidity of the locals to how dirty and ugly everything was, and on and on…I became hopeful that she would decide to stay at her next destination for a longer time, but no luck. My husband went out to buy us dinner. She complained about the food and did not offer to pay us back, even after my husband nicely said, “Jen, it was [amount] for your food.” She just ignored him.
I shoved her into the car (I had arranged for a private car and driver through my company’s transportation department) and went into my apartment to finally have my first moment alone since she arrived.
Jen took it upon herself to decide that the driver I’d hired was too stupid to understand which terminal to she was departing from. This led to a series of her making angry calls to my boss, on the driver’s phone, insisting that the driver had no idea what he was doing. MY BOSS! She could have easily called me; she had my number. Finally, my boss agreed to tell the driver to take her to the other terminal.
It turns out…the driver was right the first time.
I had not one hour of peace before I started getting panicked, angry text messages from her, insulting the driver and my boss for their stupidity, etc. She claimed to have had to walk over a kilometer between terminals, on the road, dragging her suitcase “because I keep missing the bus!” Why do you KEEP missing the bus? Why didn’t you just wait at the bus stop? The bus between terminals arrives every twenty minutes and she had arrived at the airport with over three hours of time!
Then she couldn’t figure out the lines. “I keep standing in the group check-in!” How do you “keep” standing in a line? Move lines or use the check-in machines, woman!
Hoping to disengage, I sent a few reassuring texts, but largely did not look at my phone. A woman in her thirties who lives abroad can certainly navigate a small airport where people speak English. Right?
Around 11 PM (please remember this is a work night for me), she starting sending me texts saying things like “I’m not going to make my plane.” Fed up, I told her to show her ticket to a security officer. Guess what, this worked! She got on her plane and went off to her tropical resort; I finally managed to get to sleep around 1 AM once I knew her flight had left and I could sleep without missing an emergency call from her.
She arrived back the next Friday morning. I had the day off, but could not sleep in because of her early arrival. She had asked me to be awake and ready to go to one of the main tourist sites in town, so I was up, dressed, and caffeinated.
Of course, she came in, whined that no one had been available to seduce at the resort, and then went to sleep. Well…fine. I did some work, since I couldn’t go back to bed, and waited for her awaken.
It is here that I would like to mention that Jen did not pay for anything besides souvenirs for herself, not even her saintly mother. I gave her some leeway on things like group dinners, and lent her a transit pass, knowing that she had outstanding student loans and made little money. She greedily seized on this small concession as “I’m getting a free ride!” It became almost impossible to get her to pay her share of anything. She wouldn’t even recharge the transit pass before she left, draining it completely. She didn’t pay for any of the special food we purchased for her, nor did she offer. Also, she had an annoying habit of saying things like, “Oh, I almost bought you [such and such.]” Well, why are you telling me this? I don’t expect a hostess gift, but I’d prefer not to hear about all the nice things you “almost” bought me and then didn’t in favor of buying yourself gifts! She even refused to reimburse me for a souvenir she wanted at a place that didn’t accept her credit card, which I purchased (although she didn’t stick to that after I then calmly asked her to reimburse me for the various other things I’d bought for her. Just the one souvenir, though.)
She wanted to go to the mall (why?) so we did, and then she asked me, “Why didn’t you send Tyler to pick me up at the airport?”
“Why didn’t I tell my friend to leave his office on a work morning and travel two hours from his workplace to the airport to pick you up?”
“Jen, what did I just say?”
“Yeah, I know, but…I like him soooo much!”
“You’re welcome for the car and driver I arranged, Jen.”
“Oh, that reminds me! One time my mom hired a driver and…”
I think my brain turned itself off at this point.
At the mall, she spent an enormous sum on things like makeup, jewelry, stationery, and clothes. None of which she desperately needed or which were unavailable in her city of residence. She also refused to eat at any of the restaurants I suggested, rejecting everything derisively and acting like I had slapped her with every suggestion I made, then whining that she was so unbelievably hungry. At one point I suggested a Japanese restaurant, pointing out the pictures on the menu, and she gave me a disgusted look and said, “Um, I don’t know what Japanese food IS.”
It’s food. From Japan. There are pictures and English on the menu explaining what it is. Also, she spent several years in a city with a large Japanese population and had regaled me with tales of visiting Japantown with Japanese friends, so I’m pretty sure she had an inkling.
At this point, my consciousness had basically shut down. I just smiled every time she insulted me or did something rude, and except for the occasional nasty response to one of my comments or questions- when I could make one- the evening passed peacefully enough. She did make several comments about how my weight- every time I didn’t buy an article of clothing I tried on, she asked in a sugary voice, “Awwww, is it too small?” However, anyone with eyes could have compared my body with hers, so I just chalked it up to insecurity and rudeness (and was somewhat vindicated when people kept trying to give her their seats on the bus while asking if she was pregnant! I didn’t translate this; I didn’t want her to blow up.)
Oh, and I did I mention she was racist? She did charming impressions of the local accent and pronunciation and, immediately upon meeting a local friend of mine, Lily, at another restaurant, Jen asked her, “You’re not going to order DOG, are you?” My friend graciously ignored this.
Pretty bad, right? Hang in there, it gets worse. A lot worse.
As I mentioned before, Jen didn’t really want to travel around by herself. It is a long journey into town and not very easy if you don’t speak the local language, but she had made the trip several times and knew how to do it just fine. I asked her that night if she would do us the small favor of leaving the house for the next afternoon, at the time of her choice, so that I could work on a very important project my boss had recently moved the deadline on. I explained to her that I knew it was a silly request, but I have issues with concentration and needed a very quiet environment. What I didn’t tell her is that my husband was becoming increasingly furious with her rudeness and was considering asking her to leave after violating our generosity too many times, and that he also needed a few hours of quiet. She only stopped talking when she was asleep. I can’t stress that enough; I am not exaggerating in the slightest. I couldn’t even get her to stop talking when I was using the bathroom! She would shout through the door at me!
Absolutely, baldly refused.
I was asking for three or four hours to work on my project and do some light cleaning (she never even offered to do the dishes, not that I would have accepted) and to let everyone have a breather and some time to recuperate. I wasn’t asking her to go downtown- there’s a nice mall near us with a Starbucks and a lovely park nearby- I just needed her out of my house. But she wouldn’t go. Who goes to visit someone and then refuses a simple request like that? I would never expect my hosts to constantly entertain me, nor would I want to hang around all day!
She then decided that she would just sit in the bedroom all day and wait for me to finish. This worked for about ten minutes before she came out and started talking to me again. I put on my headphones. Then she burst into my bedroom, even though the door was closed, and started yammering to my husband, who was trying to study.
After losing a coin toss for who had to do it, I ended up taking her downtown.
Here we come to the final chapter of this saga:
My friend Steve had planned a dinner party for the night before Jen left. Steve’s dinner parties are a delight; he plans a huge menu and we all leave stuffed full of delicious food. I had checked with him weeks before to make sure it was okay to bring Jen, and he was fine with it. (This is de rigeur at his parties; I would never invite people otherwise.) However, Tyler was going to be there, and although I had apologized to him many times for the awkward encounter, I was still worried about what Jen would do at the party.
The day of the party, Jen wanted to go back to the mall and eat the Japanese food she had been so dreadfully offended by previously. I could not go with her because I had to do the work I was unable to complete the previous day. I warned her that Steve’s apartment could be difficult to find without cell service, offering to lend her my phone for the day, but she said she didn’t need it. Okay. Steve sent her detailed directions. I also offered to meet her at the subway at a pre-determined time, but she again refused.
She was two hours late by the time Steve served dinner. I had been checking my phone every few minutes for an update from Jen, but put it down in order to eat and chat with my friends.
Well, my timing could not have been worse.
While walking to Steve’s place, Jen tripped and fell on the sidewalk. She managed to make it to a Starbucks, where a kind woman let her use her phone, and during the twenty or thirty minutes in which we were eating, she called and texted several of us multiple times.
Steve, who was still cooking, was the first to notice and told me Jen was at Starbucks and needed to be picked up. My husband offered to go.
They arrived twenty minutes later, and things got REALLY crazy.
Jen was crying. No, Jen was sobbing. She had skinned her knees and cracked her phone screen. Okay, that sucks, we’ve all been there! But she was sobbing, sobbing, sobbing, refusing to speak to anyone except me. She stood in Steve’s entryway and cried pitifully.
I dragged her into the bathroom, cleaned out her wounds FOR HER (she wouldn’t pause in her retelling of the events long enough to do it herself, and I needed it to stop) and put on Neosporin. She started crying harder because the Neosporin hurt. She’s 30 years old. Even though I reassured her that we’d all done it, and both Steve and I told her stories about times we’d fallen down in the city and hurt ourselves- Steve broke a rib!- she refused to listen or be consoled. Just crying, crying, crying. I understand how embarrassing a public wipeout is, but come on, there has to be a limit. But, no, Jen needed to be made much of.
Finally, I couldn’t do it anymore. I simply said, “Jen, I am very sorry that this happened and I will help you if you feel you need to visit a doctor, but I am going to return to the party now. I prepared a plate of food for you and it’s waiting for you in the oven. When you feel you are able, I hope you can join us,” and left.
Jen got angry.
She was angry at me because I wasn’t sympathetic enough.
She was angry at my husband because he didn’t make enough of a big deal about her injuries when he arrived to pick her up.
She was angry at Steve for not telling everyone she was hurt (he didn’t think falling down and skinning one’s knees was that significant of an occasion.)
She was angry at Lily for sitting next to Tyler, even though Lily nicely greeted her and asked if she needed any help.
She was angry at Tyler because he didn’t fuss over her or sit next to her when she did deign to join the party.
The entire party was Jen sitting on the couch, refusing to speak to anyone, looking at Tyler with big, wet Bambi eyes (yes, she cried for HOURS) and giving terse, rude responses to anyone who did try to engage her in conversation. At one point, a friend of mine (who is a professional dancer) tried asking Jen about her own amateur interest in dance, and Jen ended up insulting her knowledge. After that, everyone ignored her unless she approached them first.
Not once during this ordeal did Jen compliment the host, thank him for his time and effort, or say anything nice about the huge amount of food she ate.
We took a taxi home. Jen whined and sniffled the whole time. She did pay for the taxi- with money I had given her JUST IN CASE SHE RAN OUT AND NEEDED TO TAKE A TAXI. At no point did I tell her that was a gift; I specifically said, “I’m giving you this in case of an emergency, so please give it back to me or pay me back later if you use it.” At this point, I didn’t even care about the money anymore, and just laughed at her rudeness.
She then yelled at me because I didn’t have any Band-Aids (she had some! She showed me! She showed me every item in her suitcase including her underwear!) and then SLAMMED the bedroom door. My husband and I went to bed.
Unbeknownst to me, she sent a slew of nasty text messages to Tyler over the next few hours, castigating him for not paying attention to her at the party and for sitting next to Lily. She told me about this proudly when she woke up the next day…at 4 PM.
My husband was so drained at this point that I told Jen he was ill and not to bother him. She shouted a few inanities at him through the bedroom door; I made her stop. Three hours. I only needed to get through three more hours.
Finally, finally, finally the driver came and took her to the airport, leaving us with a still-made bed and her detritus everywhere. My husband and I lay on the floor and literally laughed until we cried.
Yesterday, I announced on Facebook that my husband and I were moving to Europe. Jen commented, “Yay! Guess who’s coming to visit?”
I think we’ll be out of town when she comes. 0414-17