In late 2018, after two years of my dad and I being roommates and what started to also feel like wingmen—following a few instances of receiving a pound-it when I was left with no other choice but to tell him I wouldn’t be sleeping at home that night—things started to unravel. We began to fight—a lot. Not about the things most roommates fight over, like not cleaning up after oneself or being loud and inconsiderate. Instead, we fought about safety.
I bet you’re wondering, What’s there to argue about? Who doesn’t want to be safe?
Well, my dad doesn’t, apparently.
My dad and I seem to have polar-opposite views when it comes to the protection that’s required when you live in a house. My father, a pretty well-known guy living in a large city, acts like he’s a farmer living up in the secluded mountains of Montana, except I have the impression that most farmers at least own a gun. My dad prefers no security whatsoever. He was on Venmo as himself for years until he asked me why people kept requesting thousands of dollars from him. Unless I take it upon myself, doors and windows are left unlocked and the alarm system that is in perfect working condition remains unused. When I tell him that a lot of famous people have a security person and that even most non-famous people have cameras outside their homes, he scoffs. “Who do they think they are?! Yeah, OOOOH, we’re all out to get you! Ridiculous! No one cares!”
I know I’m particularly paranoid, but I think it’s entirely rational for me to want to sleep with our alarm system on. Alas, all it took was one night of the alarm going off accidentally for my dad to decide that not only do alarm systems not work, but “they are accidents waiting to happen.” If I weren’t so scared of my dad dying, I’d pretend to be a burglar in the middle of the night just to teach him a lesson. Except in that lesson, he’d probably die of a heart attack, and then I would, of course, die of irony.
Living together was initially harmonious. We’d complain over coffee in the mornings and MSNBC at night. He’d leave out the New York Times op-eds for me to read on Sundays, and I’d explain to him what memes were—over and over again.
It was all going wonderfully until one day, seemingly out of nowhere, my dad started obsessing over how annoying it was to look around for the key every time he wanted to leave or get into the house. It was a monomania similar to when he became infuriated with outlets being located only behind beds and tables. He’d pace around, yelling: “WHAT ARE THEY, SOME KIND OF MONSTROSITY?! WE HAVE TO HIDE THEM BECAUSE THEY’RE SO UGLY!? WE BEND DOWN, BREAKING OUR BACKS, MOVING FURNITURE TO GET INTO THEM?! ENOUGH OF THIS!” Instead of ignoring this, as one should, he re-did our entire electrical circuit so we could have eye-level outlets.
I definitely didn’t help the key situation, I’ll admit. I often forgot mine altogether and would be locked outside for hours, calling him 20 times over. When he decided to hide a spare key outside, I never remembered to put it back. I just kept bringing it inside the house with me, locking it in there for the next time I needed it.
One day he decided he had had enough, and I came home to find the lock on the front door removed and replaced with a door code. A door code. Like it was a goddamn therapist’s office. I gasped and rang the doorbell five times in a row. My dad opened the door as wide as his arm was able to stretch, his face beaming with joy. “WELL, WELL, WELL, LOOK WHO IT IS! WELCOME HOME!” he said. “Father,” I said, trying to suppress a smile I had only because his was contagious. “ARE YOU SEEING THIS BEAUTY?!” he said, gesturing to the door code. “HOW ABOUT THIS BEAUTY?!” “Dad. What. Is. This?” “NO MORE LOOKING FOR YOUR KEY. NO MORE LOOKING AROUND THE HOUSE AND CAR FOR THE KEY. NO MORE LOOKING THROUGH DRAWERS. ONE CODE. NEVER LOCKED OUT AGAIN.”
I’d never felt more unsafe in my life. Going to sleep every night when you’re as fearful as I am but also live with a dad who has a shocking alter ego of a free spirit is nerve-racking, to say the least. He takes what looks like 50 supplements every single day and hasn’t had sugar in 15 years. The man would sit in a cryo-chamber for six days straight if someone showed him a study that said it might prevent illness. But he will take absolutely no precautions to ensure neither of us gets murdered.
My father acts like he’s a farmer living up in the secluded mountains of Montana, except I have the impression that most farmers at least own a gun.
I’d chosen to live with my dad because he was eventually going to die, but over time it developed into my living with him to protect him from immediate death. As the security guard of the house, my job is to go hunt for a killer. I’ve been afraid of coming across something nefarious for so long now that I’ve begun to feel surprised every time I don’t run into an intruder. It’s almost starting to get discouraging, like training in the army for seven years and never getting to go to war. Well, it’s not like that. Soldiers are happy when they don’t have to go to war, and I’m happy that I don’t have to fight a murderer. All I’m saying is that there’s a lot of time put into mentally training, and it’d be a huge waste if it turns out to be for nothing.
I’ve never missed a night checking all of the rooms and hallways. In this process, I lock all the doors and windows. Then I double-check them by shaking the knobs to ensure I did in fact lock them and it isn’t my brain tricking me into a false sense of security. I close the curtains in every room so no one can see into the house, just in case someone is hiding in the backyard. Then I pat down the bottom of all the curtains with my foot to make sure no one is hiding behind them (even though I’m the one who closed them). And last but definitely not least, I put on the alarm and pray to God it doesn’t go off and wake my dad up.
When I tried to talk to him about how unsafe I felt, he made me feel like a true piece of shit. “You think you’re so special that out of everyone on the planet, someone is going to choose to come kill or kidnap you?” Then he gestured to the door code. “And how could this possibly make you feel unsafe?”
I’ve never missed a night checking all of the rooms and hallways. In this process, I lock all the doors, put on the alarm, and pray to God it doesn’t go off and wake my dad up.
After many days of getting even fewer hours of sleep than usual because of the door code, I decided I should confront my dad, lovingly and patiently. We were roommates! I walked down the stairs, expecting to find him at the kitchen table popping supplements, when I heard the door code being entered. Must be my dad coming in from getting the newspaper, I thought. But it wasn’t—it was his yoga teacher! So much for being loving and patient. I went and found my dad.
“DAD, WHAT THE FUCK?! You gave our front-door code to your YOGA TEACHER?!,” I whisper-screamed so she wouldn’t hear me.
“Yeah, isn’t it amazing? I don’t have to walk over to open the door anymore! I’m telling you, this door code is the smartest thing I’ve ever done.”
“Do you know what else would be smart? An open-door policy! Let’s just leave the door open!”
“It’s impossible I could have raised such an idiot.”
It didn’t take long before everyone had the door code: his new girlfriend, his friends, his masseuse, the gardener. I wouldn’t be surprised if the mailman had it. Every time I tried to bring up the issue with him, I was met with defiance. He literally thought getting into the house via code was magic.
A few months later, I made plans to move out. I was too tired and stressed to keep living there anyway, and it’s not like I was leaving him all alone now. I know I said I would never move out, because I needed to spend as much time as possible with my dad before he died, but he wanted me to die!
Cazzie David is a columnist for AIR MAIL