The roommates I've had, V.3

# 3 Marco Smirnovsky

For those of you who are familiar with Russian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, you’ll recognize the photo. Although I initially felt I was going a little bit over-the-top in choosing as the image for my former roommate Marco Smirnovsky the picture of a man known for abducting women and children and eating their organs in the woods, I now actually think it’s a pretty good image. Even kinda looks like him, too.

I’ll start off by saying that Marco is not Russian. He could could easily be mistaken however for a Eastern European immigrant, in particular, one of those awkward ones from the old Soviet Block who wear tourist skintight tourist t-shirts and ask for directions to the bathroom from random strangers by calling it a toilet (as in, “can tell me you where I can find toilet?”.

Marco was actually from somewhere much, much, much warmer than the Ural Mountains, Caucuses or Siberia. He was a Brazilian who just seemed really Russian. Perhaps it was his pale complexion and and high cheekbones. Or maybe it was that my roommates and I weren’t familiar with the sound of a Brazilian-Portuguese accent. Then again, he could have actually been a security services secret agent. I’ll never know, because I think he was deported. Either way, we had trouble accepting that this kid wasn’t from the land of vodka, gulags and babushka-wearing women. After all, he did end up in Brooklyn, home of many Iron Curtain immigrants.

Marco came to us as a friend of my roommate Patrick. He showed up one night in December of 2001 with two girls from his native Sao Paolo. They needed somewhere to stay and were willing to share this tiny room with no windows. it was desperate and kind of cute, really.

Patrick and Marco had worked briefly together at a hip Vegan restaurant in the West Village. Marco was a dishwasher and was fired for lateness and bad dishwashing. His termination didn’t prevent him from dropping in unannounced on his friends at the restaurant. He would arrive with his two girlfriends (he was screwing both) push the door open, let out a maniacal laugh at my roommate and his coworkers and say, “where’s my plate?!”
Apparently, that’s how you get a meal in Sao Paolo

To this day, I laugh thinking of 6′ 2″ Marco lumbering into his former place of employment and with no restraint demanding food.
He said WHERE with an ‘H’, is in “He-wares my plate!”

Marco was imposing to say the least. The beauty of being a young foreigner from a place like France, Germany, Spain, Argentina or Finland is that people find you exotic and mind-opening. They buy you food, lodge you and even sleep with you. Unfortunately for Russians, or people who appear to be Russians these same courtesies are not extended. there was no such luck. He was 9 parts awkward and 1 part shameless. Even if he were from Sweden (and he could pass for Swedish I suppose), he would get nowhere on that deer in headlights thing so many visitors to New York exude because his manner was so bizarre. He had an awkward gait, discomforting body language and an uncanny ability to linger around, with loud nasal breathing

Marco had a strange power over Sophia and Maria, the girls he shared a room with. He was originally with Maria, but she left one day in a huff and went back to Brazil. From there on out, Marco was completely dependent upon Sophia, whom he sponged off of for his meals and sex. In the six months that Marco lived with us, I’m pretty sure he worked for a combined four-and-a-half days. Five, tops. Sophia provided him with most of what his daily life required, including his portion of the rent. Looking back on it, I’m convinced he was withholding her passport because he seemed not to offer too much.

Of course, Marco did delight in having a huge dick. We knew this because true to his foreigner ways, he walked around our apartment naked.

Most of Marcos days were spent snoozing in his darkened room or listening to hardcore music on a stereo his girlfriend bought him. He told me one day he came up to the states for the music. Marco spent his nights fighting with Sophia in Portuguese. Their arguments would end with her pleading with him in a melodramatic tone, crying, “Marco, Marco” and sobbing into a pill. After everyone went to sleep, Marco would sit on the apartment’s computer clicking furiously until early morning. The clicking was furious. It sounded like cracking knuckles.

I figured he was simply browsing porno sites, until Marco told me it was his OCD which made him click the mouse so much.
“Click, I do on your mouse to feel better from thoughts in my head.”
Having OCD, I understood a bit myself what he was going through, but I couldn’t relate with his not having a job and leeching off of the rest of us.

One afternoon in the Spring of 2002, I came home to find an AT&T bill totaling $970 in overseas calls. The calls were placed to Sao Paolo.
When I confronted him about it, Marco told me it was a mistake.
“Call, I have not to Sao Paolo, Paul. Could be someone else?”

“Who the fuck would call Brazil, but you or Sophia.”

“I don’t know. We figure out.”

I asked Sophia, and I believed her when she told me it was not her. She also studied the destination number and told me the calls were to Maria. There, I had my answer. Now I only needed Marco to pay up.

Another roommate and I took him out on the fire escape one night to explain to him that he was going to get booted if he didn’t pay his bill soon. The calls were on my dime and would count against my credit. Add to that two months of negligent contributions to our electricity on his part.
“Pay, I will when I find work. Please let me find job first.”
I told Marco that he’d had five months to find a job and he promised me up and down he’d get the money.

That night I heard him trying to muffle his shouting at Sophia from their bedroom. She was sobbing like soul worn woman who had to bury her child from typhus.

The next day Sophia came to me with Marco’s electricity payments and a tiny portion of the phone bill. I asked her if she was sure she wanted to pay for it and she said yes.

“Marco is a good guy,” she told me.

Later that day another roommate told me she had bruises on her upper arms.
On a Friday morning in late June, I said goodbye to Marco. It was during World Cup time and he was watching a match from Korea. As I was leaving I thought to remind my foreign guest that a July deadline to pay up was fast approaching and watching “futbol” wasn’t going to pay the bills. Before I could get the words out, he cut me off.

“I know. I pay by July. Figure it out, I have done.”
I nodded and went to work and then on to my old girlfriend’s place in the Bronx for the night. That was the last I ever saw Marco. That night he punched one of my roommates and then ran, fearing the police (he’d overrun his visa).
The next day, Sophia came back to broker for him. She was afraid I’d put him in claims court for the money and he’d end up deported. I assured her that I wouldn’t, that I wasn’t confident he’d ever pay either way. I told her she could stay but he wasn’t welcome back.

Sophia hung around for a few more days and then packed her stuff up and left. She found another place to squat at with her abusive boyfriend. She did shake him a few months later when he was forced to return to Brazil.

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One Response

  1. […] I wasn’t surprised really. Although it didn’t feel good to know that Marco had offed himself, I suppose that even seven years removed from living with him, it doesn’t surprise me given his mood swings and violence. I said a brief prayer for him – for whatever that’s worth – and then remembered back to lat fall when I’d decided to write a series of blog entries about roommates I’ve lived with over the years. Marco was one of the first I wrote about. […]

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