Claudia is a major devotee of power clashing, especially when she has to do something scary. She is especially emboldened when she is reckless with patterns, she likes to pair gingham with tie dye, floral with plaid, and today, it is clean vertical stripes with jaggedly horizontal ones.
Like many women who struggle with learning disorders, Claudia grew up with the tendency to assume that other people were right, and she was wrong. Always quick to take responsibility and even quicker to apologize for mistakes she couldnâ€™t even recall making, this vulnerability has made her an easy mark for opportunists who have something to gain from her passivity. But today, sheâ€™s had enough.
Her studio mate is a 47 year old sculptor named Gerard. She pays a decently cheap share of rent, likely because heâ€™s had trouble getting people to stay in the past, but he acts like heâ€™s â€œdoing her a solidâ€?. He is also messy, loud, and smelly. He moves stuff sheâ€™s working on when she isnâ€™t there, and smokes in the studio, though she meekly asked him months ago if he could take it out to the fire escape, the door to which is literally 5 feet away from his work table. He wears an uncomfortable looking leather jacket and a newsboy cap, backwards. He uses flammable chemicals regularly and leaves half eaten falafel sandwiches around everywhere. He reminds Claudia on a weekly basis that he once dated an Asian woman in the nineties but she was crazy. Gerard usually manages to keep his mess contained to his disproportionally large share of the studio, but the last time Claudia came in when he wasnâ€™t there (and he is almost always there), he had spilled an ashtray and the floor next to her table was covered in cigarette butts, with a smear of ash on one of her sketches. This ends now.
When she left her apartment, she was trembling with righteousness. Claudia had her list of demands, ready to dole them out. No more smoking inside, throw away leftover food, and donâ€™t touch her shit. Pretty reasonable stuff. Then on the subway, she started having second thoughts. â€œIt was only a sketchâ€?, she thought. â€œIt wasnâ€™t even that good, I probably wouldnâ€™t have used it anywayâ€?. Walking down Knickerbocker, she tells herself â€œLots of people smoke in the studio, itâ€™s not a big dealâ€?. Climbing the stairs to the studio, she has decided â€œIâ€™ll give it another week, and if he messes up something Iâ€™m working on again, then Iâ€™ll say something.â€?
But when she opens the door to the studio, she feels her blood return to a boil.
There is a layer of saw dust covering everything in the studio, including her table and everything around it, her supplies, her equipment, her work. The air inside the studio is practically gelatinous with fumes, and the power chord to the jig saw heâ€™s using, still plugged in, is stretched dangerously tight across the studio floor. The Pogues are blasting from Gerardâ€™s paint splattered boom box, and he is talking loudly over it on his cell phone, his back turned to her, smoking of course.
â€œSo I told that hipster curator, â€˜ I was showing subversive deconstructed furniture before you were goddamned bornâ€™â€?, his cloying Wisconsin accent snarling on Claudiaâ€™s last nerve.
â€œGerardâ€? she says, her heart beginning to race.
â€œSo then I say, â€˜Have your space give me a call when they catch on to your entitled bullshit and kick your butt to the curb, you little princess!â€™â€?
â€œGERARD!â€? Claudia now screams. Gerard whirls around, startled, cigarette dangling from his mouth.
â€œWe need to have a talk, Gerard.â€?