Catching Up

Hey, it’s been a while. My last real post was over 4 months ago. If you’ll have me, I’d like to share the slice of my life that’s elapsed since the last time I tended to this blog. I bring to you tales of betrayal, drama, and hubris. I invite you to grab a cup of coffee or tea and sit down to hear my story, a cautionary tale about a man who fell to greed and lost: my former housemate and ex-friend, ΓΛ.

What Was Next in Life For Me

After my last post, I started a job as a Network Engineer II at the University of California, Merced, taking on a role as the forensics, radio, and security guy on the team as well as doing a whole lot of network hacking, programming, and everything else in-between. I’d said before that the next 3 big things in my life were job, home, and car. Job, check.

Next, home. I’d searched around for a few weeks with my partner and one of our friends before finding a lovely house we could transform into a home. After we had signed the lease, I gave my current house two months of notice.

ΓΛ and Me

At this point in the story, it’s necessary for me to explain my history and relationship with ΓΛ. For this, we’ll need to rewind time by a few years. Roll the clock back to 2020, the summer after my 1st year of college. I joined the Solar Energy Association at UC Merced as the secretary, having been invited by the then-Vice President. The President at the time was ΓΛ, who I didn’t really meet or know outside of Zoom calls during the midst of the pandemic. Together with the Treasurer, we ran the club.

That summer, I moved into my first off-campus house: a spacious private room in a house with a household that seemed too good to be true at first, and later, unfortunately, I’d learned was a dangerous place, victim to alcoholic domestic violence and fighting which I had the unfortunate displeasure of getting entangled in. I scrolled through local listings that night, stumbled on an open room by none other than ΓΛ, contacted him, and then ran away from my current place on foot the next morning.

We lived together for a year at that house. I paid under the table and my name wasn’t officially on the lease because ΓΛ kept putting it off. Over the next year, some of my most valuable college memories came to fruition at that house. It was around this time that I noticed that ΓΛ had a growing hoarding tendency, though I minded my own business and didn’t say anything. I later discovered that he was pulling online Amazon review scams for money and free items, but again, didn’t speak up.

Life was good for me until the housing crisis hit. A few of us from that house continued to stick together and look for our next place as a group. Less than a week before we would have become homeless, we found our next place. Our lease started one day before we would have become homeless. It was a close call. At our next house, we lived there all the way up until-

The ΛΓ Incident

Wind the clock forward to January 2023. One of our housemates, ΛΓ was moving out after a year of living with us. She was a good friend and I was very sad to see her go. At this point, the house consisted of ΛΓ, ΚΒ, ΙΑ, myself, and ΓΛ and his girlfriend ΚΡ. Only ΓΛ, ΚΡ, and I were on the lease. I had insisted that he add the others to the lease as well so that they could get the legal protections of tenancy, but he never bothered. Because he was the one who had all the power over the affairs of the house, there was nothing I could do, and so everyone else continued to live under the table without the protection of a lease.

After ΛΓ moved out, I understood why. He stole her security deposit. She told me everything that had happened and advised I move out as soon as possible. When he tried to defend himself, he tried saying it was because he had to clean up the mess that she and her cat had generated, even though he was the one who permitted her to have a cat in the first place in contradiction with the lease and frankly, I can attest to no such mess. He kept the entire deposit, and she called him out publicly, and now nobody wanted to live with him – understandably.

That meant that to cover the cost of a vacant room, rent for the rest of us increased substantially.

We no longer trusted ΓΛ, and neither did anyone else in Merced. He was now known as a thief, liar, scammer, and manipulator.

Moving Out

Now, fast forward to the time that I’d been moving out as well as ΙΑ and ΚΒ. Though I’d given over two months of notice and informed the property management company of my move-out, ΓΛ and ΚΡ decided to go my back and tell the property management company that they would be moving out days before my move-out date. They thought they could pin the entire lease on me and make me pay for the entire house. Although I had given much notice, ΓΛ and ΚΡ extended no such courtesy; they had stabbed me in the back.

This backfired so that none of us had a desirable outcome: property management now said that if all of us wanted to move out, none of us could until we sort out the lease. I called ΓΛ out, and he retorted by saying that I simply just didn’t understand the situation and that there is no problem. When I clarified with property management, they made it very clear that I understand: there is a problem.

For context: in order to let someone off the lease, everyone in the house must sign on it. ΓΛ said that he’d let me go if I found 2 people to replace me. It took me 2 months to find new tenants to take over the lease, and not only did I find 2 people, I found 5. Of course, he didn’t let me off the lease.

This is a man who cannot be trusted to hold his word, whose word doesn’t mean a damn thing. ΓΛ is not worthy of trust and should not be given second, third, or even fourth chances, as I learned the hard way – in fact, he should not be given even a single chance. If he continues to be the person he is, he deserves no redemption, will achieve no redemption, and will only dig deeper and deeper into a pit. He must leave Merced, because everyone in this town knows he cannot be trusted.

I think back to Alfred Pennyworth’s words in “The Dark Knight” when I think of ΓΛ now:

Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

The Horror

When people from the old house – the house at which I was not on the lease for – had reached out to me after learning of what was unraveling, I’d learned something horrible: at the old house, he stripped the house of everything at move-out, trashed it, and never paid last month’s rent which everyone had forwarded to him so that he could send to the landlord. He instead pocketed the money, let rent go to collections, and took himself and ΚΡ on a vacation to Hawaii.

At the old house, we had ΓΛ and his girlfriend ΚΡ, ΓΤ, ΓΩ, ΑΣ, ΝΛ, ΜΣ, and ΓΣ; they were all on the lease together. I wasn’t on the lease, and when my good friend ΑΣ left the house, ΓΛ refused to let him off the lease – something I had just learned.

He owes 6 people nearly $3k. He scammed his friends and burned bridges; ΓΤ had been friends with him since high school and ΑΣ was one of his first college friends. He stole from the house and left them to foot the bill. To this day, they’re still in a legal battle and the debt that the leaseholders of that house owe is in collections. In my conversation with the old house, this was the first I’d learned of it. He kept all this from me, of course, because as I then understood, he planned to do it to me. The entire time I’d lived with him at the new house, for all two years, I now understood his ulterior motive was to cash out on me when it was time for him to pull an exit scam.

When one of the people who had agreed to take over our lease at our current house had reached out to me, I stumbled on another horrifying plot. She asked me if they were supposed to send their security deposits to him, to which I answered: no, you will send it to the property management company later on, as that is what property management has communicated to us. She said that he had asked her to send money to him, and I remember my face going cold when I first heard that.

I reached out to some others and I had learned that some had already sent money to him.

I confronted him and called him out on his scam, and he grew defensive, hostile, and intimidating. He continued to retort that it was I who was the idiot, who didn’t understand the situation, who kept making things complicated, who kept getting in the way. This response was expected at this point when whatever trust, patience, benefit of the doubt I had left for him had been completely eroded away, because of course no scammer would say, “Ah, you’ve caught me.”

The Right Thing to Do

I told the new household and warned them that he was pulling a scam on them. Property management was made aware. Property management let the new household move in and let me go, making a decision that didn’t require ΓΛ and ΚΡ’s approval. My story was complete.

The new household cornered him and all called him out, and suddenly the big bulldog that had bullied me small had become righteously put in his place. As the new household had described it, he grew nervous and kept getting caught in his own loop of lies in a pitiful display of a man. They wanted their money back, only to learn that he didn’t have it; he had presumably spent it already.

Because we caught him trying to pull a scam on the new household and he was in possession of their deposit, property management didn’t let him go. Last I checked, he’s still on the hook for paying them back, the damage he’s caused, and the mess he’s made. I hope he pays them back.

I’d like to think that I did the right thing in calling him out and making his scam known. Even if I didn’t have the strength to confront him again after he’d bullied me into a corner after I initially called him out, I’m glad that I gave the new household information so that they could confront him together as a group. My only regret is that because I was the one who had found the majority of them to take over the lease, I felt in part guilty for entangling their worlds with his. If I had known about what he was going to pull, I’d have warned them before he had already scammed some of them. At least we made sure he didn’t get away with it unnoticed.

I think back to him reiterating to me time and time again that I was the one who was wrong, and that I simply didn’t understand and just got in the way. Manipulators like to do that. In the end, I had a peaceful resolution and was allowed to move on with my life while he didn’t.

His overconfidence in his ability to manipulate others, his own hubris, and his own greed have left him with nothing to gain here. He’s burned every bridge he’s made, lost his friends, destroyed his reputation, and isn’t really respected or trusted by anyone in Merced anymore. It’s a small town; word gets around. His best course of action would be to pack his bags and take his problems somewhere else. This city doesn’t want him.

Don’t be an asshole. It’s frankly not that hard to do.

The Present

And that’s the story of what’s happened to me since the last blog post. I’ve been through plenty of anxiety and difficulty, betrayal and backstabbing. I’ve persevered through a lot, and yet I persist and continue moving forward. My path has no dead ends, while all of ΓΛ’s do.

Life for me in the present is stable. I’d like to think I’m still a well-recognized and well-respected member of the communities I’m a part of, though of course that’s a trophy I can’t reward myself, but I do have enough self-awareness to at least acknowledge that I’m a valued, honest, and hardworking contributor to society. I’m unburdened by my past, and I can build my future.

For people who live a life of lies and deceit, they cannot say the same. Sleeping with one eye open, watching your back, and having your past catch up with you is no way to live. Some people will stop at nothing to shoot themselves in the foot. Take responsibility for your past, right your wrongs, rebuild your bridges, and go in peace, but if you seek no redemption then beware: you neither deserve it nor will you receive it.

Happy trails.