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  • Unless you are both Jewish and a woman, I cannot recommend staying in the Dublin Jewish Women's Housing. During the time I was there -- starting a novel, playing a lot of Hearts on the computer, and writing forlorn emails -- I was secretly living in my girlfriend's apartment, which was strictly women-only. It was not ideal. Although her roommates were very nice, the fact that I was contraband led to us always losing every roommate battle. One effect of this was that we never shopped, or kept any food of our own in the house. I was forced to travel downtown every day, to the International Market, and then obliged to have crepes with lemon and butter, as well as an espresso with a tiny square of chocolate melted in.

    The nadir, the absolute zero, came in the middle of the third week. I was up in our room, searching for my copy of The Teachings of Don Juan, a book about shamanism that had changed my life by giving me so much to satirize. One of our roommates suddenly ran upstairs to find me. She was terrific, a diminutive Russian medical student with a wry sense of humor and a will of iron.

    "The rabbi is here," she said.

    "What? I thought he never comes here! I thought that was just a formality," I said. I could hear him knocking downstairs, our other roommate answering the door.

    "He doesn't come here. He's never once come here. I don't know what's going on, but you have to hide," she told me.

    "All my stuff is downstairs," I said.

    "Hide!" she whispered, and then she rushed out of the room, shouting down a cheerful greeting.

    Our room was tiny. It wasn't well supplied with hiding places; my only option was the closet.

    I dove in, suddenly swimming through piles of my girlfriend's clothing, alternately silky and scratchy. I pulled shut the doors and stood there, breathing through a little space between a sundress and a blouse. I could hear the rabbi's voice downstairs, a muffled hum. I thought of my leather jacket, lying in plain sight in the living room. There was no possibility of it belonging to either roommate. They probably could have pitched it like a tent, and camped in it.

    Carefully, I swung one door wider open to listen.

    "This is the agreement," he was saying. "You understand what you signed up for, right? This has nothing to do with your personal feelings, or how it is back home. These are just the rules." I could hear them murmuring back, in abashed tones.

    "I have a responsibility to everyone who helps to subsidize these apartments. If they knew what was going on, they'd be absolutely furious." Yes, they understood.

    "OK. You say you understand, you're sorry. That's important. But now we have to fix this, and I never, ever, EVER, WANT TO COME BACK HERE AND FIND ANOTHER PEPPERONI PIZZA IN THE FREEZER!"
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