Life has been good to me in Fortaleza. Over the previous four months, each apartment has had a clean bathroom, full kitchen, private room, wifi, security, and has been close enough to get to the beach every night. Moving constantly or not, I could get used to this. Things were going smooth until Saturday.
Saturday was my monthly move to a new apartment. AirBNB owners change rates regularly and I’ve been able to get lower rent in a better neighborhood for three straight months now. The new apartment was the smallest apartment yet, but my bed was comfortable, my bathroom had a window to air out my running clothes, and there was even hot water. The owners, a lesbian couple, were charismatic and eager to show me around. Everything was perfect until I invited a friend over.
“Where will you go?” Klelia, the apartment owner, asked me.
“We’ll just have a quiet evening here. We’ll probably make dinner and watch Netflix.”
“Here? In the apartment?”
“Yeah. I don’t have money for restaurants.”
“We don’t allow guests here. Didn’t you read the house rules?”
I had read the house rules on AirBNB. They said that outsiders weren’t allowed. The site also said that extra guests could come for a fee. I took that to mean that I could bring another guest in for a fee. Klelia felt otherwise.
The next afternoon I had a refund and was in a new apartment.
The owner of the new apartment I would stay at, a sixty-something woman with arthritis, told me she was glad to see me and that she needed a partner. I heard her but was mostly focused on the smell of mothy chairs and furniture which looked too nice to touch. She showed me around the apartment, including a comfortable bedroom with an air conditioner and a private bathroom, then explained to me that I had to tell anybody who asked that I was her friend. It was an odd request, but I’m an odd person so I went with it.
Although we had talked about it online, I wanted to clarify that I could have friends over before I asked them to show up.
“You can but I am not allowed to have guests in my apartment. Your friend must say she is here to give me a massage, and she cannot leave or enter at the same time as you.”
“That sounds more complicated than it needs to be.”
“The owners of the building say we cannot have guests here. We will get in trouble if they find out. She can come when she wants but remember that there is a 50 reais fine ($15 USD) to bring guests in.”
“You said I could have guests.”
“You can but you just have to pay the fine. It is expensive for me if you have friends. I must wash towels and bathrobes, and it will be extra electricity. I should also mention that to use the air conditioner you have to pay one real per hour.”
None of that was true, but I couldn’t get a refund so there was no point in arguing.
While telling me that she was happy to have another guest, she tried to negotiate for me to teach her friends English as a favor for her. She both wanted a companion and a constant source of income. I can be either, but I can’t be both.
One hour into my stay, I could already tell it would be a long month.