Yesterday was very odd.
After two nights of almost no sleep, I slept away Wednesday morning. I woke up with a start in the middle of the afternoon with a runny nose and a headache. I took a quick shower, ate a light breakfast and left the house after finding the internet wasn’t working properly.
I went to Barnes and Noble to get work done, but I found I still couldn’t focus on anything. After an hour of Facebook and fidgeting, I bought a large tea and tried to make plans for the night. Not one of my single friends were free today, and hanging out with married people… well, it’s more complicated. With married people, I hardly ever like both halves of a couple. I either like the wife
or the husband. Hanging out with someone else’s husband is not appropriate. Hanging out with a wife usually ends up with her telling me about having to ask her husband. I understand why other single people don’t bother with it.
By three o’clock, I knew that this would be another night where I’d be drinking alone.
As I walking back to my car, a man in a souped-up sedan stopped his car and rolled down his window.
“Excuse me, ma’am.”
“Yes?” The tone of his voice made me think he was going to ask me for directions. Instead, he offered me this sweet appeal:
“If I gave you my number, would you call me, please?” He said this with a soft voice and with soft eyes. He had olive skin, a shaved head and a nice smile. “I saw you walking a couple of blocks away.” , he added bashfully.
“Oh, you are so sweet!” I said to him. Suddenly I found myself on the verge of tears. “But…but I can’t. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, ma’am.” he said, a bit taken aback by the sadness in my voice. “Have a good day.”
I felt sad because he accosted me while I was thinking about how shy and awkward I felt with men. It reminded me of a conversation Abigail and I had before I had left the office.
“I’ve got it.” she said suddenly, while we were taking a break.
“Why you feel so shy with men, even that Sal guy that you told me about.”
“Well, what you do think?”
“You don’t think you’re beautiful, do you?”
I was a bit struck by this. I don’t discuss it, but that’s basically how I feel. I don’t think I’m
hideous… just unremarkable. I never discuss how I look at my appearance through a disaffected lens, but apparently every one else can see it too.
“Well, no, not really.” I said this in a passive voice that infuriated me. I paused, trying to collect myself. “I try not to focus on what I look like. I try to look at the person I am within, and whether or not I’m proud of
that.” I felt a sense of disgust with how trite the words sounded. Abigail didn’t seem to be buying it either.
I decided to drive around. I didn’t have any destination in mind. I just wanted to get some more air, and perhaps leave my sadness behind on the road.
After driving around
Belle Isle and enjoying all of the greenery, I saw an old house with three signs that said “ROOMS FOR RENT”. They were not the kind of plastic signs one gets from the hardware store, either. They were handmade and seemed to be a permanent fixture of the house. One of the signs were fixed to the tree in the yard. I felt intruiged.
The owner of the tumbling mansion was a brown-skinned welterweight with about a month’s stubble, a runny nose and a permanent limp. A lit cigarette dangled out of his mouth. He opened the door and had me take a seat in the cluttered living room.
“I’ve been here 27 years.” he said, his voice scratchy from Newports and age. “I rent month-to-month.I’ve got four vacancies. I’ll charge you 325 for the room.”
“Can I see the room?”
“Yes. Follow me.” He shuffled up the narrow stairs. He noticed that I was watching him limp. “I had hip surgery a short while ago.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
The house is just like many of the houses in the
West Village— sprawling, worn-out, sagging with age, but beautiful in its tumbling squalor. Both upstairs bathrooms were missing plaster in the ceiling but were bright with sunshine. The hallway was dark,and the kitchen in the middle of it was bare.
“That sink don’t work. Eventually I’ll fix it.” he murmured. ”Here’s the room.”
He opened the bright red door. Behind it was an airy bedroom with worn furniture— a loveseat, a chaise, a twin-size bed, a dressor. The floor was wooden and had not been sanded in many moons. The bed still had the previous tenant’s linens. There was a steam heat furnance in the left hand corner. The closet was large and cobwebby, with built in dressors, a shelf and a bare light bulb. All the room needed a was a typewriter and an ashtray, and it was a Bohemian’s dream. I’ve already imagined myself there.
“When are you looking to move?” he asked.
Yesterday, I thought to myself. “Within the next six weeks. I’m just looking around right now. Who else lives here, besides you?”
“Three women and an old man downstairs.”
“Can I have your phone number?”
He wrote down his name, address and telephone number in warbling but neat handwriting.
“Do you require a deposit?”
“No deposit. Rent’s due on the 1st.”
“I’ll call you soon.” I promised.
I love that monastic little room in that shopworn house. The only thing that would get me is the secondhand smoke. It seems like the perfect little place to hide out and write a novel until my train comes in.
I drove around a bit more and was accosted by a man looking for bus fare to get back home while in line at White Castle.
“I live in
Clarkston.” he explained. “My granddad’s in the hospital down here with cancer. I came to see him.”
“I can take you to Clarkston.” I said, matter-of-factly. The lady running the drive-through seemed aghast. “Don’t do that.” she whispered to me. He seemed reluctant to get into my car. I showed him my ID and told him that I am a gypsy cab driver (I am) but that I’d take him for free. I had him show me his papers so I knew he wasn’t a serial killer.
“I live north of here anyway. I’d hate to see you stranded.” I was at the
New Center- Highland Park border. It’s extremely tough down there.
He didn’t get in, but ended up taking the stash of pennies I had.
“Be careful out here.” he said, surprised at my willingness to take in a hitchhiker. But crazier things have happened to me than taking in hitch hikers. I’ve tasted homelessness, lack of transportation and have hitchhiked in this wild town myself. I’ve lived in cheap motels, tumbling houses, with mice and roaches and biting flies. I’ve slept in cars. Poverty and trouble and risk is what I
do. This is how I live. I carry an axe underneath my driver’s seat.
I’m not afraid of anything anymore.
I bought a bottle of wine and a shot of
jagermeister on the way in. Iris bought pizza when I came home. So that’s how I spent the night—pizza, jager and punk rock music. The other guests at the party were missing, but that’s how it is sometimes a lot of the time. This time last week I thought I was going to be on the road with my bosses on my way down to Atlanta. Instead I drank and now I am waiting for tomorrow. I hope that tomorrow is less solitary.