I don't know where we got the idea we'd needed places of our own. We had been living with our parents since high school graduation, or in some of our cases, dropping out. Most of us had those mall jobs that seem prestigious when you are young, you know, shift manager, crew leader, assistant supervisor. Just a little north of $300.00 a week, which is more than we'd ever made, so it seemed a lot, no benefits, first thrown under the bus, way the hell over 40 hours a week. We didn't know better.
I think the original plan was to get a trailer. I tried to tell everyone you needed first months AND security, yes, both, but no one listened, so they went to apply and of course I was right and of course we didn't have the money between us. So someone came up with Plan B, or maybe C, that we would have the six of us in three rooms. Why, I don't know. Most of us had our own bedrooms at home. We couldn't really afford it. When I moved out, my parents said have fun, and we will see you in a couple months.
We passed our non-working time in the dollar movies, played board games and cards, read library books. Horrible cheap beer I wouldn't put in my radiator nowadays was drank nightly. No smoking pot, because Igor would throw you right out on mere suspicion.
Igor charged $20 a night, per person, and you paid daily, cash, so he couldn't get burned too bad if any of us couldn't pay. And he would come after the rest of us when one of us didn't. Then we'd all have to pitch in.
Pete was the usual culprit. He was my roommate and my best friend all through school. He graduated by copying my homework. He worked at a janitorial company, maybe 20 hours a week, after he'd been fired from McDonalds. He said he'd quit, but rumor has it he'd been using his managerial authority for malfeasance. He wouldn't even give me a straight answer.
He was on and off with Sarah, she lived next door in Room Three. He kept borrowing money from her, and couldn't repay; that, and he cheated sometimes. (How on earth did he manage that? He had no money, no car, and wasn't even that good looking.) But they would always make up. He was very charming. I know. I knew him since first grade.
End of August, Pete was short two days in a row, and I was about to put my foot down. "I think you should move back with your parents, man."
"Man, just don't pay either. Igor can't evict us without a three day notice, then court....I'll have the money by then."
I shook my head. Landlord tenant law meant nothing here. "Igor rules. You're out when he says so, and can't go to the police about Igor, either, they got some sort of deal." I'd seen it before. Everyone knows Igor tells you to leave, you got an hour. Then he and a large man that kind of favors Ice Cube come to "help you pack."
"Well, you got plenty of money. You know I'm good for it"
Actually, I was making good money by then. Two months earlier I got a new job pulling security. Only ten bucks an hour, but they had me working seventy two hours a week! That young, it seems damn good. I was actually considering an apartment or at least a solo room by then.
"Fuck that, man. I'm not paying full rate so I can share a room. You go to the Labor Ready tomorrow, and there had damn well better be forty dollars on the table this time tomorrow night." Pete sulked back into the room, and I drove to work. Short shift today, 1500-2300.
I came home, had no more clean laundry, had to wash everything, and be at work by 0700.
The laundry machines were on the upper concourse, I think it used to be a room before they installed a couple broken down top loaders and apartment grade dryers. I started my wash and took out my book. The Great Gatsby. I read it under bad orange fluorescent light, sitting atop the top loader, as there were no chairs.
I was ruminating over the green light at the end of Daisy's dock, when Sarah came in. Evidently she was using one of the washers. She sat on the washer next to me. She gave me a weak smile. "It's not like it was in high school anymore."
"He got really drunk, alone. I don't think I can continue. I think this is it."
"And I think, if he is drunk, that number one, my mini fridge is empty, and number two, he's in no condition to shape up for Labor Ready tomorrow." I also thought that this breakup wouldn't take either. Sarah was intelligent, but had no resolve.
A light brown cat ran in, jumped up on the coin accepter between us. We both pet it. There was less than an inch of cat between our hands. Then Sarah emptied her washer to put her things in the dryer. Unmentionables. She made no effort at being discreet.
"You know, Sarah," I said, just trying to break the awkward silence, "I think Pete has become the green light at the end of the dock."
"You never read "The Great Gatsby?"
"Well...." I thought. Sarah was into 80's music. " A Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac. "
She got it. She accepted it. She took out a cigarette and fumbled for a lighter, and I lit it for her instead. She took a drag and moved her head to blow the smoke over my shoulder, not in my face. In doing so, our faces were much closer together. We looked in each others eyes. "No," I said, and then we did anyway.
Well, as it happened, I rented an additional room that night. I woke up the next morning, and she was gone. Then I looked at the clock. 0640! Shit! I showered, shaved, drove like a madman to work. Arrived at 0703. I walked in the door, and I heard from Captain Johnson's office, "That you, Davis? My office."
Great. I go in his office. "Take a seat, Davis. Davis, I got a new account in Baltimore. I need a couple good supervisors, guys I can trust. We're talking double your salary, full benefits."
"Oh. That'll be a long drive."
"No, Davis, we will put you on a plane, got a nice studio suite for you for the first two months while you find your own digs. Why don't you sell that car? A supervisor should be driving something newer, no offense."
I didn't even think of that. That is what you'd do, with that kind of money.
He could tell I was thinking. "You want it or not, Davis? Up or out, that's the way I run my ship."
Well, I was just about decided, and he made it easy. "I'll take it."
"Great! You're the man for the job. Go home, Davis, pack your shit, say bye to your parents. Ditch that hoopty. Come back. Got paperwork. And I may have you on a plane as soon as tonight."
I did just that. My parents were actually okay with it, they were proud of me. Then I went back to the motel. Pete was asleep in our room. I gathered my stuff quietly and debated a good bye. No. Then I went to Sarah's. She was in her room. She congratulated me. Then she said, maybe let's don't tell Pete about last night.
I found the title to my car. I was about to title it to Pete, then I though better of it. I signed off on it and slipped it, and the keys, under the door to Room Two. That girl sure walked a lot.
I went to the office with an envelope. It had the keys to my room and $100.00 in it. There was a note to Igor. I told him to take whatever Pete owed him and apply the rest to another night or two for Pete, and then not to hesitate to give him the boot, since that's what he needs.
I took a taxi to the main office. I moved to Baltimore, got promoted twice in three years, and then I got on with the Police Department.
I guess Sarah and Pete tried to reconcile, and Sarah felt the need to fess up about our tryst, and for that, Pete wouldn't take her back! Also, Igor kicked Pete to the curb. He stayed at a homeless shelter a while, then got sick of that, and actually got a real job and a place. I guess Sarah eventually met a decent guy, they're married, I believe.
I don't imagine either of them thinks very highly of me. Nonetheless, you're welcome, guys.