Vacancy

It’s 3am and the speed dealer that lives across the hall appears to be moving out. From what I can see thru my apartment door’s peephole it looks like he’s got a few tattered cardboard boxes placed in front of his doorway and after stoppin’ to stare, lookin’ back and forth, up and then down the hallway every couple-a-seconds in his usual paranoid manner, he stiffly shuffles out pullin’ a large black garbage bag and then with what looks like one final grandiose gesture, he slams the door shut.

Of course as usual his ever present psychotic girlfriend is out there too, busy ferryin’ various plastic bags of who knows what further down the hall hopefully closer to the elevator, but with her who really knows, as I can’t really see where she’s goin’ – but I can hear the two of them yellin’ at each other like they always do. Though standing here starin’ with one eye I’m left thinkin’ that for some unknown and obviously erroneous reason I sorta thought that instead of draggin’ their shit around in those matching his and hers trash bags that they’d a least had some luggage or a piece or two of furniture to move as well. But after all it is 3am, they seem to be in a hurry and from what little I’ve seen of the stuff that they do own: if the shit ain’t spray painted black with silver skulls and up-side-down crucifixes hangin’ off it in every direction – then it just ain’t theirs.

Although I do gotta mention that if the only reason that I’m awake right now was their penchant for yelling at one another at all hours of the night then I’d probably be really pissed off – only it isn’t. Cause unfortunately the California Department of Transportation, otherwise known as Caltrans, has decided to spend the last four days demolishing what’s left of the non-earthquake retrofitted onramps to the Bay Bridge. Which just so happens to be situated nextdoor, like right nextdoor, like across a one lane alley nextdoor. And in what is now becoming more and more a common procedure in “economically challenged” neighborhoods such as mine, they readily appear to have no qualms about workin’ all day and all night.

After all which one of my neighbors is gonna really complain about all the noise that Caltrans is makin’? The undocumented illegal immigrants? The dope dealers hangin’ outside the liquor store on the corner? The crackheads that are so paranoid that they only come outta their rooms when they run outta dope? Besides it ain’t just the noise that truly sucks it’s also the unbelievable amount of dust and debris that they’re causing that’s so god damn bad you can’t even breathe without tasting concrete.

Yet leaning against my apartment door as the entire building shakes with every downward plunge of the pile driver I’m still sorta torn about how I feel about the speed dealer and his girlfriend leavin’, and on such short notice and all, having spent so much quality time together with the both of them and their friends. Like those warm encounters havin’ to redirect half the tweakers that came to their apartment inadvertently knocked on my door instead of theirs, or those long insufferable nights where she’d be locked out and he’d either be inside with another girl or flat out comatose finally getting’ some much needed sleep and she’d relentlessly kick their door for hours on end until the security guard would move her along or Rodil, who lives in the next apartment over, would stick his head out and tell her “shut the fuck up!”

And there’s also no way that I could forget all those wonderful festive like occasions when the entire narcotics task force’d come by just to pay them a visit, rousting out the ten people that were hiding in their closet before dragin’ all of them off to jail. And then there were those awkward moments when I’d run into her in the laundry room as she stood there starin’ at the dryers and she’d always ask me if I had any fabric softener, like she was gonna pour it into the dryer or somethin’. And then she’d stare at me like I was doin’ something of interest and it always kinda gave me the creeps.

Opening my door I step into the hallway just as the speed dealer’s girlfriend starts screaming that the elevator is there, like as if it was a once in a lifetime event that if we didn’t all come runnin’ we was gonna miss it. Down the entire length of the hall, strewn across the floor, are bits and pieces of their belongings, either jettisoned along the way or hastily decided as now useless – like they’d over packed and weight was suddenly an issue. And following the lumps of debris to the elevator like some demented trail of clues, I turn the corner just in time to catch a glimpse of her as the door closes and she does this small wave thing with her right hand and then averts her eyes towards the floor.

The building vibrates, the lights dim, and for a second I think we’re gonna have a blackout. Behind me the crazy deaf girl from the third floor, dressed in her pajamas, is on her hands and knees pickin’ through the crap that’s littering the hallway as unpleasant visions of her gettin’ stuck with dirty needles bombard my brain. Standing here I find myself wondering just how to sign the word danger, but the only hand gestures that I know hardly qualify as warnings.

Suddenly with a muffled “ding” the elevator door opens and I’m half expecting to see the speed dealer reappear like a bad omen, or worse, his girlfriend. But it’s just the coke dealer from the end of the hall, her pit bull strainin’ at its leash, her entourage of young thugs in baggy clothes breeze by me, flexin’ muscles and doing what they do best as they all head down the hall.

“What da fuck iz all thiz shit?” She says to no one in particular, and then turning to face the deaf girl whose slowly getting’ up to move away from the dog “honey, iz way pass yo bedtime.”

And ya know it’s way past my bedtime to, but I already tried that and it didn’t work. So I hit the stairs and head on down to the lobby to take a closer look at the destruction that’s goin’ on across the street.

It’s such a strange building that I live in. One where a woman that makes her living selling coke, whose face is covered in piercings and who I’ve personally seen kickin’ the shit outta some crackhead that owed her money in the hall outside my apartment, and then there she goes and shows something resembling compassion for the deaf girl from the third floor. It’s just kinda weird that’s all.

Yet if this was a normal place then I probably wouldn’t even be botherin’ to glance out my peephole at three in the morning, and there wouldn’t be any speed dealers and coke dealers and crackheads and storm trooper security guards like the one I step around as he mans the entrance to the lobby. Out on the sidewalk there’s a spun-out-speed freak sittin’ at the curb lookin’ lost and as I walk by he turns and says “hey buddy, you live in that building? Cause I really need ta see a friend a mine named David, he lives in five forty three. Ya know him?”

Twenty feet away a large chunk of cement crashes to the ground with a reverberating shake sending grey billowing clouds of soot into the air. The nighttime flood lights, poised pointing upwards towards what’s left of the bridge, garishly illuminate the last remaining twisted bits of steel and concrete as a construction worker standin’ half hidin’ in the shadows hoses down the rubble in an unenthusiastic effort to keep the dust down.

Lookin’ up every apartment’s lights are on and I can even see a few faces pressed against the windows. Causin’ me ta think that this is absolutely ridiculous, makin’ people live like this, and then the jack hammers start up again and I can’t even stand here behind all that noise, the dude on the sidewalk is talkin’ but I can’t hear what he’s sayin, and does it matter anyway? Punchin’ in my security code I push the door open and head for the elevator ignoring the security guard as he asks if I have any business bein’ in this building. Yet I gotta wonder sometime – do I have any business bein’ in this building? And then the elevator door opens and I’m getting’ in and goin’ home.

4 Responses

  1. SB Stokes

    Beautifully written, Fromage.

    I would say, “You should move.”, but who knows how it would affect your writing?!

  2. Christi Lee

    They are all good, only this one is a “best”. I can’t wait to tell you why the crazy deaf girl from the 3rd floor has a special meaning to me. It made me laugh. I think when I get the time I will post about it. I want to hear more about her.

  3. Cori
  4. Adriana Bliss

    Another awesome view through a peep hole into your life. I love it.

    Yeah, you could move. I’m sure you will in time. I have no doubts your observations will continue to be as fascinating. You have the ability to make dust under your bed beautiful and captivating. 🙂