Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Where I Live

Where I Live

Elise left through the back door of the apartment building. I watched her through the window on the north side of the building. There she goes, I thought. There Elise goes, right out that back door, I thought.

I sat by the window drinking the champagne that Elise and I were supposed to be saving. In the chair that I’d pulled up I sat looking through the window and drinking that champagne from a dirty coffee mug. She drove her car away like she knew she was going someplace special. After about thirty minutes someone knocked on the front door. I got up from the chair and opened that door. A guy—this young guy—stood there for a moment and then just tried to walk into the apartment. I stopped him against the doorjamb.

“What are you doing?” he asked me.

“I don’t get the joke,” I told him. “This is where I live.”

“I’m Roger,” he said. “It’s Roger. Come on.”

He tried to come in again. He got by me this time.

“Where is everyone?” he asked.

“It’s just me,” I said. “I’m alone in here.”

“What’re you doing? This apartment stinks.”

“My name’s Nick,” I said.

He looked at me like I was the moon.

“I’m Roger,” he said.

“I’m Nick.”

“Not Larry?”

“No,” I said. “Not Larry.”

Roger walked toward the door.

“I guess I got the wrong apartment,” he said.

“Maybe,” I said.

He left, and I went back to the window. I saw the young girl from the house next door. She was playing some game in the alley just beyond my apartment building’s parking lot. She wore sandals and a pink skirt, and she was jumping around and chasing rabbits.

I watched her. She sat down on the unpaved driveway, right next to her dad’s truck. She was messing with an anthill. The ants, upset, stormed her then, and she let them until the ants started to bite her legs. I could see the redness of the ants on her bare white legs. I could see them even from inside my apartment. They sprouted like pimples. I thought, look how quickly the girl can change.

The sun was going down now. I finished my glass of champagne. The young girl was screaming. She looked like a puppet, like she wasn’t real. I mean, young girls shouldn’t scream like that. Something bad must be happening for a girl to scream like that, I thought.

I quickly walked through the apartment and quickly put on my shoes. I walked past the kitchen, saw the cake I’d made with Elise. I threw it in the garbage, closed the door behind me.

When I got to the girl she was no longer sitting. She was standing. She was jumping like a fish, and actually her whole head looked wet.

“Hold still,” I said. “Stop, you need to calm down.”

I realized I didn’t bring any spray or anything for the ants, but anyway could I put that on a little girl’s bare legs?

She kept screaming. I scrambled to brush the ants from her shins. I hesitated before brushing the ants from her thighs. But there were so many of them. They fell on the pavement where they got squashed under our feet. The marks from the ant bites were devastating. I thought, what terrible wounds! Some of them were actually bleeding.

And then the girl lost it. She kept yelling and clawing at herself, and eventually I thought she began to think that I was the one hurting her. I couldn’t tell by then.

“Where are your parents?” I asked. “Your parents, where are your parents?”

But she just kept up with the voice. She was really keyed up. I felt the champagne taking a great toll on me, and I started to feel dizzy. The girl flailed and kicked at the pavement and then at the dirt. I tried to hold her. I lunged, but I missed her by at least a foot. I fell on my stomach and then turned over on my back, panting. I could see the dark sky. I could see the lights still on in my apartment. I thought, this is where I live. I searched for her then while lying on the ground like a turtle on its back.

“Hold still,” I pleaded. “You need to just stay still.”

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