By Jakob Castilian
The shower at the beach was never warm. Dry red skin clouded my mind while I walked back to my apartment.
I’d gotten used to not brushing my teeth in my bathroom. Public restrooms worked the same, and I didn’t have to pay. I wasn’t a cheapskate. I just didn’t have any money, and I felt bad for the landlord who came down to my apartment and asked for the rent two weeks past due every time.
“I’ll have it Friday,” I told him confidently.
I always came up with it, but this time wasn’t looking good. Friday night had rolled around, and my pockets were still empty, and my prospects were worse. I’d be homeless again, which wasn’t too far of a stretch from how I lived, but I’d prefer to avoid the streets if I could. I didn’t like worrying about being stabbed in my sleep.
I knew a girl named Joanna. We had met a few months back, and there was a mutual affection between us, or at least, I hoped there was.
I found a payphone and used the last couple quarters I had and dialed her number. She answered after the first ring and sounded excited, which shocked me because it was past nine o’clock, but I went with it.
“Hey, it’s Robert,” I said, smiling, as though she could see me. “We met a few months ago.”
“Oh,” she said with a new tone. “I thought you were someone else.”
I knew that tone. You couldn’t get lucky with a response like Oh. I didn’t care. It was winter, and I couldn’t afford a coat.
“Yeah, so listen. I was wondering if I could stay with you for a couple of days. Until I can pay my rent.” I hoped I sounded convincing. “It would only be for a couple of days.”
We met one time, and I’m asking to stay with her. I bet I sounded like a real swine on the phone, and I knew she would never do it—I would never do it. But I didn’t know too many people, and I was desperate.
“Do you look any different?” she asked.
“I don’t think so. I lost some weight and some teeth. Other than that, the same.”
She hung up, and I was out of luck. I wished I’d lied and told her I had transformed into something out of Sparta, but I was tired of lying. I’d already lied to my landlord about the rent, and it was draining me.
I might as well return to my apartment for the last time, collect my things, and say goodbye to the old place. I opened my door to a familiar smell of moldy cheese and spoiled bologna and knew I’d miss it. I laid in bed, and even though I couldn’t fix my ceiling fan from constantly twirling, I’d miss that too.
Tingles raced over my body, and I began to shake. I contemplated begging my landlord, but if I had anything it was pride. I grabbed the phone to call my parents, but after dialing the number, I couldn’t complete the call. I was like a schoolboy again being bullied by the big kids and crying to his mommy. What a joke—couldn’t cope with a few hardships and had to call his parents to bail him out. They didn’t want me home, and I didn’t want to be there.
I slammed the phone down, making a loud ring. If I died or starved to death, or was murdered, at least my parents would remember who I used to be.
I packed my things in an ugly suitcase. I didn’t have much, just some clothes and a few pieces of junk. Still, my insecurities begged me to call my parents, but I ran up to my phone and ripped the chord out of the wall.
As I was leaving, I saw my landlord.
“Couldn’t get the money this time?” he said sympathetically.
“Not this time.”
I could tell he was sorry. It wasn’t awkward when he stuck his hand out for me to shake. We both smiled, and I was on my way. He was one of the best landlords I ever had. I’ve only had three, but still, he was the one percent. He never bored me with idle chit chat. He’d say good morning, or how you doing? Now, I am lost. No money and no future, but plenty of people had less than I did and still survived.
I’d find somewhere to live before it was too late. Maybe I would take up religion and live in a monastery, who knew? Nothing was stable before. At least things were back to normal.