Life for all of this


A lot of ex-cons and drunks lived in the building.  My room was the corner spot on the 3rd floor.  The old man in the room next to me was deaf.  The girl in the room across from me was a diagnosed schizophrenic.  She almost never wore clothes.  She was maybe 25.  The government gave her 500 dollars a month.  She kept her door open.  Big black men walked in there and shut the door.  It was a shitty place to live.  The bathroom was never occupied when I had to use it.  I was the only one in the building who showered regularly.  But the toilet was well used.  Every time I walked in there I came face to face with a bowl full of dead shit and sometimes a syringe on the floor.  The bathrooms on the other floors were worse.  I had a sink in my room.  I pissed in the sink late at night.  I was the youngest tenant, and the only one with a job.  I had to walk past the landlord’s office to get up to my room.  I’d walk in and deal with him.                                                                                         “How was workin’ tonight, young man?”                                                                                         “It was work.”                                                                                                                             “Anybody asks you anything about this building you tell them you don’t know.”                     “Right.”                                                                                                                                             “Don’t tell them my name, neither.”                                                                                              “I’d rather die.”                                                                                                                                 “And don’t bring no girls up there, neither.”                                                                                     “Alright, Dave.”                                                                                                                                “Fact, don’t bring nobody up there.”                                                                                                   “Got it.”                                                                                                                                                     It was almost the same scene every night.  I’d get in my room and shut the door.  Then he’d knock.                                                                                                                                                     “It’s Dave.”                                                                                                                                            He’d sit on my bed.  Dave was tall and slim and black.  Dave smoked menthols.  He was fifty.  He had the job and nothing else.  I never saw him laugh.  The world was out to get him.                                                                                                                                                        He sat down and lit up.  I leaned on the desk.                                                                           “Feels like I just saw you, Dave.”                                                                                                       He nodded to my typewriter.                                                                                                          “You writin’ stories ‘bout me an’ this hotel?”                                                                                      “No.”                                                                                                                                                      “See to it you don’t.”                                                                                                                          “Let me have a menthol, Dave.”                                                                                                           “Can’t do it.  I have one every hour.  I have the pack timed.”                                                 “Bullshit.  You’re on your second smoke since I walked in.”                                                           “Still can’t do it.”                                                                                                                                      I lit one of my own, “Dave, and don’t take this personally, you need to get out of the building once in a while.  This place is getting to you.”                                                            “Can’t leave.  One a you might try somethin’ on me.”                                                                “Like what?”                                                                                                                                   “Sneak somebody in, move out without notice.  I run a tight ship here.”                                  “The place is fucking destroyed, man.”                                                                                        “You have any stories about me here?”                                                                                   “Seriously, Dave.  Take a walk down 23rd or something.  Ease your mind.”                               The front buzzer sounded.  Somebody had walked in downstairs.  He jumped up and ran out of the room.  I locked the door, closed the blinds and laid in bed.  I listened to the street and the wind, the hours taken by the jobs and the rain, the repeating day and night varied only by a new tenant getting the boot or a new story that I would start and maybe finish.  The winter and the cancer air of the hotel had become a morbid process, and my job was another tumor that had grown from it.  I closed my eyes and thought about hot sand.


−Excerpt. ‘Life for all of this’ from Dead Birds Hot

About Jeff Stewart

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