Every Saturday I feature excerpts from my writing. For the month of April, here I give you 27 Yards An’ Runnin’…
Courtesy of Plato, we wound up doing a weird combination of a train ride a couple of stops, contemplating for fifteen minutes on whether or not to take a cab the unjustifiably short distance, a bus ride from one stop to another just a few blocks down, then finally walking the rest of the way. I was convinced he was stalling for some odd reason.
“You know we could’ve made this easier than it was,” I said as we walked up to my place.
“I thought I had to pee,” he replied with a child-like innocence.
“You couldn’t wait ten minutes? We were right at the next stop!”
“I felt it was right there!” he insisted.
“Well you better just do number one if you gotta go again,” I warned, “with your old-man bladder. Besides, this place has hundred year-old plumbing in it, I don’t need any of your business cloggin’ my pipes.”
We hustled up the stairs of the brownstone, stopping on the stoop as I shuffled through my pockets for the keys. I still don’t know how we lucked up on this place, because despite its flaws— antiquated… everything, rats in the dungeon AKA the basement, and definitely tons of asbestos— it was a gem. The owner leased it to us for super cheap. I mean too-good-to-be-true cheap. The eccentric old man, Paul Lowienstien, came by our shop one day and asked if he could hang the ad in our store. Hendrix immediately said no, because after seeing the location and price he wanted to lease it sight unseen.
“Man, that place could be a roach and rat trap,” I remember forewarningly exclaiming.
“What makes you think you’d be comin’?” he asked.
“For real?” I responded, a bit suprised. “That’s your way of sayin’ you want to move out…?”
“I’m just playin’, Cuzzo,” he exclaimed, slapping me on the arm. “But think about it. What we’re paying in rent for the loft upstairs…”
“—A fly spot that we just got to the aforementioned adjective,” I added.
“We can spend a fraction of that on the rent over there. We can make that a fly spot too.”
“I don’t know,” I replied, scratching my head. “We should at least take a look at the place first.”
“A’ight,” Hendrix agreed.
As expected, the place was a dump. This hoarder had a whole room dedicated to stuff he expected to keep put while we stayed there. No roaches or rats, but the spiders were good enough for me. Not only that, but the place was falling apart more than it should have been. That’s because Mr. Lowienstien didn’t do too much in the way of repairs. I was ready to go back to the refuge of the devil that I knew; the comfortable loft above our store with its own idiosyncrasies, but Hendrix was in love. I guess he saw something in this place that I, at the time, couldn’t. Needless to say, even after rationalizations about the commute [which wasn’t bad at all, but still…], we moved in.
It took a lot of work and a little convincing to the landlord, but we got the space eventually looking fly. It surprised me the day I finally took notice. City life was all I knew, but Hendrix was from the country. He used to tell me of his exploits when he ran away as a kid; the major cities of Dallas, New Orleans, and Atlanta where he usually landed. Dreaming of a day and time when he was in a place to live the metropolitan life; he’d picked up styles and locales as he went along. He was much a city kid as I was, probably even more. And evidentially had an eye for style.
As I flipped through my many keys for the one that opened the door of our place, I then noticed how unusually quiet it was on the inside. I opened the outer door, which led to the hallway containing the stairs. We made our way up the wooden steps, with each of our cadiences echoing through the halls. This particular building only had three units, one on each floor. We were at the top, the below us was currently unoccupied, and the other belonged to this Greek family that always had music from their homeland simmering in the background consistent to whatever deliciousness they seem to perpetually be preparing (except on Mondays for some reason, which in this case it was). I’d become familiar with “that” kind of silence. It paid to have an awareness of your surroundings, especially when the senses were always heightened like mine. And, as I now neared the door to my place, the silence emanating from within was definitely unfamiliar.
As a force of habit, I’d always left something on; a TV, some music, or a lamp, but I didn’t hear anything, nor did I see light creeping from underneath the door crack. At the time, I didn’t pay too much attention to it. After all Hendrix could’ve been setting the mood with Rena. His excuse to cut out early could’ve been just the opportunity to get it in with his girl. As if they were courteous enough to quiet themselves when I was there… Saieed and Plato were trailing behind, smiling in anticipation for what was to come next. I unlocked the door, reached for the doorknob.
“Hendrix might be doin’ somethin’ so we have to be quiet…” I turned and said to the guys as I opened the door. When I turned back around, the lights flashed and I heard “SURPRISE!” from the unexpected crowd that was in my living room. I clenched my chest like I was sixty years older; it felt as if I were on the cusp of a heart attack. True to form, I started flailing with exaggerated motions as if I were the comedian Redd Foxx when he played Fred Sanford. The people in the room thought it to be a joke and laughed as I “performed”, but this was far from it. I suppose the surprise did shock me more than I’d expected. I passed out, dropping to the floor like I’d just got hit on the chin in one of those knockout videos you see on YouTube. However, no one thought to brace my fall; not Plato or even Saieed who were both in advantageous positions, as I fainted like an overwhelmed and outraged woman of the 1930’s.
Yeah… I fainted.