I’m thinking back over the last few days, now that I’ve got someplace of chill out and can close my own door. Aliah has been pretty cool, helping me to get the futon from Capitol Hill, and my stuff from downtown. And not just that. Once we were back at her…I mean our…place, she started digging through her closets, pulling out old blankets and sheets and pillows, an alarm clock, a lamp…even a throw-rug. She keeps saying I don’t have to use them if I don’t like them, that they’re just for until I can find some of my own stuff, but it’s more like she’s giving them to me on indefinite loan and it’s no big deal if I never get my own shit. And really, the rug is pretty cool.

So, the past few days I’ve been getting settled in. And I went to check out the book store on The Ave that Aliah had mentioned, Twice Told Tales. It’s cool, I guess, but they’ll only have me for few hours a week…like three days in the afternoons…so I can eat, but I’ll have to get something more if I’m going to be able to keep up. She says there’s another one on Capitol Hill. Maybe I should check with my new boss to see if they can work me into that one, too, for another couple days to flesh out my schedule. Now that I think of it, I think I remember seeing it near where Todd works…that might not be too bad…

Anyway…my brain is just going in circles so I guess I’ll trudge downstairs and see if anyone is home…I thought I heard someone walking around a bit ago. If it’s Aliah, she’ll be good to help me focus; if it’s Paul, maybe he’ll be a good distraction for a while. I can try to pick his brain about whatever it is he’s studying at the University of Washington. The U Dub, as they call it…“Dub” being short for “Dubya”, like the letter W. People are weird, how they shorten everything due to pure laziness. Like I’m one to talk.

Lix3-akaAdam I open my bedroom door to find Lix planted right outside in the hallway at my feet, facing the door as if he were waiting for me to come out. He looks up at me as the door opens, turns and runs pitter-pat in front of me down the stairs into the kitchen, right to his bowl. Then he looks up at me and vocalizes something that sounds like it would come from a much smaller cat: a high-pitched, slightly crackly meow. He obviously is thinking that I am to give him some wet food, even though he still has a full bowl of dry food, or “crunchies” as it is called in this house.

“No, no, Lix” I chide him. “you’re way to fat already, silly cat. You don’t need any more food.” He rubs up against my legs with a force nearly sufficient to topple me, but I’m not falling for it. “No, no wet food.” I open the fridge and pull out the pitcher of filtered water and pour myself a glass, replacing the pitcher and scouting around for any edibles that might appeal to my slightly grumbling stomach. A collection of odd plastic air-tight containers filled with leftovers of varying degrees of age, color and smells populate most of the second shelf; the bottom shelf houses what appears to be remnants of three different loaves of bread, all stale, and a large covered pot of what looks like what was some sort of legume-based dish… opening the glass lid, I immediately wish that I hadn’t… and a bag of lemons. The crisper drawer is mostly empty, but there are a few not-yet-over-the-hill veggies that look promising, so I throw together a small salad and then realize there is no salad dressing to be had. Hmm. I poke through the cupboards a bit and turn up some olive oil, a sprouting head of garlic, various herbs and spices of indeterminate origin…no vinegar though. Well, I tell myself…I can wing this. There’s lemons in the fridge.

Sitting in the sofa, TV on, I munch away while Ellen blathers her silly monologue in the background, and I wonder where everyone is. Aliah did say that Paul was almost never home, so that’s not much of a surprise, but neither was Aliah around. Was she working? Why did she leave and not tell me? What, I scoff to myself…Did you think she would hover around and babysit you? Right, you’re a grown-up, Jessie…remember? Start thinking and acting like one!

Okay, so, let’s see…plan of action for the day…what time is it? I crane my neck around to spy the clock in the kitchen, visible through the doorway that separates it from the living room. Just after 11:00 am. Yeah, I bet Aliah is at work…and Paul at some class I suppose. I set the now empty bowl on the end table and dig in my bag for a smoke, thinking as I did so that I guess I could meander over to The Ave and see if Aliah is at work and if she has any plans for later. Or I could wander down to Captiol Hill and make another attempt at contacting the land-lady slash apartment manager at Shaylah’s building. I had tried previously calling the phone number on the sign dangling from the building itself, but it just went to a property management firm and they weren’t giving out any information. They wouldn’t have any of the kind of information I needed, anyway. Things like, where did Shayla work…and when was the last time she had been home…and was she friends with anyone in her building that I could talk to? Things like that. Of course, there was no guarantee that the on-site land-lady slash apartment manager would give me any of these answers, but it was a start. Or at least I kept telling myself this to ward of the continued feeling of impending panic every time I tried to piece out what may have happened to my best friend.

Come to think of it, I was starting to wonder, really, if she was still my best friend. I mean, we emailed often and sometimes talked on the phone…more so since all the drama back home had started. But I haven’t seen her in almost three years…since she moved to Seattle herself…and I don’t know what she is really into anymore or what she does with her spare time. I mean, I don’t even know what she does for a living or who her friends are up here! What the hell did we talk about in our emails and on the phone, anyway? Stuff like ‘went to this party…’ and ‘there’s this really cool new restaurant…’ and ‘did you see such-and-such movie…? Wasn’t so-and-so hot?’ …blah blah blah. No names, no places for real…just general shit. She could be a total flake now and I wouldn’t even have had any indication. I mean, yeah, I had talked to her just days before coming up, but what if she did just bail and go out of town for a few days, a week, or…? I shake my head. This was just crazy, really. I mean, I had just talked to her and she knew what was going on with my living situation back home. Something bad had to have happened to her!

Jess, you’re getting yourself all worked up again. Stop it, I told myself. I take my as yet unlit cigarette and empty bowl into the kitchen, putting the bowl in the sink. Then I walk back through the living room to the front door and onto the porch to sit and smoke on the steps. Paul doesn’t smoke and, although Aliah does sometimes, the house rule is smoking outside only, unless it’s your own room with the door shut and the window open. No smoking in the common areas, period. Sitting on the creaky old wooden, peeling-lead-painted steps of the front porch, I light my fag with my soon to be toast old pink lighter. To look at it, you wouldn’t think it would even work, empty of fluid. Must be running on fumes. I make a mental note to pick up a new lighter when I’m out and about later. Oh. So I guess I just made up my mind what to do, I muse. I’m going ‘out and about’…to where, that’s as yet the question unanswered.

4718 NE 7th, looking W

The house on 7th overlooks a view extraordinaire…not really. The freeway whizzes past on just the other side of the street and the roar of traffic usually lulls me to sleep these past few nights. I don’t know really how Aliah deals with it though because her room faces front, towards the freeway, while mine faces the back so it’s more muffled in my room. Almost like being near the ocean, I tell myself. Well, kind of. The traffic can get a bit heavy right about where we are. In fact right where our house sits, the off-ramp from I-5 merges with our street, to connect with NE 50th just a block or so up. 50th is somewhat of a thoroughfare, so it’s a busy off-ramp. I guess back in the 30’ or 40’s when these houses were built, there was no Interstate, so there were probably more houses across the street from us; a nice little residential area where kids rode their bicycles and played kick-ball and hopscotch. But now, as I sit smoking, I watch the cars drain off the freeway a few at a time…then gaze far away across to the other side at a row of houses facing back at me, looking very similar to the one on who’s porch I sit.

I take a last pull off my cigarette while I stand up and smash it on the walkway with my foot, picking up the flat butt to toss in the kitchen trash bin before washing my dish. As I open the door I hear the phone ring and wonder if I should answer it. What the hell…I do live here now, right?

“Hello?” I timidly speak into the mouthpiece. It’s an old heavy avocado-green thing from the 70’s…the kind with a really loud old-fashioned ring. “Honorable House of Chaos.” It’s what Aliah always says when she answers the phone.

She’s laughing on the other end. “Hey! See? I told you you’d fit right in with us! What time did you get up?”

“Oh, uh…just an hour ago or so, I think.” Was it? I guess so…whatever. “You at work?”

“Yep,” Aliah answers. “Hey, I have a break in a bit. You wanna come down and meet me? I know there’s not much in the house to eat so maybe we can split something here?”

Um, okay, I hear myself say. I don’t tell her that I just ate a salad. Not that I think she’d care that I ate her food…obviously she doesn’t, if she’s offering to split her shift meal with me…but because it really didn’t fill me up much and I need to get out of the house anyway. Kind of a way to jump-start my half-baked plan to get something done for the day. I tell her I can be over there in, like, half an hour and we hang up the phone after a couple quick goodbyes.

Vans walkingThrowing on my Vans, checking my bag for all the necessities…lip balm, cigarettes, wallet, keys…I thankfully notice that it isn’t raining. Overcast, with high light-grey clouds, yes…but no rain today. The walk to Flowers will be nice…I’ll take the back streets, not the high traffic Brooklyn or The Ave. It’ll be a good way to learn my new neighborhood, I tell myself.

© 2008 D. Kessler