As I turn the key in the lock of the front door to my old brick apartment building on Summit Avenue, I breathe a sigh of relief. That had to be the weirdest bus ride of my life, I think to myself. What the hell was that about with that homeless guy? There is no way he could know anything about the pink-haired girl. What was this I will help her thing? Bailey, you are totally losing it, I muse to myself as I pull out the mail from my clogged mail box and thumb through the stack of junk mail and overdue notices that are crumpled due to the fact I haven’t checked my mail in days, maybe all week. That was just one really weird, mentally off-balance dude in need of lots of meds that probably can’t tell reality from his waking dream trance that he so obviously was in…probably perpetuated by too much Thunderbird. Wacked, I tell myself. Totally wacked and completely not worth your consideration.

I trudge up the stairs to my apartment. The hallways and stairwells of this old place perpetually smell of burnt veggies, pine sol and mildew and I momentarily wonder how many years of odors are floating through the air into my nostrils. The carpet is worn, very worn. In places you can’t even tell what the color the fibers are supposed to be because it’s worn down to the warp. I open the door to my one-room studio of smallest proportion and toss the mail on a table by the kitchen. My mother would shit if she ever saw the place. There’s only a tiny closet-sized kitchen with a half-size refrigerator and a three burner gas stove, the tile in my bathroom needs replacing, like 10 years ago, but the water is hot so I don’t worry too much about it. The rent is rock bottom and as long as you keep your scraps cleaned up and your food in Tupperware or Ziploc bags, the roach problem is not a problem after all. What the hell, it’s a place to be alone and the steam heat is free.

I turn on the tube and flop on my bed that also serves as a couch on the rare occasion that I might have someone over…like never…and flick through the channels, trying to find something to zone out on…

I apparently fall asleep because in what seems like no time, the phone is ringing and it’s totally dark outside third floor window. I look at the clock on a table next to my bed slash couch and it reads just after 9:00 p.m, so I sit up rub my eyes and pick up the phone.

“Hello?” I say into the mouth piece, my voice thick with sleep.

“Hey! Dude, where are you? I thought you were coming over here to help me stretch some canvas.” Oh. It’s Toby. “Remember? You said you would be over here around seven…” Oh shit. I totally forgot.

“Oh…yeah…sorry…I fell asleep.” That’s what I get for drinking on an empty stomach and then having a panic attack. The crash after a panic attack always tuckers me out and coupled with the fact I didn’t eat all day before hooking up with Brian…well, you get the picture. “Do you still want me to come over? I can hop on a bus…”

“Sure, sure. Yeah…get your ass over here. I can’t paint without anything to paint on. Besides, I have something to tell you that is better in person.”

I say okay and hang up the phone before going into the bathroom to splash my face awake. In the kitchen I drag a plastic jug of milk out of the fridge and take a big swig, only to choke on the clumps that hit the back of my throat and I spew it into the sink. Ugh. Nasty sour shit. I up-end the jug in the sink and pull out a can of Pabst, pop the top and chug half of it to get the awful taste off my tongue. When was the last time I actually bought milk, anyway? I look at the jug. The date is two weeks past. No wonder. I chug the rest of the beer, grab my keys and a jacket head out the door to Toby’s place. This should be fun…it’ll take me two busses and who knows how long to get to Toby’s place. First downtown, then a switch to get to Fremont. I really hope I don’t run into any pseudo-psychic bums this time.

© 2008 D. Kessler