An excerpt from the third apartment in Eidolon Avenue: The Second Feast, coming March 26th.
“For someone in your situation, this apartment really couldn’t be better.” Fourteen days ago he sat with the man, this realtor, coffees in hand, the tsunami of chaotic chatter still hours away. “I mean, really, it’s perfect.”
The crudely sketched floor plan for the far-from-perfect one-bedroom on Eidolon Avenue lay between them, a pen and a creased envelope which, he assumed, held the lease right next to that.
To say the apartment was small was an understatement. The nearby snapshots showed a dark, forbidding space. Walls either stained and yellowed with age or hiding their shame in shadow. Wood floors scratched from neglect and scuffed from the lonely shuffling of too many feet.
From the window facing the street to the door leading outside to the hall, he guessed there might be, maybe, a handful of steps. Perhaps fourteen, fifteen.
His life reduced to a handful of steps in the crappy crackhead part of town.
He faced the annoying Adonis who refused to look him in the eye.
“My situation?” He watched the man who sat, overpriced grande cold brew in hand. Waited for him to respond. Knew what would be said–the maelstrom of innuendo and lies surrounding him now notorious–but was still curious how the words would tumble out. Watched this twenty-something with the arrogant thick hair and the nauseating white of a dazzling smile. Tried to ignore the superhero square jaw and the broad shoulders and rounded biceps rudely bulging beneath the hundred-dollar jacket.
Broad shoulders and bulging biceps that would no doubt dampen little Miss Venti-Double-Shot-Light-Whip-Mocha’s panties.
“You know,” the handsome stranger said, the words at last finding the courage to tumble though his gaze remained on the cup, the folder. The crude floor plan with its handful of steps taunting him from its place on the table. “All that stuff or, you know, whatever over at Saint George’s or something, I mean, anyway, whatever, you know …”
Sudden silence as Twenty-Something glanced past him, in the distance. To the bored baristas. The bags of coffee on display. The over-large windows. The heavy glass door. On anything but the disgrace seated opposite him, the brilliant blue eyes refusing him.
Rejecting the paunch straining against his belt. The sallowness of his skin. The tired eyes and thin lips. Rejecting the uneven stubble marring his cheeks and his rounded chin. The wispy strands of not-quite-blond hair clinging to his scalp. High and thin in front, the back long and scraggly against the yellowed collar of his one good shirt. Rejecting the shoulders more sunken than square, the biceps far from bulging.
The jacket a wrinkled relic from the life he’d lost.
He took another glance at the pictures, the floor plan. Imagined, for a brief moment, the life to be had there in those two rooms with its warped wood and small, dusty windows. He winced, hating the thought, the familiar taste of defeat worming down his throat.
But it’d be a life without the wife. Without the marital mistake. A life of his own. He paused. Imagined, for a second, the freedom to be himself, to be true. Authentic. The freedom to entertain. To even tutor in the privacy of his own home.
Paint would cover the stains. A rug would cover the floors. Open windows and a good breeze would clear away the dust. Lighted candles could scent the air and lift the mood. Perhaps one of his students, one of many who’d come, eager for his help, his guidance, his company, his wit and strength, would help the place feel alive. Bring their small gifts. Show their appreciation in ways both large and small. Sit near him, their naked knees teasing his, as he taught them, guided them. Helped them discover their true, authentic selves.
This depressing dark hole could become his own perfect patch of paradise.
Moving beyond the one-dimensional image of what it was, what it appeared to be, he allowed himself to climb into the dream of what it could be. What he’d make it. Allowed the space to open to him. To tell him what it wanted to be. Maybe what it was meant to be. Allowed it to speak to him, to call him.
Could he be happy here, he wondered.
Could he be his true self surrounded by what his body, his heart, his soul, his desires craved?
And from the snapshots, the dark responded.
Yes, came the answer from the floors, the walls, the low ceiling and narrow windows. An impossible whisper which stole, like an exhalation, through the quiet of the cafe to speak. To give voice to that hidden something he could feel waiting for him in the shadows.
“I’ll take it,” he heard himself say, watching the pen in hand sign his name, the signature scratching above the dotted line feeling odd and removed and not like his own.