Hello, my name is Jeffrey and I have a crazy story about how I ended up here. Where is here? We must start at the beginning to answer that question. I’ve lost track of time so pardon my recounting, as it may not be completely accurate. It was about 3 years ago. I was an intern at a newspaper in Las Vegas, Nevada. Not exactly the print capital of the world but I was paying my dues and hoping for some kind of recognition at the end of the line. I worked late one night, call it a Monday, no wait, it was a Tuesday, definitely a Tuesday because I had watched Monday Night Football the night before. So it’s Tuesday, I was walking home, it’s dark out, and it’s nighttime, but not too late, maybe around 9pm. The time isn’t important. I walked up to the front door of my building and slid my electronic card down the slot, but the light, which turns green when you have gained access, did not turn green. I tried again. And again. And again. I blew cool air on the back of the card and tried again. I wiped the back of the card on my jeans and tried again. I tried a lot of methods that night but none worked. I sat on the steps and waited. Someone else, hopefully someone that recognizes me, will surely come home tonight, right? Right. Someone did. Before this night, I didn’t know her name, but after seeing her, I wanted to know it.
“Do you live here?’ she asked.
“I do, um, but my card isn’t working.” She stood at the base of the 6 step climb to the stoop and looked at me. “Look.” I stood up, pulled my card out and started swiping. She must have grown a little comfort with me after seeing my swipe card, because when I turned to her for recognition, she was standing on the 4th step.
“Let me try mine,” she offered. “Oh thank you so much, I really appreciate it.”
She opened the door on the first try. I grab the edge as she swung it open and held it for her as she passed through. I walked in behind and she headed upstairs.
“Thank you,” I said. She turned around on the stairs and asked, “You really live here right?” “I do. I swear. My apartment is right here.” I pointed down the hall.
She stood for a moment lost in thought.
“That’s weird,” she offered. “What?” “Just that I’ve never seen you before and you live right there.”
I didn’t know why she mentioned that. I couldn’t tell if she believed that I lived here and was genuinely perplexed that she hadn’t seen me before, or if she thought I was lying to her.
I scattered to my door and pulled out my keys. She watched from the stairs. I found the key to my door and inserted it into the lock. I turned my hand but the key did not. I tried again, but it wouldn’t turn. I picked my head up and looked at my increasingly suspicious neighbor.
“Maybe it’s the wrong key,” I said knowing it was the correct key. “Maybe,” she said sarcastically.
I turned back to my door and shoved the key in again. I tried turning it with all my might while pressing my shoulder into the door. I knew what happened.
“Still got the wrong key?”
I turned around, back pressed against my door and slid down, my keys still in the door. I knew what happened and I knew I had to tell her.
“I think they changed the locks,” I proposed with almost completely certainty.
“The landlord.” She just stared at me. “I forgot to pay my rent.” She asked, “for how long?”
I didn’t want to tell her the truth. I lie when I don’t like the truth, but I won’t lie completely. I’ll only lie to make the truth sound a little less bad. I admit I didn’t pay my rent, but according to her I didn’t pay the rent for, “like, 5 weeks, maybe. Maybe 6.” I didn’t pay the rent for 3 and ½ months and it appeared my well of pleas to the landlord dried up.
“I don’t think they would change the locks on you without warning,” she said.
How annoying. Obviously they changed the locks on me and obviously I knew this was coming. I didn’t really have many options.
“I know we just met, but we’ve kind of known each other for a long time if you count that we’ve been neighbors awhile. So I’m going to say this to you and I hope it doesn’t offend you, but how fucking stupid are you to make a comment like that to me? Of course they warned me about changing the locks. I’ve known this was coming for months now and I was just keeping my fingers crossed as long as I could. And you don’t think they would change the locks without a warning, no shit!”
I tend to lose control when things don’t go my way. I’ve never exhibited any physical violence, but the filter of my verbal abuse disappears and whatever I think finds a way out of my mouth when things take a negative turn. It wasn’t her fault, and I see that now. She was simply making an observation and maybe even trying to help. From that point she threatened me with calling the cops and pepper spray, which she removed from her purse and de-nozzled. I offered my license, proof that I did live here, but she wasn’t going to budge. So, I left.
I could have gone places, but I didn’t feel like I had somewhere to go. I had no money and none of my things. My phone battery died hours previously and my charger, as well as all of my outlets, were in what used to be my apartment. I was sitting on the stoop when I realized I only had one option. I walked down the six steps and walked less than 200 feet to my car, parked on the street. I went to the driver side door, unlocked it and climbed inside. I sat down, closed and locked the door. I just sat there. My mind wandered. I decided it would be best to get some sleep, let my brain rest and digest this all in the morning. I reached my right arm into the backseat, feeling around for a sweatshirt to use as a pillow. I didn’t find any sweatshirt. I felt something different. I felt a body. I turned the roof light on and exposed the a young boy, sitting upright, in my backseat.