Went up to the house today. Finally met the ex-con working on it. Based on the landlady’s description I was expecting a sluggish, slurring ne’er-do-well. Instead he looked like a normal man. But he talked like a tweaker at the peak of a speed binge.
He said he knew he talked fast but he wasn’t on drugs. Never smoked or drank in his life. He’s been married multiple times and works on houses all over the city. Runs 30 rental properties and has a litter of kids. And he’s killed a man.
I couldn’t keep up with his manic monologue. He owned a store and shot a guy who tried to rob him and spent some time in prison. Admitted to being a bad guy but somehow not in a self deprecating way. He’s also a part time sheriff. There were other details I couldn’t catch. He needed to get carpet from his alcoholic friends. A few days ago he found a crackhead camping in the storage shed behind the house and had to beat him with a baseball bat.
He warned us about transients and told us if we had any problems with anyone to call him and he’d take care of it. I said maybe 10 words. At a normal pace our conversation would have taken 45 minutes. We were done talking in 10. He promised that the house would be done tomorrow. Seems a long shot but if he can work as fast as he can talk then it’s possible.
There’s no carpet and there’s no fridge. A piece of the back wall is still missing and the doors don’t fit the frames, leaving enough space for bugs, vermin, and crafty, persistent hobos to force their way in. At least he put in a stove and fixed the windows. An approximation of progress.
It would be timely if he finished tomorrow because that’s when I start working full time. If the house isn’t ready then I’ll stay with my girlfriends grandmother in the suburbs just outside of the city. Not ideal but not bad.
On one hand it’s unnerving to know that I’ll be living in a space where derelicts and castoffs have been squatting and getting high and shitting in corners. But on the other hand it’s comforting to know that I have the support of a man with no qualms about killing and beating people. So I feel safe enough.
At least I’m not in Texas, floating down a river of toxic sludge and rainwater. Trapped in a car for hours among soaked garbage, sewage, electronics and appliances, my house underwater, my possessions destroyed, looking for loved ones with fear and uncertainty swelling in my chest. I’m not living in the inaccessible wilderness. I’m not living in an urban war zone where I’m dodging bullets every day or constantly changing my route to get around freshly applied police tape.
There’s no threat of hurricanes hammering my shanty or a volcano exploding and blotting out the sun with ash. The earth heaving and rending itself underneath me, causing me to fall into its sweltering bowels. There are no nearby nuclear reactors melting down and microwaving my skin. I won’t wake up one day with a raw protuberance or scales or extra eyes from the fallout.
Terrorists aren’t plotting to bomb anything around me. They’ve probably never heard of this city or state. I won’t bounce off the hood of a Penske truck or have my entrails perforated with nails or scraps of metal. There’s a small chance of a tornado tearing the roof of my house off but I’d probably survive. And black people rob and shoot each other but that’s normal and easy and to avoid as long as you’re not black in the wrong neighborhood.
Indianapolis is a lovely city. It’s more like a giant small town than a city and that suits my current temperament and interests. I like the balance between the urban and the rural, a little sprawl and space with some density and commercial variety. The pollution isn’t bad by city standards.
I’ll be able to bike and walk to work and the grocery store and cut down on the tiresome driving. I’m getting chunky from all the sedentary transportation. It will be nice to lean out again and get back to cooking and moving more regularly.
It’s a pleasant and busy sunday. Even though there’s decent foot traffic in this part of the city, it doesn’t feel hectic and stressful. The midwestern atmosphere has a mollifying effect on my psyche. People are nicer and more patient.
First day working at full time wages and the tips are excellent. It’s a relief to lose myself in labor, to get away from the house and make some money. But late in the shift as I was closing I had a couple of those moments when you can feel the loneliness at the center of existence. I thought about my mom and her drooping posture, her body hunched over a laptop, drowning her evenings in facebook comments. Then I thought about friends I haven’t seen in years. Threads of the past wove themselves into a fabric of loss.
Everything comes undone, breaks apart and recedes from view. At the same time what passes tends to come back. Destruction is the engine of creation and nothing is the mother of something. No contact is close enough; the tenderest touch still affirms separation. Every conversation leaves something unsaid and desire always surpasses its objects. You can’t hold what you love tight enough and you can’t express your love or fear with the precision and sincerity they demand.
But we have to keep working, keep waking up in the early morning as the sun splits the sky. Put croissants in the oven and prepare to sell hundreds of cups of coffee, wipe down counters and exchange pleasantries and smile and laugh and hold back tears and anguish over the bewildering intensity of being alive. We know just enough to be anxious and need distractions and medication to prevent the dread and sadness from swallowing us whole.
It’s a little easier to bear when you’re busy. But it’s never gone, there is no resolution or perfection here.