The Green Apartment

It was the strangest thing to see you in the rain, although it was a light one and you were just running, trying to get some exercise although you look fine—better than fine in the indifferent spring dusk. I was in my car and I slowed down behind a set of trees, behind one serious raindrop after another, one drifting dogwood petal after another, and I watched you run a little. You had grown your hair out. You hadn’t shaved your face yet, or you were trying something new. The light was hitting your shoulders just right. I saw you as I continue to remember you: dampened, fleeting. Lovely.

I was determined to find a new home, but you have distracted me and I turn around and drive to the place I know will never be perfect. The apartment never fully took to my intrusion. I painted the walls, but the ancient wallpaper peeled underneath. I opened the windows, but the vines began to cover them. I wiped away the dust, but the ceiling still crumbled. Nothing could be done to convince the stubborn rooms. I gave in to the tyranny of the building. If there were ever a change to be made or a mood to be replaced, it would never happen without the consent of the miserable apartment. Staring at my carefully arranged furniture, bleak and unwelcoming in the harsh light, I made a decision. I would not come back until I found a new place to live. I would stay out until the perfect place came to meet my charging determination. I would not be back to rest until I had found it. The vines growing across my front door fought back as I tore through and merged into the sunlight. For hours I walked around, circling through the many neighborhoods of the city. I looked at the signs of life on porches and in driveways. I peered into several low level apartments and was not struck entirely by any. I was getting tired and hungry but I kept pushing through the streets and houses without rest. As night approached, I felt my vigor slowly fade away. I turned down a street where the road gave way to a sizable drop that met a large park below, but from the top of the street it was the end of all roads. I trudged toward the cliff at the end of the block. Just before the road ended, a green building rose quietly on my left, blocking out a space where the last bit of sun had shone down. The street lamps burst into action and the night creatures began their slow building chorus. The building was an old style of architecture, not one I had seen often or recently. The porch was pale against the mossy color of the paint and seemed to welcome the night rising up around it. Around the yard were three white cats, lounging harmoniously about the garden. The park yawned beneath the road and snapped its many lights awake and the glow that rose up lit the house with unequivocal beauty. The sign in front said “For Rent”.

Although a month has gone by since I saw you jogging in the rain, I have not felt sad until now. I have tried to think of other things, to replace you in my memory, but it has been especially hard these days. I tried to leave the house for a while, but I was too afraid to be upset. I stayed in with the windows shut and the blinds drawn. I had my time to brood and when I felt well enough to leave for simple things, I put on my shoes and opened the door. One of the white cats bolted from the porch and stood looking at me from the sidewalk, her eyes wide and grey. Warm air carried a curious smell through the yard, something I didn’t recognize. I started for the end of the block to the edge of the cliff above the park, but found instead a noisy main street full of cars and people. I stopped, puzzled that the park below the cliff—and the entire cliff itself—had disappeared. My bravery was met with a large and obscene road that was gummed with loud cars, people, and the curtains of hot air rising from them all. Traffic was blocked by construction and the impatient drivers cursed and assaulted one another. People stood outside of dingy looking shops and diners among the littered concrete. Most adopted the look of complete apathy while few appeared unabashedly drunk. I approached the curb of the street in a suspended state of regret and denial. I turned back to confirm my green apartment was still there, twirling around behind a wall of heat and smog. A man in a red truck leaned forward on his hairy arm and spit down the side of the vehicle. He asked me what business a lady like myself had on the street and smiled with misleading charm. I turned my back on the street and fled to my apartment, now certainly moving slightly from the noise, or the heat, or the loneliness.

I woke up again, unexpectedly almost. Previously in my sleep it seemed I would remain there, but one always has to wake up. The day was not right. I remembered the confusion of the street and the city and could thankfully hear none of it from my window. A dense and humid darkness encompassed my room. I jerked on the blinds and they shot up above my head. They revealed no beauty, no morning to speak of. The sky outside was bogged by trees that were in turn bogged by the suppressing night sky. The glass window against my palm vibrated nervously with the insects that clung to the screen. My head filled with the most relieving sound! The music of conflict from the street had been exchanged for the low and sexual vibrato of a rainforest, where I found myself the only non-participant. I gasped through the window but the sound was absorbed by a nearby chorus of frogs. I was mimicked and pursued and drawn upon to copulate. I stood for a moment at the dark window before I ran to the porch. The doors swung slowly by the weight of the insects clinging to the screen. The shape of three pristine white cats shuddered in the corner, barely a dark grey in the oppressive night. I stretched out my arms. I thought vaguely and painfully about you in the rain, with your hair a little messy, a little longer than before. The smallest bugs landed on the tips of my arm hair. I thought about a pair of glasses you once had and how you became self-conscious after only a day. The powdery moths beat their wings against my cheeks. I thought about a time you said: “I have to chase my sundogs,” and maybe that was the first time I let you pull away from me. A family of lizards climbed up my back and onto my shoulders. I let the weight of the mating jungle creatures ease me to the porch floor. I was overcome with the humid air and slow mixing of the animals, so much so that I fell asleep again, my head resting gently on the white pillow of cats.

I had a dream my bedroom door opened. All the people we used to know came inside smiling. They sat with me on the bed and handed me greeting cards, smiling the entire time they were there. I got up and met you outside and you said, “Isn’t it beautiful? I wanted you to see it.” The silvery water beneath the mountains churned and the trees had fallen down the side of the bluff, their roots rising toward the sky. I woke up on the floor. The three white cats meowed within the house but I could see none of them. Sunlight burned through the windows and I thought back wearily to the city street and the jungle. I lay on my back on the floor, not wanting to see where the house had brought me now. I closed my eyes and thought of you. The cats lowered their meows and began to moan. I could feel the floor rushing towards something and the air from the windows warmed up. I thought harder, tried to see your face change throughout the years. My back began to shiver. I pressed my palms against my eyes and thought about you in a large grey sweater, grabbing my pencil from me at a coffee shop. The floor started noticeably trembling and the house cracked from outside. The room got hotter. You were frantic to write something down and explained the whole thing to me while I admired the easy way you wore an old sweater.

My windows shattered and the light outside was like a star moving closer. I refused to open my eyes and my furniture burst open at every seam. I ground my teeth and remembered you looked at me from beneath the biggest and oldest grey sweater that ever existed in this world and for a second you possessed every bit of wisdom and kindness and love and you had a soul that was thousands of years away from me and you fit that sweater like you had been wearing it for several lifetimes. My home descended upon me.
In the inevitable morning I had a mild headache. That was all. One cat slept peacefully in the crook of my knees and the other two waited by the door. I moved from the bed to the porch and opened the door above the park. It was early, but the birds sang and early risers walked through the park, green and gold in the fresh new sun. I balanced myself on the porch rail and allowed the cool air to ease my head. I thought only of the pleasure of the morning.