Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Complex

   What the fuck was I thinking? But it was already September. It had been 95 degrees every day. The air was so thick with humidity and industrial grime I thought I was going to drown if I didn’t choke to death first. I’d been driving all around town in a car with a busted AC. I’d been looking for three months.

   The apartment was cheap. On the top floor. No upstairs neighbours. It had a balcony- granted the vista was a smog-choked view of the Express Way. It didn’t matter. I had an apartment where I could look down, down over everything. And I love gazing down on things, even really ugly things. Best of all there were Coke machines, snack machines, laundry rooms.

   I wouldn’t have to get into my crappy un-air conditioned car for weeks. Save for the occasional odd job which was why I was living in this shit hole in the first place- so I could have odd jobs rather than regular ones.

   And this business of over-tanned skeevybat-faced men getting loaded in the parking lot, smoking pot and drinking beer while sitting on their pick-up tailgates, occasionally giving me a look like they might one night on a meth binge butcher then grill me on one of the many, many hibachis on the premises... or the fact that the entire apartment complex celebrates Halloween with the reverence that most suburbs reserve for Christmas and the 4th of July… crap loads of carved-out pumpkins on every step, window and doorway, skeletons hanging from balconies like multiple lynchings after a medieval raid; posters of fire breathing demons pasted on the dumpster door, gut like plastic worms stuck to mail boxes.

   And that every single kid looks like a chunky or morbidly obese version of the Children of the Corn, not only eating an overabundance of string cheese but already squeezing their hefty trans-fat laden bodies into hideous and titillatingly inappropriate costumes- half Texas Chainsaw Massacre, half Tila Tequila.

   I won’t even go into detail over the sallow-face teenagers looking like kids from the River’s Edge as I walk past them on the stairs with their jaws hung slack like cows, sprawled against the stairwell, leaning on skateboards they spent the entire afternoon falling off of.

   I thought I could handle it. But for fuck sakes.

   There’s a code to get into the complex. It’s early in the afternoon and they’ve locked the gate, as if anyone on this planet would want to break in here or feel any safer being locked in.  
   Someone has draped the keypad with cob webs out of a spray can. I have to get out of my car. It takes me ten minutes to claw through- to un-stick, to kick, to scream, to curse and to remember. When I’m finally able to dig my way in, I find the entire complex is coated in cobwebs from the rooftop to the ground floor. They’re everywhere. Someone has even webbed the high dive of the pool, which I must admit is marginally ambitious,almost impressive.

   I blame the skateboarding hoard of teenage boys that live here. Not just because I hate them but because I hate them most; because they're staring right at me, standing beside their handy work with smirks on their gruesome acne-pocked faces as I pull my car through, as a particularly strong roping strand of cobweb bends along my dirty windshield.

   They’re slouching just inside the gate, their eyes duly dilated, giving each other high fives for no apparent reason other than it’s likely the only physical intimacy they’ll allow themselves (other than the occasional drunken circle jerk). I blame them because they’re the only ones that have the time, energy, and necessary truancy to pull off something like this. Because last week I may have accidentally-on-purpose hit one of them with my car door; because a spray can is hardly a foreign object to them; because their frontal lobes are not fully developed and they therefore lack impulse control or good judgement; because like most teenage boys they’re assholes.

   Because this week not only was I subjected to the entire complex's Halloween hysteria that renders everything icky, black, orange and rusty, but also to a daily dose of teenage skater boys and their blackened butt cracks as they try with their thin un-athletic bodies to do some trick they saw on a Tony Hawke video game they probably stole from some sweet, trusting fat kid who knows the entire score to Mame, which makes me think they're capable of anything. 
   Unsurprisingly, the cobwebs are especially thick along the outdoor hallway to my apartment. I need a scythe to get through them. I encounter each with exasperation and muttered, nonsensical curses, because after a shitty odd job of delivering pizzas for eight hours yesterday (bringing home a whopping 30 bucks for my troubles) I'm too fucking tired and depressed to think of sensical ones. The cobwebs rub against my face like clawing feral kittens, toxic and oddly fragrant.

   I turn a corner and manage to scare a woman pushing a cart filled with aluminum cans "half to death", while taking down a hand full of cobwebs along with a couple of rusty windchimes. She looks at me and tells me I'm crazy. I tell her I'm not the one pushing a cart filled with aluminum cans wearing a night gown at 1:30 in the afternoon.

   Finally I get to my door and I’m hit with a rush of relief. I know it's just a door but to me it's more than that. It's an oasis in a desert of tackiness, stupidity and unbridled inbreeding. It's beautiful. It's unadorned. It's steel.

   It’s brown- no, it’s not even brown. It’s not even a colour. It is miraculously bland; there are no monsters, no ghosts, no fucking candy corn glued on to it or left beside it in baskets for stray cats to choke on (which is the only way to get rid of candy corn and the worst way to euthanize stray cats), no posters of pock-marked, lunar landscape-faced lunatics wearing coats cobbled together with the dead flesh of young, nubile teenage girls who are entirely too old to be spending their summers in camp. No pumpkins or jaggedly cut jack o' lanterns that look like they were carved heatedly under duress with a butcher knife.

   It is plain, strong and neutral, just like any other door in any other part of the city during any other season. It's my door. It is my refuge. It is my ascension into Normal.

   "What kind of mother fucker don't celebrate Halloween?" some slurring random drunk asshole that's got a face like a distressed leather jacket asks me, sitting with his dirty knees pulled up against his chest, scrunched on the stairs, drinking something out of a paper bag.

   "My kind of mother fucker. Motherfucker."

   I stare miserably at the door as the words “Evil cunt”, “She-man”, “Hag” and “Dyke” are dexterously dispensed from the pale, sun-cracked lips of the vagrant on my stairs. I open the door to an empty apartment, the exception being the continuous cockroach circus taking place in my kitchen, now atop an open box of stale Valentine candy from a year and half ago, most recently opened to give me some sense of closure.

   It didn't.

   And now I am left with an infestation.

   I look out through my dirty sliding glass door. The daylight slips into a surreal petro-chemically hazed horizon. I snatch a couple of pieces of rotten Valentine candies along with a bag of candycorn I palmed out of a neighbour’s plastic pumpkin and hurl them across the room. It bounces against the wall like a golf ball. The asshole next door, the one that blasts old Ronnie James Dio albums until 3 in the morning, pounds the wall on the other side. I've inadvertently interrupted his afternoon siesta.

   “Shut the fuck up in there, goddamnit! I'm trying to sleep.”

   Outside, just to add to my misery, the Monster Mash is pulsing in a continuous loop out of a blown car speaker.

   I don't know how to live. One person's noise is another person's lullaby. One person's castle is another person's descent into madness, failure and loneliness.

   I take another piece of hardened Valentine candy, cock back my arm and let it fly once more, releasing a rain of rock hard hearts into the stale complex air.

--Whitney Porter

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