F a i t h G i m z e k
habit. She loves Hello Kitty.
“I’m really sorry for everything,” she writes. She says she’s clean now and that she misses me. “I could just blow my brains out thinking about what I did.”
The last time I saw her, snow was piled 9 feet high between the sidewalk and the cars. We had already seen 60 inches that winter. It was minus 11 outside.
It seemed insignificant when my boyfriend Junior and I had forgotten months earlier to make a copy of the basement key before the landlord needed it back. The door was always open to do laundry.
But then the lights went out in our apartment and the heat clicked off. The basement door was locked so we couldn’t get to the fuse box. The landlord’s phone went right to voicemail.
After a while, the thermostat read 52 degrees. I could see my breath in the living room and the sun was setting.
“We can’t stay here,” I said to Junior. “We’ll go to Claire’s until he calls us back.”
Carefully carrying the cats down the icy front stoop, I saw the yellow FOR SALE sign zip-tied to the broken railing as if for the first time.
We shivered the two blocks to our safe harbor. I clutched one of the cats to my chest.
“Of course, you can stay here,” Claire said. “You poor thing.”
There was no food in her fridge, so we ordered take-out.
“I don’t get it, man. We were the best tenants he ever had,” I said. “Not like the tenants on the first two floors. Can you believe they both pulled a midnight move this month? And the people who used to live in our place, he had to sue them to get the rent. But that’s not our fault, you know what I mean?”
At 6 a.m. I woke up on the couch. Junior was still out cold, but Claire was awake.
“Hey, good morning. Have you seen my cigarettes?” I asked. “They were on the coffee table last night. I had a full pack.”
“No, dude, I don’t know,” she said. “Haven’t seen them.”
I must have looked incredulous because she mumbled something about quitting smoking, though the ashtray in her bedroom was full.
“I fucked up again,” she said, and I knew what she meant. She said her sister was on the way to pick her up and bring her to detox. I felt relieved – at least she knew she needed help. I wouldn’t have to convince her.
She said she didn’t know how she would afford rehab. Medicaid wouldn’t pay for it anymore. She had been too many times.
I wasn’t paying that close attention. I was thinking, “Where do Junior and I go now?”
The landlord never called us back.
Faith Gimzek is a journalism student at SUNY New Paltz. She lives in Woodstock, New York and has been published in The Legislative Gazette, The Spotlight News, The New Paltz Oracle and The Little Rebellion.