27 December 1999
Finding a Subletter
The first one only called because he had had a fight with
his wife and was making the gesture of finding her a new apartment to
prove some point. He referred to her in grumpy tones. I was a trifle
The next two arrived at my doorstep at the same time such
that it was impossible to address the serious one, whom I later realized
was a dancer who had been in a performance with me recently. Instead,
the college kid with the cocky strut that seemed like a chronic walking
impediment only wanted to ask me about my records. His only problem
with the place was that it was too far from campus. Yeah, I thought,
this is a nice neighborhood.
A message on my voice mail reciting a litany of questions:
AC? no Laundry? no Parking? oh yeah, lots of parking
Then came the woman with the voucher. When I opened the
door to let her in she freaked in terror: "Oh my God I'm scared
of cats!" I hadn't anticipated this, and, confused, stepped out
into the hall and closed the door to the apartment behind me. Good salesmanship
failed me: "Well, if you're afraid of cats, then my over-friendly
cats are really really going to upset you. I guess I shouldn't show
you the apartment."
Then came an elderly couple - rural - escorting their
strange, 30-something spinster daughter with wide, frightened, evangelical
eyes, who explained in earnest that her grandfather had lived in the
building in the 20's and that they had always wanted to see the inside
of it. They asked me questions about my belongings. "No, I'm not
an art student. So, are you guys actually looking for an apartment,
or do you just scan the ads every week hoping for a chance to see the
inside of this building?" The old man said that he and his wife
were looking for an apartment "for her" - referring to the
daughter. I wondered how many years they had been looking.
My bad luck seemed about to break when I spoke to a woman
on the phone at her job at Human Kinetics. She seemed very enthusiastic.
Until I told her about the great view and she discovered that I lived
on the 3rd floor: "I have a piano." Memories flashed through
my mind of moving in: Paul and I trying to wrestle the couch around
the bend in the narrow stairway. Good salesmanship again failed me.
"Well, if you have a piano, maybe you better not live here."
Alicia is a very friendly student of Eastern European
studies, transferring to the U of I from ISU. I'm quite sure my landlord
will like her, and will tear up my lease and sign a new lease with her.
I am sure he will do this because she has money, and because she is
a young woman with an accent. It's a nice accent: he might even try
to fix the place up. She and I spoke for some time, it was enjoyable.
She was the first person I had showed the place to who struck me as
sane. On her way out, she paused beside the litterbox where Woofy was
crouched, face intent.
"Stinky kitty," she said, not disapprovingly.
And so ended my life at 104 S. Grove, where much Unknown
was written, where Newspoetry began, and where my life accumulated power
and purpose after a decade of struggle. And so also may end, with any
luck, my life as a refugee tenant, fleeing from one rundown room to
the next, a permanantly transient ghost confined to the borders of Champaign
County, but, spiritually, homeless.
It's been a great year and a great way to end it. When
I have swept and mopped the apartment and I shut the door behind me
for the last time - well, that will be closure. Literally.