There's a man that lives next to me, at the top of our staircase at the back of the lot. There are two doors at the top of the landing, my door is the furthest and his is nearest the top step, and his door has a sturdy white gate that keeps him safe and mine, mine has only a flapping screen door.
When I work from home I like to keep my door open and I can hear him going in and out of his apartment all day long, in and out, slam of his sturdy gate door and then slam of his normal door. Slam slam.
I turn my music up while I draw in my apartment but it doesn't drown out the slam slam. One day he knocked on my screen door and looked in at me on the computer. Even though I was just sketching my little sketches, another man looking in on me doing it really made me feel dirty. Me sitting there with my wacom pen in hand and shirt off. Why put a shirt on when you're at home. Never saw the sense.
But he wanted to come inside and talk. He was speaking in hushed tones. This was not normal. The slam slam was normal. This was not.
I let him in, knowing full well that I could always sic the cat on him if he was to act up. When people act up, the cat usually can bring 'em down.
So he comes in and starts puttering about my place in a series of spins and what the hell have you's. He stunk. He smelt of times forgotten. Mildew. It's not like he's an elderly old coot. He's not. He's 62 maybe. If that. But he's never really gotten it together. I've met a lot of these types out here in California.
After he stares at all of my stuff and scares my cat with his awkward, he finally speaks. He wants me to find someone to take over his apartment for him. But, he goes on, they need to be able to move out if or when he decides to return. He's leaving for a few months, he tells me. And then he continues speaking, his mouth making words but me not listening, really. I suppose I was listening, but I think I was also trying to figure out how someone doesn't know they smell like rubbish. Of the mildew. Was it that hat of his? He wore a floppy white-ish hat with a boat embroidered on the front. I wondered if that was the source of the stench, the borning spot of the eggy wafting.
I was in the middle of this thoughtstorm when I heard the number. He spoke the actual number of dollars he wanted per month for usage of his apartment. Now, Santa Monica is expensive. It's quiet, it's near the beach, it's nice. It's expensive. I've got no AC. I've got no dishwasher. My shower nozzle is 5 feet from the drain. I've got cutting boards that pull out from the cabinets. I have no washer/dryer. All of these facts are besides the fact. All facts are next to each other, I guess.
I pay more than I did in Texas, for a place larger and newer. But I was unhappy in Dallas, and the price difference between there and here, well, happiness is worth more in dollars than that difference. Just barely, but worth more.
And he told me he wants $700 for his place. If I was to find anyone for this unit, they'd only have to pay $700. I was dumbfounded. I then asked him how long he'd lived there because Santa Monica is rent controlled and this price he was paying meant he'd been there for awhile. I wasn't ready for his response.
That 'while' was, in fact, 44 years.
44 years in a one bedroom apartment above a garage in Santa Monica, California. Single, no children. 44 years.
I'm not judging. I care not to, I'm usually wrong and then I feel all guilty. And I don't know what he's gone through in his life. There's no excuse for the stench of failure he's accumulated, though. But I remember the one thing that struck me the oddest at his revelation.
He has no couch in his living room.
He keeps a sturdy white gate to protect a couchless room. It's true. I saw in there once on the way into my apartment. No couch.
No kids, I get it. No wife, whatever. No friends, family, money, hobbies, girlfriends, boyfriends, hookers. Ok, to each their own. Fine, all that's fine.
But no couch?
I hated him and hated his hat. I kicked him out of my apartment that instant. Sad, couchless ol' hermit wanting to pawn off his shame. How dare he.