Friday, June 12, 2009

Spackle and Bus Fare


We had paint, but needed Spackle paste. Scores of tiny holes riddled the wall over the mattress where for the past few months I'd slept occasional, fitful hours next to a deadbeat boyfriend of sorts, whose every aspect I had to take in hand, and even then he was useless. Unwilling to share responsibility, unable to share intimacy, he did nothing except waste himself—along with my time, money, and emotions. But as bad as things were, sometimes it takes external forces to bring about change, and in this case change came in the form of an eviction notice. Although I never thought I'd be thankful for an eviction, the request to vacate my first apartment was a huge relief. The posts of the past two days explain why in more detail. But the time had come to move on, and the night before I needed to turn over my keys, I had one thing on my mind: try to recover the deposit money. I don't recall whether this was a futile effort—whether the eviction precluded any return of deposit—but I knew at the time that effort was needed. It had been my parents, I'm pretty sure, who had put up the deposit money for me; I, fresh out of high school, had no credit and no substantial savings, so this had to have been the case. And the only hope I had of accomplishing even a partial return was to fill the holes, refresh the paint. The holes reminded me of the kind of destruction you'd expect from termites, if termites ate drywall. They don't, of course. The holes had been made by darts, countless darts that had missed the round board hanging over the bed. I used to think that a dart-thrower's game improved with a couple of beers, but this clearly was not the case in my apartment. Anyway, painting straight over the holes wasn't working, and so we—this being a collective of myself, my so-called boyfriend, and two squatters who called themselves friends—acknowledged the need for spackle. Except that, realizing this past midnight, with only hours to go before move-out time, spackle wasn't an option; no store was open where we could obtain any. As a result, I can tell you: in a pinch, use Crest. Yes, the toothpaste. It works fairly well. I remember standing on the box spring and mattress, pillows squishing under my feet while I went about squeezing minty, white paste onto the wall. I don't remember what I used to push the toothpaste into the holes, or how long we let it dry before applying a coat of paint. The whole process was less than ideal. But as I said, it worked. Crest, paint, garbage bags: the place got relatively clean. We opened the windows to air the place out. After sunrise, my freeloading friends took off. My mom came to pick me up—me and the boyfriend, too; my mom is not the type to just leave someone out on the street. But neither will she assume more than her fair share of responsibility either. This next bit I remember in a secondhand way; I only heard half of the conversation, but I was told the rest later on. My mom called the boy's mother, a long distance call to Illinois from Connecticut. She told her she was putting her son on a bus, that he'd be home on such-and-such a day, at whatever scheduled time. And the part that sticks with me still—the only part in the story that can still strike a note of sympathy where this young man is concerned—was this woman's response: "But what will I do with him?" she said. As though he were a commodity being returned, defective (which he was); one she didn't have room for in her house, her heart. My mother made it clear that this was not really her problem. Whose son was he, anyway? The next scene was the bus depot, complete with an awkward good-bye. Today I am thinking about new beginnings in general, but particularly remembering this one. The liberation of it, the burden lifted. The fresh start symbolized by a coat of paint and a one-way bus ticket out of town. I thought about this person I used to love and whom I used to call my friend. As the bus picked up speed and headed out of town, his journey was just beginning, but the free ride was over. And I felt free for the first time in ages.

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