Friday, May 16, 2008

Old Apartment

It is a short dead end alley, just off a busy street. On each outer corner there is a large 2 story house, protected by metal bars, broken glass and a tall brick wall. Further down, there is another brick wall and a gate that doesn’t quite hide a long driveway. In front of that is a small apartment building, gray unpainted walls and another thick metal gate that rolls open on tiny wheels. That gate is currently open and leads to a small driveway covered in adobe bricks. At the end of the alley, there is a small parking lot and an old hotel sign made of steel. The actual hotel building is off to one side and is hidden by trees and large bushes. Two middle aged men with small machine guns hanging from their shoulders sit leisurely talking to a giggling maid in a blue outfit. Another man, skinny, brown and wrinkled, wearing a large straw hat and a large machete around his waist, walks back and forth among the cars. The cars are new and polished, most of them with polarized windows and shiny metal logos. In the distance, there is the sound of busy traffic and of a Mariachi band, combined with the barking of dogs and loud laughter.
There is a fourth large house, directly next to one of the hidden walls of the hotel. Its front is completely covered by a 20 feet tall brick wall and two black metal gates. On one of them the words "no parking" are painted. The paint is starting to fade and crack. There are two tiny bell ringers next to the large gates, each with two separate buttons. A smaller door is incorporated into the gate and it is half open. From inside comes the sound of soft conversation and the sporadic clicking of a mechanical typewriter.
There is another door a few feet away, which is closed. That door leads to a small stairway, made of concrete slabs hooked together by a steel framework, that ends in a wooden door. Behind the door is a small apartment, consisting of 3 rooms and a bathroom. The front room is long and narrow. There is a window that faces a gray concrete roof and is covered in metal bars arranged in diagonal patterns. There is a wide, flat couch on the opposite wall and a very small black and white TV in the corner. On the other side of that wall, there is a larger square room, which is almost completely unfurnished, except for a small bed that sits in one corner, carefully made and covered by a colorful blanket. In the farthest corner of that room, there is another door which has been permanently shut. The third room, which connects to the first room by an open doorway, is even larger and slightly more furnished. There is a large bed, unmade and disheveled, in the center, a large and noisy metal fan that slides back and forth on its base as it gyrates, a small wooden armoire in one corner and a second black and white TV. On the floor there is a large open suitcase, the clothes inside thrown in all different directions, unfolded and disorganized. Connecting the two bedrooms, there is a small bathroom, with two doors that don’t close. Inside, there is a slightly dirty shower stall, an old fashioned toilet and a light blue sink, faded and stained.
A man sits in the first room, on the couch. He is about twenty five years old and about six feet tall. He is very skinny and has a long pony tail that trails to the middle of his back. He is wearing a stained white button shirt and black corduroy pants. The shirt is unbuttoned all the way to the waist and it’s drenched in thick sweat. The man’s face and body are also covered in thick sweat. Several scents mingle with his body odor: a slight hint of woman’s perfume, a dash of old fashioned men’s cologne and the strong aroma of a woman’s arousal. He is laying back on the flat couch, looking up at the ceiling and towards the barred window. His eyes are wide open and full of wonderment. His hands periodically clench and release. His mouth mutters the trails of unfinished thoughts, implied questions and broken statements. Every so often, he stretches and exhales loudly. Then his eyes return to the ceiling and the window and the muttering continues. In the distance, a dog barks again and, inside the room, the electric fan continues its droning, overpowering the man’s soft whispers and the sporadic sound of cars driving by outside.

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