Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Apartment By: Marvin Gonzalez

In the course of our lives there come moments that,                     
Though seemingly innocuous in real-time,
Forever alter the fabric of our being,
One such moment occurred to me by chance some months ago
Outside Wing Lei’s Chinese Bistro of all places
On account of a mixed-up order of Spicy Kung Pao Chicken,
As I stepped out onto West Street,
Greeted by the insufferable screeching of motor-carriages,
A gust of wind nearly took off my hat,
Causing me to prop it down with one hand,
A clumsy reaction, which caused me to almost drop my take-out,
The gust subsided, but the half-open plastic bag
Bearing a dragon emblem whipped at the sky
Like a half-mast flag engaged in a solemn, moribund dance,
And, I caught a whiff of what was without doubt
A beef with broccoli stir fry,
I promptly turned around to return the mixed up take out
When I ran square into a smartly attired gentleman whom I quickly
Identified as Nathaniel Nyelander, a High School chum,
Now fully grown, a perfectly parted head in a tailored suit,
We greeted each other, gave each other an uncomfortable embrace,
And then proceeded to engage in the obligatory
Inquiry that people who know each other from
Past lives are often subject:
How have you been?
What do you do for work?
Any kids?
Oh, that’s too bad, I’ve got two small ones myself.
But, then he asked me a question that only later shocked me
As I stood in the dead center of my living room
And surveyed the broken furnishings
And scant wall-mounted framed pictures
That comprised my apartment,
Perhaps, it was shock induced by
Crisis of Existence,
Or, perhaps it was the potent, repugnant odor
Of my roommate’s cat’s piling, Tower of Babel, litter box
That filled my apartment like a gas leak,
But I felt an ab-piercing nausea, which caused me to double-over
And vomit in the artisan clay pot that housed
A pathetic and withering Aloe Vera plant on our coffee table,
While that simple and innocent question reverberated in my mind:
So, how’s your living situation?
God, how could such a simple question so ruffle the feathers
Of what had been up until then a cozy existence?
I suppose it had never occurred to me that these objects,
If one can call them so,
Were extensions of my being;
Were direct analogs to the quality of my life,
Goddamnit! What did the crusted pile of dirty dishes
Permanently taking residence in my kitchen sink
Say about my spiritual well-being?
Wasn’t it true that if I were in fact a dignified human being
I would choose to treat myself with dignity,
And, therefore, not allow piles of fallen whiskers
And soap scum to marry and forge
Over many months only to petrify as miniature stalagmite
Around the sink in my bathroom
Like a pathetically Lilliputian Stone Hedge?
And, what of this Godforsaken bathroom?
Which was so small it was more like a compartment than an actual room,
Shouldn’t a grown ass man afford himself the relief to stretch out
When he relieves himself?
Instead my toilet was so close to my bathtub that
I was constantly forced to turn my knees toward the door,
Invariably causing my left quadriceps to cramp,
At which point I have to clumsily lift and thrust
My slumbering, torpid leg uncomfortably over the porcelain tub,
Draining the blood from my leg strait
Into my left buttock,
Which swells and pulsates so violently
I have to pull my cold, rigor mortis leg out of the tub,
But because it is stiff and hyper-extended
It sends me flying off of the toilet
Only to end up face down in the tub
With my pants embarrassingly pulled around my knees
Leaving my bare ass exposed to the harsh elements
Of this cruel, sick world,
This was no way for a grown ass man to live!
Wasn’t this horrible shifting of position in an enclosed area
Merely a twisted metaphor for the sorry emotional state of my life?
Was I not wading in the emotional dregs of misery?
Was not this apartment the cauldron
From which a menacing witch
Mixed apathy, despair and existential agony
Only to rule the actions of my life with her cruel alchemy?
It was then I clearly, lucidly, candidly saw the road before me,
How could I have been so blind?
I quickly emptied the Apartment,
Leaving my roommate’s belongings,
As well as his fat, asthmatic cat sitting upon her own droppings
In the liter box as if though she expected little furry brown
Chicks to spring forth from them,
In the hallway outside,
I took my own things and threw them out the window,
Leaving socks and ties and pages of Deepak Chopra
To decorate the trees outside,
Bums lined my building holding out there arms
Like a fireman catching a kitty thrown from
The burning second floor of a mid-century home,
And, once all was gone, I knew what must be done,
I must find The Apartment,
Listen to these words, parse them please,
“The” Apartment;
Not just “A” Apartment, mind you,
For my use of the definite article here should not be overlooked,
I needed to find “The” Apartment that accurately represented me?
“The” Apartment whose granite top counters
Reflected the fortitude and resolve of my character,
Whose radiant stainless steel sinks
Shone as brilliantly as the fire in my heart,
An Apartment with ample fenestration
Allowing sunlight to enter to through its crystalline pathways,
I wanted to be as that Apartment,
Open and inviting,
Structurally sound and well-furnished,
I wanted this Apartment’s Feng Shui to reflect my Chi,
Perhaps, the austere, modern Ikea furnishing
Would reflect the simplicity and utility of my life,
No more emotional clutter,
I needed open space, light, and symmetry,
And, so I hit the pavement in search,
I journeyed the width and breath of my fair city,
But, nothing felt right,
The one bedroom on Morris St.,
Though charmingly tucked into a grove of Aspen,
Nevertheless, bore the intolerable odor of the past tenants,
Not to mention the patch of linoleum,
Uh linoleum!
That was bubbling up in the kitchen,
The studio on Klammath Lane was lovely, I must say,
But, situated right next to the river I’d have to bear the
Insufferable squawking of geese, morning after morning,
Not to mention that their greenish-white turds would litter the front lawn
Like the weathered, rustic tombstones of an old cemetery,
I found a delightful remodeled home first built in the 1920s
On Taylor and Peking Lane,
Which still had the charming archways leading into the kitchen,
The fenestration in the living room had been extended down to the ground
Allowing natural light to flourish and
Wash the room with a soft focus glow that,
Because it simultaneously muddled the walls
And acutely defined the edges,
Made everything seem both more real and imagined,
The bathroom still had the original white and turquoise tile
Though had been augmented to include a beday and cement counter and sink,
Walking through it, I felt I had finally found
A location that could rectify my abominable living situation,
That is, until I stumble upon the bedroom,
It wasn’t so much the bedroom itself
As the residual energy that inhabited it,
I could still feel the screams of winless arguments,
I could hear a young woman with chestnut hair
Whimpering, eyes welling with pain,
Mascara leaking down cheeks
The way a diseased tree lactates
A fluid of indiscernible nature,
A felt a rush of their joy, their sex, their hatred,
Malice, cruelty, laughter, envy, and solitude,
And, I realized that this home belonged to someone beside,
That it would never belong to me,
I was crushed by a squall of emotions,
And went back to my own miserable apartment
With a bottle of wine and a joint the size of my middle finger
To wallow in the decrepitude and spiritual agony
That was my living situation,
I fell myself in the middle of my now empty living room
Popped the wine and examined the ceiling,
A world opened before me,
A portal into a hypothetical future where I saw myself
Quite happy and at peace,
My surroundings changed,
What I understood as home altered with the seasons,
But, yet I remained,
I myself withered and crumbled,
My face fissured and cracked,
But, yet I remained,
I smiled for the first time in months
And as soon as I sparked the joint
I heard a piercing explosion above me,
Suddenly, I was in a vacuum,
It was like I was floating in space though I remained in place,
The weed smoke swirled and vanished,
Swirled and vanished,
Swirled and vanished,
And, then I was alone, though never less lonely,
Flames burst through the ceiling,
And singed the beard from my face,
Smoke swirled and vanished,
The flames madly danced about,
The walls darkened and tarred,
And, I had never seen them look so lovely,
The sprinklers on my ceiling created
A domestic rainstorm,
A summery rainstorm of the kind
I liked to run shirtless through in my youth,
The misery of my apartment manifestly demonstrated
Was beautiful,  
And I felt my own misery must be equally beautiful,
The rain, the fire, the smoke, the charcoal lathered walls,
A perfectly brewed misery,
My living situation:
A glorious work of art,
A pastiche of emotion,
Both flourishing and crumbling,
Where I was both burning and baptized,
Living and dying and reborn,
A singed orphan with half a beard
And less a mind
Left at the doorstep of an indignant God
Atop a doormat that read:
Welcome Home.