The day started with two crucial realizations:
- The only person I’d talked to in the past three months was Oleander. He was good company and all, but all he ever said was “Coo,” and sometimes “Squawk.”
- This was not my apartment.
I remembered crawling in through the window around midnight, but I couldn’t recall why I thought that was a good idea. It was just past dawn and I could hear the tenant’s steady breathing in the next room. Whoever they were, they had a nicer apartment than I did. I thought since I was there, I might as well search their kitchen for anything worth eating. I slipped unseen into the hallway, toting a carton of eggs, a bag of bagels, a container of blackberries, and made my way up to apartment 617.
“Coo,” Oleander greeted me. I unlatched the dove's cage and allowed him to perch on my shoulder, where he would remain for most of the day. I wasn’t particularly artistic, but I’d been painting the unfinished floors to take up time. Here there was something that was supposed to be Oleander, over there was a flower that was supposed to be cat, and right by the lamp was an I don’t know. Before I leave, I’ll get a carpet put in over all this and leave it to some future tenant to wonder when they got it replaced.
Around sunset I put Oleander back in his cage and sat in front of the small space heater eating ice cream out of a teacup because it’s hard to cry while eating ice cream. That was my father’s philosophy. We’d eat it in good times and in bad, so you couldn’t burst out sobbing when he told you they’d scouted out a place for you to stay until everything was safe. He told you not to worry it would only be one month. He said they’d come back for you and take you home when everything was under control. Just one month.
Well it’d been three months. And I was running out of money. And I was running out of patience. I shut my eyes and was engulfed in darkness. The space heater died. The refrigerator stopped humming. “I shut my eyes and the world drops dead; I lift my lids and it is born again.” But when I opened my eyes, everything was still silent and dark and dead and I knew I was worse off than Sylvia Plath.
I felt oddly compelled to wander. Maybe they weren’t coming back for me. Maybe this was their way of tossing me out of the nest. But if so, why didn’t they let me pick a city I knew like Belgrade or Sarajevo or Montpellier or Turin or Prato?
I found myself barefoot, covered in paint, and standing in the middle of the fountain. Life is cruel. I watched the blue creep upon my flesh in the frigid waters. With determination, I looked into the statue's stone cold gaze and told it life could suck it, because I was about to learn some life skills. All I’d ever had to do in the past was look pretty, act dumb, occasionally wield a CZ 75 pistol, and remember precisely where everything was. Shut up, life; I'm not Sylvia Plath.