The doorbell rang. I walked down the hall delirious, my hair wild, “What?”
“Exterminator,” he said through the door.
“Fuck.” I opened the door, taking off the chain. A short guy with a mullet. Grey t-shirt, blue dickies. My apartment was trashed. Clothes and beer bottles everywhere. He walked in, swinging his bag.
“The guy next door has bed bugs,” I said. “We don’t want them here.”
We=me and my girl.
“Who would?” the exterminator says, “but I’m spraying for roaches.”
“No roaches here,” I said.
“You been bit?”
“By what? A wolf?” I laughed, “A vampire bat?”
“Bugs … bed bugs?” he said.
“No,” I pushed a pile of clothes to the side of the hallway with my foot. He looked at a crack in the wall. “But the guy next door said he has them in his place, so they might come over here. We’re paranoid.”
“I’d just spray. You’d bag all your clothes up. Put the mattress in a plastic bag. No big deal. Just a bunch of poison.”
Through the wall, my neighbor started to sing. He’s an opera guy. He was doing his scales. Loud. So loud.
“What the fuck is that?”
“Bill,” I said, “with the bed bugs.”
“Ah, shit,” he grinned.
“I get his mail sometimes. Electric bills and stuff like that, but I never remember to give it to him til I hear him singing. I don’t like to go over there when he’s singing. It’s weird.”
“What’s weird about it. My mother always played opera records. La Boheme, Madama Butterfly … Gianni Schicchi.”
“He’s balls ass naked,” I said. “That’s how he sings. The UPS guy told me.”
He laughed, “Then, I’m not going over there.”
“I don’t think he has roaches anyway, just bed bugs.”
I offered the exterminator coffee, but he declined. I went back down the hallway, but my girl was zonked out cold. It was one o’clock in the afternoon. We’d had quite a rough night. I put some clothes on, fixed my hair. Then, I figured I’d go and do my least favorite thing … get my fucking mail from the post office.
I’d been given a slip. Some kind of package at the inner city postal office. I searched for my car keys but couldn’t find them anywhere. eventually, I had to wake up my girl and ask her for clues. She said, “I have no idea where you’re keys are.”
It’d been a real rough night. I suddenly remembered that we’d driven back from New Jersey a little too toasted from a party, I’d drunk driven my car over the GWB and stuck it in the parking garage on 172nd street.
“Oh my god, I totally forgot that,” she said. I kissed her, walked out into the rain. The korean lady was down at my trash cans taking all of the glass bottles, I gave her our twelve pack from the Friday and Saturday. She smiled. We both winced in the rain, as if it was causing us great pain.
At the garage, I got my car, drove it through the rain to the post office. I parked at a hydrant, ran inside and got my mail, praying to beat the traffic cops. The pretty black lady at the window was quick, she handed me a flat cardboard package. I tore it open right there,
“What is it?” she asked through her bulletproof glass.
“A record!” I said.
“A record? What year is this?”
“Lady, I don’t even know what day this is.”
“Saturday, sweetie,” she said, blowing me a kiss, walking off into the maze of boxes and packages.
I got into my car right as the cops showed up, whoop whoop.
“All good officers!” I said, climbing in my car, driving down 165th street.
The Moth podcast was on the radio. People telling stories in front of a live audience. I wanted to go and do one of those. Or I wanted to fly to Portland, OR and see my friend who does her own out there at a dumpling place. I changed the station, it was a Rolling Stone’s song that I hadn’t heard in a long time, “Under My Thumb.”
I found a parking spot by the river. I walked in the rain back into my apartment building. As I walked up the stairs the place smelled like spanish cooking. The Dominicans were making something beautiful. I could hear Bill singing his Opera scales from two floors down. The exterminator was walking down the stairs as I was walking up.
“Have a good one, Buddy,” he said.
“You too, man,” I said, waving.
My girl, Spout was awake, sitting at the kitchen table. She smiled at me. She’d poured us both coffee. “Another hour,” she said, “the girl is coming to do my hair.”
“The test for the wedding, yeah,” I said. “I’ll take the record player into our room (the green room), you can have the office (the pink room).”
“Bless you, boy.”
“Think she’ll have time after to cut my mullet?”
“Of course,” Spout said, holding my hand on the table.
There was a pile of Bill’s mail sitting by a beer bottle I’d forgotten to take down to the Korean lady at the trash cans.
“What are you gonna do, today?” she asked.
“Write,” I said. “And drink all the coffee on 173rd street.”