The Collector (2)
The red brick building was about as boxy as you could get being built in a rectangular configuration. Its three floors followed a rectangular pattern, with 80 some odd efficient apartments ranging from studios to two-bedrooms were arranged on either side of the parallel hallways.
There was an open courtyard with a couple nice sized trees, a medium sized pool, and the building was nominally secure in that you were supposed to use the intercom to buzz people in, but no one ever did that. They just punched the code in the keypad and let themselves in. When the buzzer worked that is, more often than not the front door was just left slightly ajar. If the buzzer was working that usually meant that the secure underground parking gates were not.
The better apartments faced inward towards the courtyards. The ground floor units had small screened off porches, where the upper two floors had 5’ x 10’ balconies. Most of the tenants had then erected some sort of shade screen or privacy tarp.
Stevie’s apartment had a balcony, which he had installed a bamboo shade that was nominally adjustable. In practice it was best to just leave it permanently in the same position. His mom had bought and upgraded a plant stand so he could have some greenery in his life and so he had something to look at and take care of on a regular basis, but sometimes the shade killed the plants.
He didn’t care about the plants though, the shade was a necessity to keep out the sights and sounds from the neighbor directly across from him one floor down. The woman who lived there, Leticia, kept a sofa on her balcony, never covering it even during the rain. The other really obnoxious thing that Stevie hated was Leticia’s big screen that was visible to everyone else on that side of the building. She was always watching either soccer or telenovelas always with the sound on the wrong side of blasting.
The kitchen of Stevie’s apartment was actually quite large for a studio. He was able to move about with ease, the counter space was plentiful and there were so many cupboards and shelves that he actually didn’t have enough kitchen appliances and dishes to fill them all. He kept his old Macintosh SE which he bought brand new in the late 80’s in his kitchen closet, it’s usefulness long since past.
Gazing out of his kitchen window over at Leticia’s apartment he shook his head upon seeing the ragged form of Leonard laying on the sofa. Stevie and Leonard got along for the most part; the older man was a drunk though, and chain-smoked Newports because he liked the smell. The apartment building was nominally a non-smoking establishment as the signs in the lobby dictated, but very few tenants actually heeded the rules and years of tobacco smoke had rendered the walls of the hallway yellow and sticky.
Stevie was actively looking to move out as soon as he could, his useful living space had become much more cramped over the years, and he needed to spread out his collections. There just wasn’t enough space to display everything properly, and rather than sell off what he couldn’t display he’d decided it was time to move on. He certainly could afford a larger place, but the prospect of physically moving was daunting to him. Like a lot of men he was also afraid of change in every way, shape and form.
He sat down on his futon, opened his laptop and started surfing the net, looking for new items that he hadn’t heard about or pre-ordered yet. This was a ritual he did daily, Mondays were the best he’d discovered because that’s when the companies that made collectibles usually announced their new products. He subscribed to dozens of different blogs all about comics and trading cards. After a few minutes he sighed and clicked on his online dating profile, just to see if there were any new views. He never got any responses, but every once in a while someone might view his picture.
There wasn’t anything new on the dating front, but he did notice a new email from the property management company of a building he’d looked at a couple of weeks ago. His application had been approved, he could move in as soon as he liked. Stevie’s heart beat faster. He closed his laptop and stood up. He decided to make a call.
“Mom? Yeah, it’s Steven. You know that place I looked at, the one I told you about? They approved me. I can move in whenever I want.”
“That’s great honey, your father will be so happy.”
“Will you come visit now? I’ll be a lot closer, and it’s on the ground floor so you don’t have to go up stairs or the elevator.”
“Oh that’s so nice baby. I’m so glad, of course. You’d better call your brother and let him know so he can loan you his truck.”
“Mom, I’m going to have professional movers come in.”
“Oh, so Mister money bags is too good to pay his brother?”
“It’s not. It’s just. Well. Bobby always messes with my stuff. I’d rather just take care of it myself.”
“It’s your life.”
“When are you going to turn in your notice?”
“Right now, I have to give 30 days, but I can keep two places for a little while, I’ve already paid next month’s rent.”
“I’m so happy for you.”
“Yeah thanks Mom.”
He grabbed a pad of legal paper and started to make lists. He’d have to start packing really soon. Thank god, he’d finally be out of the red brick building. No more roaches in the elevator. No more ghetto birds flying overhead. No more Leticia across the way. Stevie at last smiled.