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A Poem in the Before Choice Disturbs collection

Basement Apartment

Sunlight falls into the room
exhausted.

It doesn't bounce around

to ceiling

from wall

to floor

but lies in a heap
on the rug.

It's stingy with the heat
Sometimes
I lie on the carpet
curled into a ball
basking in the sunbeam
just
to feel
some warmth.

We were friends for maybe seven months, and by most people's accounts it was not time well spent. We drank too much. Well I did, at least. We were friendly to the neighbours and badmouthed them the moment they turned their backs. It was okay though, because they didn't have much good to say about us. If only they knew. They were convinced we were fucking. Makes sense, I guess. No one can be just friends these days, not even two people of the same gender. Though I'll admit they made some good points. Sometimes we did stare a little too long. Whenever we all hung out you sat beside me rather than your own husband. I went with you everywhere and stayed with you while your husband was at work. The night before Thanksgiving we got high and you watched shyly but with an unmistakable blush to your cheeks as I undressed. We were never intimate. Not sexually, at least.

We visited the neighbours. I chatted with them, the lonely, forgotten discarded relics of a ruined economy reduced to relying on government handouts in this glorified roach motel, while you rummaged through their medicine cabinets. I'll never forget the night we sat in David Pearson's apartment for two hours. He was a little on the slow side; mostly he sat in his filthy apartment with the carpet stains and brown linoleum and plastic furniture and matte walls absorbing smoke and voices and watched old Elvis videos on VHS and drank Wild Irish Rose all day long. He drunkenly asked me for a kiss. I bolted from my chair, horrified, and you stood up and yelled "that's my girlfriend you're talking to!" I was disturbed and flattered all in one fell swoop. Twenty minutes later we were in my truck driving to the corner gas for cigarettes when you pulled out a lottery ticket. You told me you swiped it off of him and that it was worth $50. I looked the other way when you cashed it in. I occupied myself with making a fountain drink while you used your winnings to buy more lottery tickets. I sat in the truck and smoked a cigarette until you came back out with the tickets. "Maybe we should take these to David," you said.

I helped you move in the middle of the night. I never knew if you paid up your lease legit or not, but regardless we hauled your shit in my truck to that apartment just up the road. I began to wonder after a time if people actually lived in the house above it, based on how many nights we stayed up 'til 3 laughing and drinking. I learned later that they did, from their complaints that our karaoke nights were too loud. My voice carries, I've been told. I have a voice made for broadcasting, they said, but instead I'm here, drinking Boone's Farm on the floor by candlelight with you, reminiscing about the time we stole a lottery ticket from that retarded guy. I'm not proud of my past, but I'll be damned if I don't look back on it from time to time, trying to remember a time when I wasn't worried where the money for next month's bills was gonna come from. I'll err on the safe side and say I've made lateral moves since then. I hope you're okay.

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