Inside A Writer's Life

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While considering this move, right outside the gate is a fully functional drug spot. Complete with replacement workers. The police run them off but it's never long before a new group is put in place. The basement apartment had been emptied for several years ever since the last tenant was sent to prison. Now that's the word on the streets, this may or may not be true. I heard the former tenant was known to be a hot head and it didn't take much to set him off. I had a strong feeling this environment would eventually have the same effect on me, out of necessity.

"He was always polite to me." My Dad has been known to say. Plus, that fear factor statement. "He paid his rent on time!"

Keeping tenants that pay their rent on time is not as simple as one would think. This was, 'likely to fall on hard times territory', or I'm not paying any rent this month, I'm getting that sharp leather jacket and an ounce of weed type environment.

First Street has a strong block club-like living in a small town where everybody knows everybody. Each year that is changing with the new families moving in but most of the people I will talk about spring from 'First Street' or the general area.

On the ski trip in the romance, I have Raul propose a toast.

"To the First Street Kids."

"Yes, to the 'First Street Kids," the other students in the room at the ski lodge chorus. I wanted to honor the kids that grew out of that era and went on to do well for themselves. They are an example for the next generation and proof that success is attainable. In my book and, such people are not perfect they just found a way.

In my dreams before moving in, this basement apartment resembles an attic with brick walls like the projects. I always hung close to the front door as if something or someone was after me from the back half of the apartment. Thinking back on it now I realize that was a premonition and warning of coming events. Knowing Dad painted over the gang insignia at the dark back entrance to the basement didn't help allay my fears either.

Though my Dad had switched the building to forced air heat and cut out most of the old radiators in the ceiling, there were still visible basement pipes and exposed heating gutters that haunted me. A new kitchen cabinet, stainless steel sink, and overhead cabinets were put in along with new floor tile and grey wall to wall carpeting in the living room and both bedrooms. The bathroom was completely gutted making room for a new toilet, face bowl, a wood tri-fold lighted medicine cabinet and bathtub with shower doors.

I was especially excited about having a brand-new bathtub and looking forward to long hot soaks. Once a tub gets old or other feet have been there it's not the same. I would later add white mini blinds to some windows and a ceiling fan in the large bedroom, kitchen and living room. I went with my mother to order a brand-new stove and refrigerator.

The original plan was three years at the most. Time enough to save money, get my act together or hopefully catch the lottery. I kept thinking maybe I could've gotten another place downtown or near north, but I had already agreed to take this apartment and with all the work my parents put into it, I couldn't back out. But now it was the location here that concerned me. I kept asking myself would it really be that different?

Moving day did finally arrive with my younger brother and oldest nephew to help me out. They crammed all my stuff in the elevator sky high trying to save trips. My brand-new white leather desk chair got punctured. One glass top end table broke clean in half and one mirror door on the gold TV stand chipped off in the corner. But I was glad they showed up with the rental truck. I couldn't count on anybody else. I didn't have some old piece of a man helping me out like most women keep around for that reason alone. I can't have someone, male or female around me I don't like or who don't serve any real purpose. I've had some people tell me they can't stand living alone and never understood that. I'm just the opposite. Less drama.

At this time my ex Joseph was this white boy I met through the personals who blew it with me when we were at the grocery store one night.

He whined, "I can't carry that. It's too heavy." It was a gallon of milk. This slim, easy on the eyes preschool teacher didn't have a car and felt because I was his girlfriend he should have access to mine whenever he needed it. But I must see how responsible you are before I turn something like that over to you. I know this girl who let her new boyfriend borrow her car and he left town and never came back.

Joseph just hadn't earned enough points for that privilege. Anyone who is familiar with the northeast side of Chicago is aware of the parking situation and most of the time I refused to move my car once I got a legal parking space. But he was the one that insisted I read one of my favorite books, Gorman Bechard's The Second Greatest Story Ever Told. This is a contemporary, edgy version of God's child walking the earth only this time a daughter. When she professed her love of Rolling Rock beer on a late-night talk show, I found myself wondering what should I think of this? Who am I rooting for in this book? In the end, I just love it for what it is. Joseph put that book in my hands and said, "You got to read this".

I think Joseph and I were both surprised at the initial chemistry between us. I know I was. We spent every weekend together and one of the things I did like about him was combing used bookstores, as we both love to read and enjoyed quiet evenings and mornings doing just that. When it was good, this relationship took on the feel I felt a relationship should have. We could be in the same room and not sweat each other for attention.

During this association, I was deep into working on the first draft of the first book. Ironically, I was reading the new African American romances while he was into the real guy type drugstore bestsellers, which was excellent because he could relay the whole story without my having to read the book. I liked his eclectic group of friends mainly because the atmosphere was upbeat. There were no drugs involved that I knew of and alcohol use was at a minimum. I can hardly remember a time when we watched TV. The sex was good between us and to dispel the myth, have no complaints about size or technique. It was no wonder my nerves would mellow to the point of being able to function more normally. For a short time, the planets and cosmic forces of the universe lined up in a way that worked well for me.

Unfortunately, as with most relationships, it's always something and besides not carrying the gallon of milk and using my car issue, there was something going on in Joseph's personal life with his family. He didn't share this information until later in our relationship. I hate to sound unsympathetic, but I wish he had kept this to himself. Pulling the shade on the details of that, suffice it to say, it eventually changed his personality for the worse. He became the classic cliché white boy, which is being smart-alecky and unnecessarily rude and obnoxious. We began to argue a lot, which was something we never did in the beginning. He started to complain quite a bit and had the nerve to tell me I wouldn't be enjoying all this fine dining if it wasn't for him. As if I couldn't afford to take myself out to dinner or lunch.

That last night when we officially broke up, I'll never forget the neighbor across the hall banging on my door telling us with his third world accent to keep it down. This neighbor had a lot of nerve with the two million children and couple thousand adults living in that one apartment. You can imagine the noise that came out of there twenty-four seven and I never complained. I yelled at him from the living room to get away from my door along with some other unpleasant profanity-filled comments. I don't get angry often but when I do it may appear over the top. Joseph and I parted on bad terms and relieved when I finally stop hearing from him.

I know my brother and nephew were thinking they were getting too old to be moving people anymore. Going from an elevator building to a basement flat wasn't that hard plus I know they enjoyed driving that big rental truck. I treated them to a bucket of chicken and some cold beer later that night. I didn't know it then, but I was entering a time where I would prefer my own company as opposed to anyone else's. At this point in my life, I knew I should be more of a help to my parents and not so much of a burden. My decision to move here plunged them even deeper in debt. As appreciative as I was of all the renovations, I still felt a sense of regression. Moving back and down opposed to up and forward.


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