Where'd All The Good People Go?
"I promise I'll be home for Christmas, mom. Don't worry about me. ....No I'm staying here for a while. ...Just until I get my life straightened out. I love you too.... bye."
I hung up with my mom and sighed. After my fiance cheated on me with my best friend, I moved away to Chicago, taking a job as a writer for the Chicago Times. I didn't want to stay in that small town in New Mexico anyway. Sure the people were nice, real friendly. My best friend, Leslie, and I grew up together, we shared everything... including guys too, apparently. I just needed to get away from it all. I was a laughing stock to the whole town.
At least here, I was a stranger. Starting new in a new place. Nobody knew me nor cared to know me.
I went down to my car and grabbed the last two boxes, juggling them on top of each other. I could barely see over the top of the boxes, just enough to not hit any walls. The only apartment I could afford and it was run down and nasty. I swear one of the rooms in the building had a dead body hidden in it, and another had five little children always running through the hallways.
I reached the old elevator and extended my index finger to hit the button. Just as I almost could touch it, the box on top started to sway. I cursed as it hit the ground, my pictures and books scattering the hallway.
"Oh let me get that for you!"
I set the other box down and started grabbing my belongings. "No, thank you, I can handle it," I said, not looking up.
The man bent down and reached for my favorite book; I tried to get it before him but he already had it. "Thank you, but I've got it." I said more firmly, meeting his gaze.
He looked about my age, dark hair and a natural tan. His eyes were almost black and he had that bright white smile you only see in movies. By the looks of him, he had Hispanic features. Any other girl would be head over heels with his smile and muscular chest like that, but I just wanted to get up to my room.
He chuckled slightly, looking down at the book. "The Scarlet Letter?" He asked, looking back up at me.
I tucked my hair behind my ears and nodded. "Yeah, what about it?"
He smirked, handing it back to me. "I remember reading it in school, but I didn't think people actually read it on their own free will."
I glared, grabbing the rest of my stuff and shoving it in the box. "If you don't mind, I'd like to get up to my room. It was nice meeting you."
He stood up, still smiling like he had an inside joke. "I'm Jose, by the way. I live in apartment 2C." He stuck his hand out towards me.
I stared at him, picking up the two boxes. "I don't care." The elevator doors opened and I walked inside.
"I'll see you again soon!" He called as the doors closed.
I rolled my eyes, leaning against the wall. I got up to my room and dropped the boxes on the floor. A picture laid on top of the books and I picked it up. It was a picture of John, Melissa, and me by the lake on a summer afternoon. I was smiling and had my arm around him and Melissa.
I threw the picture across the room and the frame shattered against the wall. I slid down onto the floor and curled into a ball, crying. I cried for the first time since I found out John had cheated. I remembered thinking that maybe, just maybe he was joking. I waited to hear the punch line, to hear him laugh and say 'I'm just kidding' but that never happened. His face was so serious, he reached his hand out to comfort me, but I batted it away. The joke was on me. I was the punch line.
I wiped my eyes and just sat there, looking around the empty apartment. It was so bare and void of life. ...Unless you counted the mouse droppings along the back wall. This was my new home and I would live it to the fullest.
After I unloaded everything and put things in their places, I gathered all my pictures and stacked them in a pile on the middle of the floor in the living room. I took my lighter and lit the pictures, the fire spread, melting and blending the colors into a blur. The smoke surrounded me as I watched John's face burn in the fire.
Suddenly my door flew open and the man from earlier burst through with a fire extinguisher. White foam covered the stack of pictures and me included. I couldn't move, reality hadn't caught up yet. Once Jose was satisfied that the fire was out he dropped the red container.
Slowly, I stood up and looked down at myself. "What...the hell...is WRONG WITH YOU?!" I screamed at him.
He gave my foam-covered body one look and died laughing. "I'm sorry!" He choked out between laughs. "I smelled smoke and came to help you!"
I glared at him, so furious I couldn't even speak.
"Come on, I'll help you get cleaned up." He reached for my arm, but I pulled away. A natural reaction when I remembered John, reaching to comfort me. Jose didn't back down. He grabbed me by the elbow and led me down to his apartment. My mind still wouldn't function right, all that smoke I inhaled couldn't be good.
Once we got to his apartment, he took me into the bathroom and had me stand in his bathtub while he grabbed the detachable hose. "It might be cold at first but it'll warm up." He turned the water on and started at my feet.
As soon as the cold water hit me, I snapped back into reality. "What are you doing?!"
He chuckled, continuing to hose me down. "I'm helping you."
I reached for the hose, but he pulled away, squirting me in the stomach. I glared at him, jumping out of the tub. He soaked me down and I screamed. It wasn't a scream in anger, but in delight. I reached for the hose again and he dodged me. Finally I tripped him and he fell into the tub. I squirted him in the face and he wiped his eyes, running his hands through his hair, slicking it back. I continued to soak him, his clothes getting wet and sticking to his body. By the time we were done, we were both soaked and laughing. I had fallen into the tub beside him and he reached up and turned the water off.
We lay there for a few moments, laughing at ourselves. "So why were you burning pictures in your living room?" He finally asked.
I sobered up quick. "Burning memories."
He looked over at me. "What memories are so bad you'd want to forget them?"
I got out of the tub and reached for a towel. "I heard it's good therapy." I shrugged, wanting to change the subject.
I handed him a towel and helped him out of the bathtub. We dried off and attempted to dry the bathroom walls too.
"Don't worry about it. We still have to clean the foam from your apartment. Sorry about that."
I shook my head. "Don't worry about it. I guess you were just worried about--"
"Letting you burn in your apartment?" He laughed.
I chuckled. "I guess..."
"Do you want to stay for dinner? I'm cooking." He grinned his toothy smile and headed for the kitchen. I followed him.
"You cook?" I wondered around his apartment, looking at the different pictures and paintings.
"Cook, clean, and when I'm not being completely gay..." He chuckled with me. "I take pictures. I'm a professional photographer."
I turned the corner and came into one room with light bulbs dangling from the ceiling in the form of a canopy. It was very strange but oddly mesmerizing and beautiful. Jose appeared and grinned. "I was just working on this for a new photo shoot. What do you think?"
"What's it supposed to be for?" I asked, looking up.
He stood inches in front of me, staring into my eyes. "The man and woman are going to stand under here... I want to capture that exact moment before the kiss."
He leaned in and I backed away. "Um I think I'll just go back to my apartment. I need to start cleaning anyway. Thanks for...well... bye." I headed for the door when Jose beat me to it.
His grin was almost taunting. "I never learned your name."
I cleared my throat again, handing him his towel. "My name is Lynn. Now please," I pushed him out of the way, opening the door. "I have to go."
He stepped away from the door and I left quickly, getting back to my room. Everything was foam covered. God he couldn't aim, could he? After an hour of cleaning, my back hurt and my hands smelled of chemicals. I threw the remains of photos in the trash where they belonged and went to shower.
I tied my hair up in the towel and got into my nightshirt. I didn't have a bed but I bought an air mattress the day I bought the apartment. I could live without things for a while, at least until I started getting a weekly paycheck again. My stomach growled and I regretted not taking Jose up on his offer for dinner.
Why did it matter if I had dinner with him? He seemed nice enough. No harm in being civilized with him. My hatred for all men shouldn't affect him. I could be nice. I brushed my hair out and pulled my thin blanket up over me, falling asleep.
The next morning I got ready, starting a ritual. I'd have to grab a coffee on the way to work since my fridge was empty. I grabbed my purse and headed for the elevator.
"Hey wait up!" Jose yelled from down the hallway. He ran into the elevator and I closed the doors. He smiled at me and said good morning. I nodded and smiled back.
"Nice outfit, it suits you. You don't look like you belong in this apartment building," he complimented.
The elevator doors opened and I walked out with Jose beside me, the morning sun was coming up over the buildings.
"Lynn?" I froze mid-step.
Jose looked behind me and tapped my shoulder. I took a deep breath and turned around to face him.
I put on a fake smile. "John."
Jose looked between my stiff figure and John's apologetic stance. "Your mom told me where I could find you.... I thought you'd be alone." He glanced at Jose quickly, then back to me.
I opened my mouth to speak, but I lost my voice. He caught me off guard. I didn't think I'd ever have to see him again. Especially like this. Jose suddenly wrapped his arm around me, and smiled at John.
"Hi, I'm Jose. Are you a friend of Lynn? She never mentions you..." Jose shook John's hand.
John was just as confused as me. "Uh actually I'm her fiance."
I snapped and was suddenly angry. "Excuse me?"
"Lynn, I came to apologize. I made a stupid mistake and I want you back."
I stiffened and my expression grew cold. "Well I'm not coming back if that's what you're thinking."
John reached for my arm and Jose's grip tightened defensively. "That's exactly what I'm thinking. Lynn, everyone misses you. Your mom and dad...Melissa--"
"That bitch can go suck your dick for all I care. I'm done with you." Jose rubbed my arm soothingly to calm me down. "Good bye John," I finished.
He sighed and got back into the waiting cab without another word. After he drove off, Jose released me. I turned to face him.
"Why'd you do that?" I asked.
Jose smiled. "I didn't want him thinking you were lonely." He winked at me and walked off, whistling a tune.
I stared after him, silently. Maybe not all guys are bad...