1827 Sul Ross #1
Vanessa Stauffer is the author of a chapbook, Cosmology (dancing girl press & studio), and a 2016 recipient of a Writers' Works in Progress grant from the Ontario Arts Council.
Had hardwoods and crown moulding
I thought I could afford. I signed the lease, sick of driving everything I owned down every street, a stack of scratched-out Greensheets like a ledger of the city’s mildewed studios & flimsy gates, each backyard bungalow adrift in weeds. In one, new glass in a window overlooked a sagging fence, chain-link wrapped with kudzu from the wooded lot behind. The landlord’s sheepish grin.
Last month someone broke in. He took a shower, ate some leftovers out of the fridge.
Good thing she wasn’t home. What do you think?
I told the first lie of my rental history:
I’d think about it. On Sul Ross, 1827 sat high above the street, above the flood that took out half the block last spring.
The landlord’s wife showed me the ornate scrolls that made the windows safe. Deadbolts, front & rear. A church across the street.
The girls across the hall are sweet. Upstairs we have an Oriental but don’t worry— she stopped having company. I don’t know why this closet smells like this—i think the girl before smoked pot. She was Mexican.
What will you study at the university?
English, I said. My mother studied English.
Did she teach? A laugh. Teach? Honey, she married money. Her husband owned this place. At least this block’s still safe.
The price that one must pay. I moved right in. By winter, they’d turned off the heat.
I could barely pay the rent. Mrs. Pimlott changed the locks. I moved in with a friend.
When I walked by in spring the guy next door wondered where I’d been & had I heard about the tenant after me?
She’d been raped & beaten in her bed.
Such mercy in regret: that I lived to tell you my mistakes.