1827 Sul Ross #1

Geist - - Contents - Vanessa Stauf­fer

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.

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