by Christopher Bacas
When the real estate agent parked in front of the office it was dark; an August day dwindling to eighty-five humid degrees. Air conditioners whirred and dripped from upstairs windows. He got out and stood by the stairs, tie and shirt collar crisp and taut above his suit jacket. In waves of steamy funk, his rectitude and wardrobe contrasted our clammy sandals, shorts and sundress. We entered the railroad first floor of a row house. The entryway was dark, on the right, two bare work desks. Next off the hall, a dining room table with neatly tucked, high backed chairs. The manager, Michael, handled the lease. Our agent sat quietly.
We'd been at these tables before. Something always derailed the deal. Once, ready to sign, Beth mentioned I was a musician. That manager slid the lease out from under her hands. Then, he hustled her out of the building. Another management office, Orthodox-run, gave us keys and an address to visit. When we got there, the front door of the brownstone swung back. Inside,a battered staircase listed to the right. Up the stairs, smells of stewing meat, garlic and ammonia. Boleros blasted through a chipped door. The third floor unit was wide open. On the door, the marshal's eviction notice peeled under a graffiti tag. Inside the unit, moretags covered every wall. Garbage bags, smashed appliances and shards of glass spread the floors. In the bathroom, a dead bird swam with crack vials in a scarred tub. The toilet, a cornucopia of trash. I laughed at first. By the time I got to the car, anger dripped out of my pores.
"It looks great!"I told the young Orthodox woman in the office.
She was blasé; never bothering to look up while pulling a clipboard with paperwork affixed.
"You need to fill out an application. We need three references, six months of pay stubs and twelve months of cancelled rent checks. There's a credit check,too. Forty dollars."
I spit out "Place is a DISASTER! Garbage and graffiti everywhere. Dead animals! The front door doesn't have a lock."