I often find myself thinking back to a time when I worked for a summer walking the neighborhoods of Dallas, going door-to-door, asking concerned citizens to support a citywide curbside recycling program both with their signatures and a donation. I was good at the signatures, bad at the donations, and it’s a surprise that I held the job for the whole summer since I was paid based on the donations I received. I say I was bad at donations, which isn’t entirely correct. People gave, but instead of checks, they gave water or lemonade, or a few minutes inside their air-conditioned houses, though these small gifts had nothing to do with my salesmanship and everything to do with my health or what people perceived as my declining health. It was a brutally hot summer and I was required to wear a suit and tie, and I was not in the best shape of my life. Let me just say while not at the heaviest stage of my life, I was not far off it, either.
Most people, then, when they saw me at their door, sweat-stained and red-faced and hard-breathing, they invited me in before I even had a chance to say anything at all. They brought me inside and had me wait in their front hall while they poured me a glass of ice water or tea and judging by these quick glimpses inside these houses, no one in these neighborhoods could afford more than the bare essentials, and most were living just barely within their means, and while I could say that these signs of obvious scraping-by-ness made it difficult for me to really push these people for donations, or that they’re situation made them unwilling to give, the truth of the matter is my colleagues returned with packets full of checks and plainly I was and have always been a poor salesman.
One morning halfway through the summer, I found myself once again sweating in the middle of an elderly gentleman’s hallway. I say elderly. I was a young man in my early twenties, and no doubt he was maybe fifty, or just over, but even still, even now I can’t help but think of him as elderly. He had gone to the kitchen and then had come back with a cold can of beer in each hand. It wasn’t yet ten o’clock. I told him, I’m sorry, but I couldn’t, and he told me to come inside and have a seat, and not to worry since they were both for him. The rules were very clear on this point—not entering a person’s home even if invited, not engaging for lengthy conversations—but I had never been apt at rule-following, and the day ahead of me promised to be a brutal slog through a humid hi-90s day, so I followed him deeper into his house.
His living room was furnished with a patio chaise and two plastic lawnchairs. He took the chaise, laid himself out, took a large pull of one of the beers while he held the other one out. I took it, took a sip, sat uneasily in the plastic chair, unsure of its strength, my weight. He finished his beer in another large swallow and then stood up and padded into his kitchen and came back with two more, which he told me really were both for him, and which he finished before I’d finished my own. So far I hadn’t once mentioned anything about curbside recycling. I hadn’t said much of anything at all, in fact, but he didn’t seem to care and hadn’t said much either.
Half-finished with my beer and feeling increasingly uncomfortable, I was about to excuse myself when he dove into a long, rambling story, the gist of which centered around a six-month stint he pulled in Mexico City, where he’d gone because he had theory about Mexican girls, which took him six months to disprove. Then he told me he had some weed too and that it was upstairs in the attic. He told me that when he was married he would go smoke up there, but now that he wasn’t married, he still couldn’t quite break that habit. I told him that I didn’t smoke weed and he told me, Suit yourself, and stood up and walked out of the room and for reasons I don’t quite remember, I followed him.
The attic was empty of normal attic junk. It had a floor, and there was a small mattress laid out on the floor next to a window. I saw the bed and thought distressing thoughts and was about to back my way back down the attic ladder when he grabbed me by the scruff of my neck, not in a violent or difficult way, and pulled me the rest of the way in, then let go to slap me hard on the back, and then he plopped down on the mattress, pulled a tin box off a windowsill, pulled out papers and a baggie and rolled a joint.
The point to this story, I’ll tell you now, is this: I was waiting.
That was the time in my life when I was always waiting for something to happen.
He lit his joint and took a drag and coughed and took another drag. I waited for him to offer it to me, having decided I’d take it if he did, but he never did. Then he started talking about his ex-wife and how he used to play guitar and about how shitty it was to live in Dallas. He smoked his joint down to a roach and didn’t stop talking, until he started yawning and then he told he was going to take a nap and that it was nice of me to stop by. He laid down on the mattress. I walked back downstairs, grabbed my clip board, and then left.
Story by Manuel Gonzales
Photo by Emily Raw
- dunnraw reblogged this from whatstheworth and added:
- moaningatmidnight likes this
- bravoavocado likes this
- ordinarywonder likes this
- tumblrfiction reblogged this from whatstheworth
- whatstheworth posted this