Tenants

by Larry Fondation

Written by Larry Fondation Photographed by Michael Clifford
She lives downstairs.

I notice her.

Rents come due.

It’s a big building; lots of us live here.

Most of us do not know each other.

I follow her around.

In our laundry room, I know her underwear:

Some pink, some black, some striped;

I ask her out.

Her color is coffee;

Her feet have high arches.

I am surprised she agrees.

We all bear eviction notices.

I have six tattoos;

I know nothing about her.

She may be Lebanese;

Or maybe not.

Perhaps she is Spanish.

Always she wears flip-flops;

Her toenails are red.

               **

The bar is in the basement;

She orders tequila and she takes my hand.

I ask for beer,

She squeezes hard;

Her fingernails break my flesh:

Small lines of blood, apropos of nothing, roll down my wrist;

I didn’t care before:

I want her now.

Her chocolate skin has me captive;

We owe a thousand dollars.

I could say goodnight,

Go upstairs to my apartment,

But I do not even consider the option;

She takes my hand,

I take hers;

We leave into the night.

We head to the next whiskey bar;

He follows us.

I want Sonia;

I want her badly.

I don’t know how much she wants me.

Our landlord follows us;

Amounts are due.

Late fees begin to accrue.

We leave surreptitiously—

To no avail.

               **

Blank Bar has no atmosphere,

But we order drinks.

Sonia stays with tequila;

I order another beer.

Dissonant music plays full blast;

The women wear few clothes;

Men pay to dance.

Our landlord is a player here:

He ties up all the Single Malt.

I have him figured out.

The Cramps blast on the jukebox,

Sonia and I exit by the bathrooms;

He is not stupid;

He follows us outside.

We have one more place we want to go—

Before we fall in love.

He does not understand;

He only wants his money;

I get it, but I do not agree.

I have owned a gun for years,

But I’ve never fired it once;

Merely saved it for just such an occasion,

One such as this.

Sonia smiles when I pull out the pistol.

I shoot our landlord in the throat.

I state at his face as he dies;

I use the flashlight app on my phone–

I get a better look:

He looks just like me.

Careful to remain bloodless,

I steal his wallet and his keys.

The wallet holds 500 cash–

About the keys I have a hunch.

Loot in hand, Sonia and I rush down the dark alley,

Just as gang gunfire bursts behind us.

               **

Back at our building,

My intuition proves correct:

The keys open the door of the top-floor apartment;

Of course, we’d never seen the place;

Sonia scratches my neck as I fumble with the lock:

I love the feeling,

But emotions lag impressions

Despite our instant times:

The remains of the last Plantagenet King,

Buried under a parking lot in Leicestershire,

Three cheers for the War of the Roses.

Inside my dead landlord’s apartment,

The place is full of wine –

Reds and whites, chilled and not;

We find the glasses, open a bottle and drink to his soul.

Sonia and I fuck on his king-sized waterbed,

Held over from a cooler time:

Celluloid-stricken,

Obsolete like coins,

The Face of God.

We stay up all of that first night,

Sonia and me,

Drinking and fucking,

Watching his movies.

It’s the first of the month –

In the morning,

A dead-ringer for the dead man,

I collect all the rents:

24 units,

Almost two thousand a pop,

A Tudor victory;

All is well.