Alex Davies brings you one of his many great short stories, The Tenant in Two-Sixteen.
It was early in the morning and I was excited. I had never lived alone before, I mean-sure, I’d lived away from home; away from my city and my family before… but never alone. I suppose it was a rite of passage for every bachelor – living away from the world – your own space and your own little hide-away. I guess it had always been a dream of mine to get away from everything, the bullies I grew up with, the people who just plain didn’t like me.
The landlord arrived in his pricey car and I looked at him a moment. He wore a pinstriped suit and gold jewellery even though gold was clearly not his colour. He was a tough looking man, who had so much testosterone coursing through him that his hair had slid to the sides of his head. He seemed to scream gangster to me but his fat money-counting fingers and his tacky jewellery could not compensate for his overly cowardly and lack-of-confrontational personality. He motioned to the house and I turned, waiting for him to let me in. My house. Well, nearly at least.
The house was a wreck, there was no other way to put it. An old nineteen-twenties terraced with a small front garden, which was taken up mostly by weeds and loose flags. A couple of old rusty bins stood beside the front door. He slid the key quickly into the door and I watched as he gave it a sharp kick at the base. ‘Sticks, this one.’ He opened it up and granted me access to a stairway, beside which was a door. He led me through a small lounge and into a kitchen/dining room. We sat at opposite sides of the small table and he passed a leasing agreement to me.
I looked at the contract; I would’ve read it too. But I’d have done anything to get away, anything for a new start. Lord knows I needed one. Sure the place was a wreck, the wallpaper was peeling because of the damp and the smell was… disturbing to say the least. But once the ink hit that page, the place was mine, my lease. Damp could be dealt with – air fresheners were invented for a reason. I was optimistic about the whole affair.
The pitfalls of the house itself seemed not to outweigh the alternatives, and with such short notice nowhere else was available. I wanted to move in the same day. I had had enough and left home. It was not that my family were particularly overbearing or vindictive – or anything bad like that. They just didn’t seem to understand. I was nearing thirty. I didn’t want to live with my parents and their fostered child – a case that to many would have been a lost cause. I just needed space. My wife had left me, well I say left. Really she had kicked me out and taken the house. But my son needed somewhere to live, and I felt he would rather live with her than me. Boys need their mothers after all.
I found it easier to leave, I didn’t go too far away but to the next city. For self preservation, if nothing else. I wouldn’t have wanted to have been there to endure the back-biting and gossiping that the situation would inevitably create. It just wasn’t worth it. I didn’t want to hear on the grape vine, all of those snidey little things that my friends would say about her or me or the pair of us. I didn’t want to see the regulars in my favourite pub look down on me. But most of all, most of all I didn’t want to listen to the patronising empathy of the people who cared about me. As if they thought they knew what had really happened. Their sympathy was misplaced, I knew it was my fault, people telling me it wasn’t or it was for the best? What the fuck did they know? How many of them were even married? No. Most of them had already been divorced and just assumed I felt the same bitter, spiteful way that they did. I didn’t. I just didn’t.
I guess it could have just been cowardice really. But I had a couple of good friends here. If ever I were to get lonely, I’d have been alright.