SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
July 4, 2010

The Bunker Under Siege

 

On Friday, some old and dear friends from Philly—David and Jane—came up to Brooklyn to catch the J.G. Thirlwell show in Prospect Park. That night they stayed with me, making them the first house guests I’ve hosted (apart from Morgan) in some twelve or fourteen years.

            Well, on Saturday morning we had some breakfast at a grubby little diner down the street, then headed back to my place, as they needed to hit the road back to Philly. As we entered the building, though, we ran into my landlord, who was heading outside with a throw rug heavy with dust and debris. There had been some workmen in the building for the previous few days, banging and sawing away in the empty apartment beneath mine. I wasn’t sure what they were doing there, given that the apartment had been empty for several years, but it was neither here nor there. There always seemed to be someone working on something in that place.

            As we passed my landlord, however, and after I made the introductions, she stopped me.

            “I need to talk to you later,” she said.

            “All right,” I replied.

            As David, Jane and I headed upstairs, I got a cool feeling in my gut. I was afraid I already knew what she wanted to talk to me about. It wasn’t the rent and it wasn’t a maintenance issue. It was far more terrifying.

            After David and Jane headed on their way, I sat down at the machine and got back to work. And sure enough, it wasn’t ten minutes later before I heard a light knocking on the door. I creaked out of my chair, opened the door, and my landlord stepped inside. She seemed nervous.

            The first words out of her mouth were, “The house went on the market yesterday.”

            I tried not to shriek. I knew this day had to come eventually. In fact for the last few months I was getting the idea it would be coming sometime soon. While there is no good time for something like this (at least the way I see it), this particular time was particularly awful. Money was tighter than it had been in awhile, my sister was coming to visit in a week and a half, and I was up against some typically brutal deadlines. The last thing I wanted to deal with at the moment was having my home sold out from beneath me.

            I think my landlord knew this would be very bad news, and when she told me there was a strong hint of apology in her voice. Now, I adore my landlord. She’s a sweetheart. I got very lucky when I took this place twenty years ago, and to this day my rent has remained well below market for this neighborhood. I’ve never had to worry about maintenance or repairs—in fact she’s taken regular steps to improve the building. She’s even made the place as blind-friendly as possible without my ever asking. I may be the only tenant in this city who has no landlord horror stories to tell.

            I’m comfortable and safe up here in the bunker. I know the sidewalks. I can get where I’m going. It took me almost that full twenty years to build up those detailed maps in my head. May not care much for the people I run into on those sidewalks, but I always have this place waiting for me. When I consider the idea of being cast out there after all this time to bumble about with the cane trying to find a new apartment, well, terms like “soul-sucking dread” and “mind-numbing horror” come close, but still don’t quite capture the full depth of the nightmare.

            I don’t blame the landlord for any of this. She’s been warning me for years this day might come. I know full well what her circumstances are and why she has to sell the place (only part of it being tenants like me who refuse to move and pay rent far below market). And since breaking the news she’s been as kind and as helpful as anyone while I quietly fret.

            Most people see, either fill me with doleful tales about the possibilities, or tell me I can’t be thrown out if I’m rent-controlled and leave it at that. Well, we’ll see.

            There are a couple of real possibilities here, as I see it. If the fuckers who buy it decide to leave the apartments as apartments and collect rent, well, I might have a chance even if my rent takes a precipitous leap toward Jesus. On the other hand, the fuckers might just as easily decide to convert the place into a co-op or a condo (I’ve honestly never known the difference). Not being the most cooperative of fellows, I don’t think I would last long. They might go whole hog, deciding they want the entire goddamn place to themselves, so their five little fucking cretin children can have room to play.

            My one vague hope—and I hate to play this trump card—is that whatever fucker does buy it would be worried about the onslaught of bad press that would follow their throwing an old blind guy out on his ass. Or better yet, a World-Renowned Author and Blind Guy. But of course if they ever bothered to read anything I’ve written, well, there goes that.

            No, the best hope of all is that the real estate slump continues unabated, and nobody at all buys the place until I die. Figuring I can’t exactly count on the vagaries of the economy to work to my advantage (they never, ever have), the current plan goes something like this:  Every time the realtor brings some fucker to look at the house, I’m going to sit naked in the doorway of my apartment, clutching a shotgun and surrounded by empty Schaefer cans. (Morgan has suggested picking up a rocking chair and an ol’ coon dog named “Skeet” as well.)

            Of course Morgan won’t let anything too awful happen to me. Should the fuckers win in the end as they almost always do, and should I be cast out blind and near-penniless into this ugly, ugly world, well, I could just go live at her place until we find a house of our own.

            But I don’t think I’ll mention that to anybody. The shotgun plan suits me just fine.

 

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