My crack-daddy neighbor is moving out this week. No, no, not the sex couple (who would not meet my eyes at the Publix the other day, do they read my blog? Do they know my name? Have I been walking around in my altogether too much?) who live across the courtyard. This is the person who lives right across the hall, my closest neighbor who has been there for years. When I moved in the apartment manager warned me about him, saying that he was an alcoholic but a harmless one, and may sometimes park halfway over in my spot. This is all true. Sometimes he does park halfway over in my spot, but I'm just glad he made it home. Melvin's (not his real name) apartment is a bachelor pad de-lux. There are velvet paintings of black panthers and leopards on the walls and heavy dark blue and maroon rugs stapled to the hardwood floors. Ashtrays shaped like wild psychedelic glass vaginas share space on small rickety tables with lamps filled with shells and scented candles half burned down and blown out. One time he invited me over to see a painting a woman he knew had just given to him. It was in the bedroom, hanging next to his bed, and showed the headless (I imagine this is more from the limitations of the painter rather than a stylistic choice) intertwined bodies of a man and a woman floating in a green and red (bed? sky? Christmas sex cloud?) background. The man, he pointed out, was him. He was quite flattered and pleased. And what man wouldn't be? The painter may have had no talent for hands, head, or feet, but she had a fine and clear memory for cock. Melvin is somewhat of an ambassador of the apartment complex, he has a wonky-eyed charisma and an easy laugh that has made him an acquaintance, if not a friend of all who live here. I have only met a handful of my neighbors but Melvin knows each and every one. Somehow he is harmless, even when he knocked on my door one day, a pair of my panties pressed tight to his face and making noises of pleasure, I knew that he was simply returning something I dropped in the laundry shack and not being stalkerish or creepy. This is his gift. For a while he had his sister living with him. They seemed to do fine for a while until he brought a lady home. The lady was bottle blond and had a hard life living in her face, but her eyes were freaky blue and I could see the beauty she had been. She wore clothes better suited to a college girl with loose morals and looked like the entire town of Panama City, FL wrapped up in one tired body. She and the sister did not get along. They all drank, they all fought, sometimes the cops were called. Melvin seemed bewildered and frustrated at his lot in life and I could tell he was not a man who enjoys having two bickering women living under his roof, upsetting the peace and strewing their flea market potpourri around his living room. The sister left in the night, knocking on my door one final time and having a talk with me in the hallway. She was drunk out of her mind and her body had loosened to a point where it appeared she had no bones and her face moved in such a way that it seemed she had mice roiling around under her skin. She talked on and on about how she was worried about Melvin, how he could get in trouble, how this woman would bring him down, and how now that their mom had passed she (the sister) was all he has. She clutched at my arms and begged me to keep an eye on him. She insinuated that something sinister beyond my imagination (because I am a good girl) was going on over there. I didn't like the feel of her hands, it felt like something sinister was going on in her body, and I kept carefully taking them off of me and placing them on her own shoulders, her arms crossed so that she could hold herself in and not go spilling out onto the floor. I told her that it was none of my business, and wished her well. Melvin kicked out his blue-eyed girl a few weeks later after her mom and daughter moved in. I suppose he realized that was not an improvement. I was not sad to see them go, they were always stealing my mop bucket. But now Melvin is moving out, the cold has driven him away. Our apartments do not have central heating, they have giant crackling radiators that are our responsibility to light. I had to have my Superman Brother-In-Law come help me with mine as it is tricky and scary and really a two man job. I tried to help Melvin with his, but no matter which of the two tasks I gave him he just couldn't get it and I left him there in the cold. I felt bad about that, but he's lived here longer than I have and I thought for sure one of his friends could come do what I could not, but next thing I know he's signed a lease for a one bedroom in a newer complex, one in which the heat is central and the utilities are included. Melvin is not a man who needs to be playing with fire, and I believe he knows his limitations. He will be fine. He'll move his portrait and his velvets, he'll tear the rugs from the floors (or not) and cart the ashtrays and the lamps and the coasters and recliners and framed pictures of his mama and President Obama across town and crank that heat. He'll sit back in his leather chair with his radio on in nothing but a tank top and tube socks, light a joint and raise a glass of amber oblivion, and laugh that crazy rooster cackle at his supreme good fortune, at his new bachelor pad deluxe. And I know, because he told me, that he will revel in the fact that it is only a ONE bedroom, and there is not space enough for any sisters, mothers, or daughters to move in. I'm sorry Baby, he'll say, this is our love nest. Your moms has got to go. Here's to you, Melvin. You will be missed.
Rugs hold onto dirt and catch your high heels. I have no time for rugs, let's roll them on up. Let's throw some sawdust on the floor. Let's put some music on. Let's wake the children, rouse the neighbors, and see who has the rhythm in 'em. It's time to dance.