“REAL ESTATE” by CARL GERCAR

I’ve purchased a house on the west side of Chicago. I think you would like it. It’s very charming.

I only got the house on the west side because it’s so charming and I thought you’d like it. There was a house south of Waukegan that I liked more. It had better foundations and I know the neighborhood. Or I knew the neighborhood, it changes every few years. The leaves get orange and red and brown and fall off and dust away, and the people get older and crazier and start voting Republican, and the places I loved are demolished or covered in graffiti by some kids that don’t see the world like we did. Then we grew out of passenger-seat romances and into homebody holidays. We thinned out and shrank up and took up more room than we needed but less room than we wanted.

You didn’t re-sign the lease to our apartment in Waukegan. I know that because I saw you walking your dog on the west side of Chicago. I bought the house that same day. The garage has enough room for my car and your car and maybe a little art studio. I don’t know if you still paint or not. I haven’t tried to find out, and no one will tell me anything about you anyway.

I think people are concerned that I’m losing it.

I spent the last week drunk in my bed writing a manifesto declaring my intent to marry you and overthrow the government. I write it all in red ink and make corrections in pencil so I can forget them later. I’m copying most of it from notes I jotted down on napkins in a McDonald’s parking lot at three in the morning strung out on pills and muttering to myself in broken French. The cops came and arrested me but I flashed my White Privilege Card and asked them if they couldn’t just give me my drugs back because I have problems to avoid. They wrote me a prescription for self-worth and dropped me off at the pharmacy. I didn’t tell them that I don’t have medical insurance. They didn’t ask.

I got the prescription filled anyway. It sits on the toilet next to the last picture we took together.

When I have sexual partners over, they ask me about it. I tell them to ignore it, like me, and they usually do without hesitation. I think that’s supposed to bother me but it just makes me more comfortable with casual sex, which can be awkward sometimes. The house I bought has a lot of rooms though so I have plenty of space to be awkward. That’s important to me. It didn’t used to be. Lots of things I didn’t care about are of consequence to me now.

Things change a lot when you finally grow up.

When I saw you the other day I thought, “wow she looks like a woman,” but that’s what you are and what you ought to look like. It would be a lot more interesting if you looked like a tiger, or an overpriced bed frame, or a flaming bag of dog shit. Then I would tell my friends, “so I saw a flaming bag of dog shit walking down the road right by the house I just bought on the west side of Chicago,” and it’d sound like something I might say if I was a lot more interesting.

I didn’t tell anyone I was moving. They wouldn’t understand.

They don’t get caught up in little parts of life anymore. They have husbands and wives and careers and new dreams, affordable dreams, sensible dreams. They think about their future and they think about their families and they think about doing the right thing. They don’t think about stealing books or breaking into exotic sports cars or smoking cigarettes on top of restricted access buildings.

I almost called you from my roof the other day to sing you Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin and Edith Piaf. I am a very sensitive man and I wanted you to know and I wanted you to come in my home and have a bottle of wine and watch me be a whole new person. You never answer though, so I figured I’d just wait up here until I see you walk by again.

Then I’ll think, “oh there’s that beautiful woman looking like a woman ought to,” and I’ll have a pull from my wine and light a cigarette as you dip over the horizon, and I’ll shimmy down the drainpipe and wave to my neighbor and climb into bed, with my ashtray and my empty bottles and my scribbled pages in my charming home on the west side of Chicago.

I think you’d really like me now, if you knew me. I think you’d call me thoughtful and open and different. I think you’d move into my house and I think I’d finally be happy.

I know I’m trying, at least. I think you’d like that.