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  • We were at the edges of the blur. If I'm going to put this into words for one of the final times you're coming into that space with me.

    (Watch your shoes...even though this is a true story, there's still a lot of other people's shit around here)

    My wife, my healing daughter (yeah, she survived her cancer) and I moved from the kindness of family into the life of managing University apartments for a family of fucking psychotics. A dust-farting pair of youth hating, prejudice maniacs (the wife teetering precariously into the grinning maw of a rabid senility) owned the prefab gulag. Their one-armed, mother-loving son (a genius who managed to lose his arm by sticking it into the blade of a fan boat...go figure) helped to maintain it.

    The job was a quick stab into grey-line illegality. We were pretty much forced to do things that were questionable at best. We could not leave the premises unless someone else was there to watch the inmates...but there was rarely anyone available to do so. Alcohol was prohibited (although we quickly turned our backs on that rule) and fraternization of ANY kind was grounds for eviction.

    And this wasn't even a property of the University in question. These were the rules of the owners. We were ordered to never be too specific about these rules due to a fear of the ACLU.

    That's just part of it...I won't go into the 1-armed mother-lover chasing tenants with a pipe-wrench, spying on some of the women's apartments or his acts of vandalism on cars in the parking lots and parking garage. Or wife/owner throwing senile tantrums full of such personal bile that even I was nearly driven to tears a time or two. One of their own children, pulled back into the family business to help us "get adjusted", quit in a tantrum and disowned his family. Had I been in a better place I really would have sued them out of existence...but when it came time to leave, we had to do it in stealth. Quickly. It was like a jailbreak. The inmates gathered to help, they even brought gifts.

    We drove away in a moving truck during one of the worst snow storms of the year.

    That describes the clear spots in the blur.

    What you came to read has nothing to do with clarity. You want to peer down into the pit of doom from the safety of your screens. Fair enough...

    Welcome voyeurs, I'll be your host.

    Summer. Sputtering air conditioning in the small management office, it's large window looking into prison style common areas of the building. No one moved. It was summer after all. Most of the students were gone and a rogue acting troop had moved in for their annual run at the University.

    My wife was out with our daughter, hopefully running wild somewhere in a moment of rare freedom.

    The phone rang. I thought hard about answering it...gut instinct told me not to - I ignored gut instinct.

    Tenant R - a pain in my ass from day one. I'd worked hard to strike some kind of truce with him. He never made trouble or did anything wrong, he just wanted what he paid for to work correctly. The one-armed man wanted him evicted...I refused.

    Tenant R rambled on the phone about noises, sounds, scratching...things I didn't understand. It was obvious he was not quite correct in the head. I did a very quick mental inventory and realized his roommates were out of town. With a troubled sigh I told him I'd be right up, spun the hands on the "Be Right Back" plastic window clock to show 10-minutes, locked the office and climbed the three stories to his apartment.

    A dark, hot mess. Tenant R wasn't well.

    He had his window blinds pulled. He had the air conditioning off. Clothes everywhere and a smell I didn't quite recognize...turned out to be a clogged food disposal.

    Tenant R had the A/C off because he thought something was in it. He'd heard scratching, voices, pounding. I turned it on, he retreated to his orderly room and closed the door. There were no scratches, poundings, voices. I knocked and told him it was fine. He didn't answer.

    Back in the office, 30 minutes later the phone rang.

    He was rambling again. He asked me to bless him. I told him I could not bless him. He paused, I could hear the A/C blowing in the background.

    "I'm sorry you can't help me" he said. "I really wish you could help me" and the line clicked silent.

    An internal nagging kicked in. I even began flipping through his file, suspecting it might be a good idea to call his parents. But Tenant R was nearly 30 years-old...calling his emergency contact was not exactly called for. Police? Why? He was acting weird...but...

    I heard my wife and daughter come home and life swept the nagging to a background mumble. Tenant R was banished from my conscious thought for 3 days.
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