A Short Story: The House I Live In
She swallowed, closing her eyes to savor the taste.
“How is it?” Myles asked.
“It's fine. A bit salty.”
“You say that about everything. You know, the cheeseburgers at this bar are the best around, Fi.” Myles took a sip from his Miller Light. “How was work?”
“It was fine. Didn't have much to do, just sent emails and made phone calls. I need the bathroom. Where is it?” Fiona asked.
“Behind the curtain over there.”
She walked towards the bathroom. Myles sat at the table and drank his beer. The bar was dim. The walls were covered with photographs of sports players and cars from the 1950's. The furniture was wooden.
She walked back to the table.
“You finished with your food? I'll get the check.” Myles said, signaling to the waiter.
“Yeah, I'm done. That burger was big.”
Myles paid and they left the bar. The wind was cold and there was nobody around. Across the street were a few nice restaurants and a convenience store.
“Do we need anything?” he asked. He lit up a cigarette and handed one to Fiona.
“No? The store or the smoke?”
“You sure? Didn't we need milk?”
“No. Let's just go home.”
They walked past the nice restaurants and down a side street. It was dark. Nobody was around. Fiona slid her hand into Myles'.
“No need to be scared,” he said.
“But it's dark.”
“You never know who might be hiding in these places.”
“It's not that bad here.”
“Why did we have to sell the car?” she asked, tugging at Myles' hand. He said nothing.
Myles and Fiona walked through the back street and onto a main road. Traffic lights flashed and car headlights lit everything up. It was late. The lights inside the houses were going out one by one.
“I'm tired,” she said.
“We're almost home. You want one?” Myles asked. He lit up another cigarette.
“You smoke too much.”
“It keeps me calm.”
“But you're always calm.”
“It's because of the cigarettes.”
“You're going to quit soon, right?”
“No. You are.”
They walked down the main road. Fiona began to yawn. Myles put his arm around her. He inspected the cars parked along the curb.
“Look at that Passat,” he said.
“Looks like the one we used to have.”
“Except it's shinier.”
“My dad bought me a shiny car in high school, you know,” she said.
“Yes, you've told me this before.”
“It was a bright yellow Beetle. All my friends used to squeeze in on the weekends and we'd go to the beach. I sold it, though, to buy my graduation dress.”
“Yeah, you looked good that day.”
“Of course I remember.”
“You've got a good memory. Just like my dad. You know, you should call my dad.”
“I talked to him the other night.”
“No, about helping you look...”
“Fi, I can do it myself. Just give it time.” he said.
“How much more time do you need?”
“It's not up to me, is it?”
“Don't talk to me like this, Myles. It's not me who doesn't...”
“Okay, okay. Sorry.” he said. He kissed her on the forehead.
They reached the front entrance of their apartment. Cigarette butts lay all over the floor. The door was wooden, with a large crack from one corner to the other. Myles opened the mail box.
“We need to get that door fixed, soon.”
“I know we do. I'll call the landlord tomorrow.”
“You sure you don't want me to do it at work?”
“No. I'll do it.”
They walked into their apartment. Fiona went straight for the bathroom.
“It's so messy in here,” she said.
“I didn't get a chance to clean up today.”
“I was busy.”
“Stop wasting time. Just ask my dad. He'll help.”
“I'm not wasting time. I'm just waiting for the right one,” he said.
“You're so lazy.”
Fiona flushed the toilet and went into the living room. There were pillows on the floor and papers everywhere. Myles' guitar stood in the far corner, dusty and next to the window. The old heating fixture was creaking. A tall black lamp slanted over the old black couch. Empty bowls that once held cereal were piled on the coffee table. The television was on.
“Has this been on the whole time?” she asked.
“No. I just turned it on.”
“Are the dishes washed?”
“No. I'm in the bathroom,” he said, flushing the toilet. “You want me to do the dishes?”
“Yes. I'm going to take a bath.”
“It's so cold in this apartment. Can we get the heater fixed, Myles?”
“Is it not working?”
Fiona went into the bathroom and ran the water. Myles walked into the kitchen and began to wash the dishes.
“Myles, where is the bubble bath stuff?”
“In the closet, I think.”
“Check behind the mirror.”
“Why would it be there?”
“You never know.”
“I'm sick of this.”
“What do you mean?”
“This house. The bills. Nothing works. I can't find anything. I'm so sick of this.”
“Fi...” Myles walked towards the bathroom.
Fiona turned towards him, furious.
“I just want a bubble bath. Is it so much to ask for? I work every day and I come home to this.
The dishes are never washed. The living room is a mess. I can't find my bubble bath.”
“You're always sorry!”
“But there's nothing I can do.”
“No. You're just too lazy.”
Myles walked back to the kitchen to finish cleaning the dishes.
“Fi, I'm going for a cigarette,” he said.
“Okay. I found the bubble bath stuff.”
“Behind the mirror.”
Myles grabbed the keys and his pack of cigarettes and left the apartment. He looked back at the cracked door. He sighed, lit up and sat on the pavement. It was cold. He zipped his jacket, right up to his neck. He exhaled and looked down at his shoes. He was wearing a pair of Nike's which Fiona had bought him a few months before. They were white and shiny when she had first brought them home. Now they were dirty and had a hole in the front. He exhaled again, blowing a cloud of smoke into his eyes.
“Ouch,” he thought to himself.
After he had finished smoking, he walked back into the apartment. Fiona was still in the bath. She was singing now.
“Did you make that up?” he asked.
“Who's it by?”
“What's that song called?”
“The House I Live In.”
“I like it.”
Myles sat down on the living room couch and switched on the television. The heater was still creaking. Fiona walked in.
“What you watching?” she asked.
Fiona sat down on the couch, next to Myles. She lay her head against his lap.
“You must be getting tired” he said. He ran his fingers through her hair.
“Why don't you go to bed?”
“I will, soon.”
“You won't be able to get up tomorrow morning.”
“Yes I will. I always do.”
Myles and Fiona watched television together for a while. Afterwards, she fell asleep on his lap. Myles couldn't sleep. He looked up at the ceiling and stared. The ceiling was dusty and beginning to turn grey from mold. I should wipe that, he thought to himself. He looked down at Fiona. She was fast asleep. She had fallen asleep on his lap many times before, but this time he watched her for a bit. After a while, he fell asleep too. At 5 a.m Myles woke up. It was still dark outside, but he could hear the neighbors beginning to get out of bed. A large garbage truck drove by. He stood up. He walked into the kitchen and put the kettle on the stove. Then he went into the bathroom and took a shower.
“Fi, time to get up!” he yelled.
After his shower, Myles walked into the living room and found Fiona awake.
“Good morning,” he said.
“You've got work soon.”
“I know. I'll go take a shower now. What's your plan today?”
“I'm going to tidy.”
“Really?” she asked.
Fiona went into the bathroom and turned on the shower. The kettle began to whistle. Myles went into the kitchen and turned the stove off. He took out two cups and made coffee. He took a sip and looked outside the kitchen window. The sun was beginning to rise. Light streamed into the house through the windows. Myles drank his coffee quickly, then took the other cup into the living room. He placed it on the dinner table.
“Are you almost done?”
“I'm going for a cigarette.”
Myles took his cigarettes out of his drawer and put on his shoes. He walked towards the front door and reached for the handle. He stopped.
“When did you buy me these shoes?” he asked.
“Which ones?” Fiona said from the shower.
“The Nike ones.”
“I can't remember. A while ago. Right before your last gig. Why?”
Myles stopped again, still staring at his shoes. He put his hand in his pocket and pulled out his cigarettes, then walked back into the living room. He placed the cigarettes down on the dining table, next to the cup of coffee.
“I'm going to change,” he said.
“I thought you were going out?”
“Yes, after I change.”