“Ah, Paul,” says the landlord when he opens his door, “haven’t seen you for a while. How’s things?”
“Yeah, you know,” I say.
The landlord and I look at each other. I have no clue what our relationship is meant to be.
“Erm, I seem to have mislaid the key to my apartment,” I say.
The landlord rolls his eyes. He looks like that hunchback guy from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, only his hair is gray.
“Wait a minute,” he says and heads back into his apartment.
I stand outside his door. The dim hallway smells like boiled vegetables. A murmur of voices undulates, punctuated by screams and gunshots from televisions. Some guy to my left coughs up his lungs.
“Here we go,” the landlord says when he returns.
“Thanks,” I say and take the keychain he offers.
I turn and walk away.
“Paul,” the landlord calls.
“Paul, you okay?” he asks.
“Yeah, fine,” I say. “Why?”
“You seem edgy.”
“I guess I need some sleep. Haven’t been getting much lately.”
“Later,” I say and walk away.
I sweat. Am out of breath. There is no logic to this place. I have walked up and down stairs and corridors for twenty minutes. I cannot find Paul’s apartment. People hang out all over the place. They greet me. I have no idea who they are. I greet back. They ask me where I am going. I tell them I am exercising. They laugh.
I turn another corner and walk down another grim corridor. The cracked numbers on doors are all wrong. I panic. I feel trapped in a maze. Claustrophobic. I need out. Where is the stairwell?
It was back there. There.
As I skip down the flights of stairs it feels like the building collapses around me. I try move faster but slip, then roll down stairs. I get up, eventually outrun the steps and burst into the open world. Hands on my knees, I retch. The phone in my pocket rings.
“Hello,” I say then wipe the vomit from my mouth with my sleeve.
“Yo, Jerry. How we doing?”
“You in yet?”
“No, man. I can’t find his apartment.”
“What you mean?”
“This place is a maze. I can’t find his apartment.”
“You stupid or something?”
“Stay where you are. I’ll send Moses.”
“How do you know where…” but he is already off.