It probably started long before Le-a Simpkins came into my life but she certainly was the turning point. I shouldn’t have rented her the apartment, especially since even our introduction was disastrous once I called her Le-a, pronouncing it as Leah.
“Ledasha,” she corrected me, looking at me as though I was an idiot, “the dash is silent.”
That was the only silent thing about Le-a Simpkins. She never shut a door when she could slam it. Her friends would come visiting at every hour after all the residents of The Windsor Apartments were sleeping and they would blare horns and holler, causing endless complaints from tenants.
And of course she never paid her rent. The eviction notice went on her door and I found it sitting on my doorstep, cat feces wrapped in it. I refused to face off with her and demanded someone from the management company handle it. They did by showing up with the sheriff.
So when Le-a Simpkins finally left my life, she left at 3am while I was asleep, but first she went into the flower beds and uprooted all my lovely rosebushes and left them on the floor of her empty apartment with upturned ashtrays and fecal matter spread on the walls.
“This isn’t my life,” I told my best friend Min.
“What do you mean?”
I could hear background noises. “What’s Pat doing?”
“Patton is being jealous.” Min’s voice is naturally low; she has a brown sugar kind of voice. But she lowered her voice further, I almost wanted to put my feet up and wrap her voice around me like a blanket. “He’s pretending that he doesn’t care that I’m on the phone with you but he’s doing it as loudly as possible.”
“He shouldn’t be jealous of me. I’m just a big nobody in the middle of nowhere and with no roses.”
“Kate, are you crying?”
“Would you be surprised that I’m capable of tears?”
“I would be scandalized.” And she made me laugh. Min can always make me laugh, no matter what. The best thing I ever did was email her about a recipe she put on GoodCooks.com. That started an email chain which became almost daily phone calls that were probably the only thing that made my world as bright as rosebushes and freshly baked bread.
“Maybe I’ll move to Greece.” I said that daily. It had been Italy for years but pictures of the white washed houses on rocky terrain had swayed me from the desire of pasta and olive oil and Tuscany.
“Maybe I should go with you.” And Min said that daily too.
When Patton complained of a hunger only Min could quench, after our goodbyes were said and I was alone in my apartment knowing Le-a Simpkins was gone, a sudden crushing feeling came and stole my breath.
Because this wasn’t my life. Living in a one bedroom apartment that was free as long as I performed management duties while a part time job paid for the rest of my life, my small inheritance left from my mother sitting in the bank gathering it’s pennies of interest as I gathered more years staring at dingy walls and uprooted plants.
I had traveled with my mother long ago and hated being away from what was familiar but getting older and I realized that the familiar was stifling me, my life was slamming doors and tenant complaints and goddamn it, when had I forgotten how to be happy?
It was crazy. I paced in my rent-free, beige carpeted, white walled apartment and thought that out there somewhere was a place where you could see the Sea from your front door, where the colors were vivid and Le-a’s didn’t have silent dashes and something inside me felt like a bubble about to pop.
It was time to get brave. And I was terrified.