The Basement – Part Two
This would look like the first room of the basement, without all the junk in it. It’s the little stairs, half high, that does it. I can imagine the little water ditches and the different plywood in peeling paints all over.
Curtis seemed very intent on telling me everything he expected me to do while I stayed in his apartment. I needed to play with his niece whenever she came over, that was the most important part and repeated over and over. I had to make sure the upkeep was tip-top on all the dolls of his collection. I needed to make sure no one stole the ukulele parts. I could move the couches and the bed around, but I had to keep them here. I could add whatever I wanted to the collection, if I so desired, but the collection and the apartment would always be considered his, so no selling of anything.
“I don’t mean to be rude Curtis, but I am not a caretaker, a museum collector, or any kind of collector . I am renting a place to work as writer, and I am not really up to all of these demands.” I stood up and started walking back the way I came.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” He said this really fast, and came over to me again, putting his hand on my shoulder. “Just one thing, promise me one thing, if my niece comes over, you will play with her one last time. Do that, that one little thing for me?” He had tears in the corner of his eye, and I could feel something strangely desperate about it.
Maybe it was the whole shebang of weirdness, maybe it was the moment of tenderness I felt for another human in a bad situation. I was a little overwhelmed at the whole idea of the place, I was in over my head, but I said,” Ok… I promise one last time for her.”
It was like an Alvin and the Chipmunks version of Tony the Tiger burst out of his mouth. “GurrrrrRRReeeeat! I can go to Paris!” I am not even exaggerating, he started doing some strange dance waving his hands around and bending at the waist, but it was obvious he was happy.
Much to my relief, for the most part, the weirdness was over. He proceeded to grab loads of baggage that was already packed, was helped out in three trips by Bill the maintenance guy, and handed me my keys as he left. He pinched my cheek like a grandmother would, reminded me I had promised, and left. I sat on the couch and blew out a huge sigh.
Bill came back in and was very nice to me. One of the walls in the strange room was actually a roll up door separating my room from another storage room of the hotel, full of actual hotel furnishings. He said I could help myself from this room, all day long, as the supervisor was on vacation until tomorrow, and had no clue what was in or out. He also strung a phone in, advised me no long distance calls, dial 9 to get out,and the phone was free. I soon had desk set up with a typewriter and paper, a coffee table, and all the hotel accouterments a man could ask for. You know, towels, wash cloths, soap, shampoo, coffee and such.
Then it got a little weird again.
“Ok look, once I roll this door down, it don’t come up again, ever. Them other rooms we passed through are yours to use, all the stuff is yours, as long as you do what you promised, you won’t have any problems. Curtis lived here 40 years bef….”
“40 years! He couldn’t! This hotel opened up last fall!”
“Ohhhh yeah, well… That’s why this door stays shut, it goes under the street to the next hotel. Curtis lived here before this hotel was built. Look, I got to get back to work, you ok now?”
That same tension was in him again, the one that had watched me while I waited to get the room. Again I was being forced along some path I didn’t understand, or necessarily liked, but again, I had no real idea of knowing what to do at the time. I nodded and thanked him, figuring it was time to get settled into this place anyways. I took a few minutes washing my face and just looking at all the stuff.
Actually, it was two hours later when a knock was at my door. Ernestine had come back with my duffel bag from the car, and inquired what had happened. She mentioned how no one ever saw Curtis much, and that no one ever came down here anyways, much less a child. I calmed down, begged a few dollars off of her until payday, and got ready for work that evening.
I worked as a cashier in gas station part-time over nights. I really had a hard time concentrating, as the events that had given me my first place in Denver were strange, bewildering, but seemed just that, just weird, no rhyme nor reason to its circumstances. Dawn broke and I found myself walking back to my new place, dead tired after being up all night and all day. I walked in the hotel, past absolutely no one, down all the stairs and paths, and finally collapsed in heap on the bed, not even changing clothes. I was asleep in about 10 seconds.
…and woke up in a cold sweat, heart beating fast, breathing erratic. I was panicked and didn’t know why, but had a feeling of hearing a loud scream, a girl’s high-pitched scream. I was freezing as well, like it was winter just outside the walls. I could even see a bit of frost in the air from my breath, as I had left the lights on when I fell asleep after work.
I calmed down, grabbed a blanket around myself and mumbled and grumbled some cuss words. Damn hard time to sleep, damn cold for summer, damn damn damn. I slowly fell back asleep, the clock saying it was 9 in the morning, and I had only slept for 3 hours. Right about the time I knew I was asleep, I heard a door click. I had a dream of my grandmother putting me to sleep when I was little, muttering about how tired I was, and feeling her tuck the blankets in around me. Probably the first dream I ever remembered having right after I fell asleep.