Good Enough

The sponge lying on the floor of the tub is unattractive. It is still relatively new, but its shape is unappealingly squat and it has sooty stains on it, as if someone has been scrubbing rust crumbs off their body.

It is leftover, this sponge, from previous tenants. It is incredibly absorbing, I find, when I get in the shower and begin to use it. Some people would find this disgusting. My roommate would tell me off, like she does when I pee and don’t wash my hands. She is a neat freak, putting ever pin in its place and surrendering her body to the needle over and over again. There are knife scars on the inside of her wrist. She’s exchanged one habit with another when scratching the surface stopped being enough.

She and I have just moved into a new place. We’re getting actual furniture. We listen to music loudly and don’t care about the neighbors. There are children in the apartments all around us and they cry at night. It’s not exactly payback, blasting Led Zeppelin, but it’s close enough to be vindictive somehow.

The windfall that has allowed us to do this comes from my disgusting habits. My frugality knows no bounds. I scrimp and I save for a living. Companies pay me to do this. It’s a handicap that I stumbled through for years until someone told me it was a talent. I get paid nicely now, but I make my roommate pay me back exactly for half of everything. When we move out one day, each of us finding a new home, we will saw our things in half. I can see the gleam in her eyes at that suggestion. She likes playing with knives.

My room is bare of artwork, books, personality of any kind. Like me, it is unadorned. The only items of significance are hidden beneath my bed, in taped-up boxes. The cardboard is old and falling apart, but I wouldn’t let me roommate unpack and repack them when we moved. Their rotting edges remind me that they won’t always stay shut. It’s important to remember that things can burst from their seams.

One day, maybe I’ll open those boxes. And maybe I’ll buy a sponge of my own. But for now, I keep the boxes shut tight, reinforcing the tape and sweeping away the cardboard dust that accumulates under them. And for now, I use the leftover sponge to purify my pores. I shave my legs with my roommate’s old razor. I tie string around my pants instead of a belt. It’s a good enough way to live, for now.

The Night Greg Died

Greg died in a car crash. The police say they don’t know exactly what happened, but that someone must have rammed him off the road. They say that they’re on the lookout for badly dented green cars on the highways. When I asked why they were only looking for green cars, they told me that they’d found some green dust inside the big dent in Greg’s car. The dent that was so bad that the door caved half-way in. The dent that punched Greg in the stomach and killed him even before he crashed into the metal railings on the highway.

Myra and I know that the police aren’t going to find a darn thing by looking out for green cars. Whoever rammed into Greg is long gone. Maybe they feel guilty for killing a man. Then again, maybe they’re just relieved that they got away with it. Maybe they don’t even read the papers and don’t have any idea that he died. I sure as hell don’t read the papers anymore. They’ve gotten too depressing.

“You know what’s weird?” Myra asked me at around three in the morning. We’d been sitting up having coffee after coffee ever since the police came and went.

“What?” My voice was all croaky, like a morning voice only worse because I’d been crying. We both had.

“That Greg died in a car crash. I always thought he’d scrape himself off the road on that red beast of his, but in the end it was in his dad’s ratty car and it wasn’t even his fault.”

I knew what she meant. My eyes slid to the photo that hung on the wall, behind Myra. It was taken the day Greg bought his red Suzuki motorcycle. He’d been so proud of it – of her. He’d named her Tessie. Myra and I always freaked his dates out by telling them that no matter what, Greg would always love Tessie more than he’d love them. Then he’d take them out to see her, and the girls would simper and giggle and hate Myra and me. That was okay. We usually hated the girls – they were all much to air-headed to be called women – that Greg went out with.

In the photo, I saw Myra and Greg and me. Tessie was leaning on her kickstand, and Greg was sitting on her, sidesaddle, his arms crossed across his chest and that goofy grin of his spread across his face. His hair was longer that summer, almost down to his shoulders, and the wind had blown a couple lanky strands of it into his face when the photo was taken. Myra was standing behind him and her arms were flung around him, head poking from one side, face scrunched in her usual photo-pose – lips puckered in an exaggerated kiss. Her hair was in its usual bun, trying to restrain her wild ginger curls. Then there’s me. I was standing next to Greg, one hand resting on Tessie’s gleaming handlebar, the other making a peace-sign behind Myra’s head, giving her horns. I’m smiling to, my tight-lipped smile, my photo smile. I can’t for the life of me smile my real grin, all teeth and open mouth, when I’m in front of a camera. So my smile looks fake in that photo. It was the summer that my hair was bubble-gum pink.

That photo was taken six years ago, when Myra, Greg and me all got an apartment together during the summer between freshmen and sophomore years at college. We’ve lived here ever since, a small three-bedroom with a kitchen so tiny we need to literally squeeze around each other when we’re all in here. The dining room and living room are slightly bigger, and it’s around the table we used to eat at with Greg that Myra and I sat at three in the morning that night.

After tearing my eyes away from the photo, I saw Myra staring at Greg’s place at the table. The MAD magazine he’d just gotten that morning was still at his place, open to one of the articles. I felt the same tears prickle in my eyes as those starting to roll down Myra’s cheeks.

“It’s not fair,” Myra said.

“Nope.

“Nobody should die when they’re twenty-five.”

“They sure shouldn’t.”

I must have said something wrong, or maybe my tone of voice was too flat for her to deal with. She looked up at me, her eyes blazing, and threw her coffee cup against the wall behind me before running to her room and slamming the door. I still hadn’t moved when I heard more objects being thrown around in there. But after another small eternity of staring at that photo of us all, I got up to get the broom and started to sweep up the pieces of cheap porcelain scattered on the floor.