The place is on the rural edge of town. Where suburbia stops and farm land begins. The address is hidden by weeds, the driveway worn tire patches in uncut grass. I pull in slowly, under 50 yards of low interlocking tree branches. Roll into an opening greeted by cars. Seven that I can see. All in various states of disrepair.
To the left is a rusting shed, door tied open with a power cord. A shirtless kid, maybe 20-21, has his hands in an old Cadillac's engine. A young woman, probably the same age, watches him, holding a grease-stained towel. The kid hears my car, grabs the towel, wipes his hands. He whispers to the woman who turns and glares. I keep my car running, unsure if this is the right address. The woman smiles and walks toward me.
She's very cute. Tank top, no bra. Short skirt. Blond braided pigtails. Face sweet but intense. She's seen things. Her pretty bare feet, green from the grass, send me back to Lawrence, Indiana. Mid-seventies. When most of my friends lived in trailer parks or rural houses.
In summer girls went barefoot. Wore cut-offs and halter tops. Had long wavy hair. Their sexuality open, unforced. They didn't pose, preen, make crude hand gestures. I eventually lost my virginity to one of these girls, then fucked one of her friends. Barefoot girls in grass still get me going.
I get out of my car. "Is this 2378 Jericho?" The woman nods yes. "I'm here to see the apartment."
Her eyes are blazing blue. Fierce dirty blond eyebrows. Tattoo of a flaming sword on her right bicep. "Sure. Follow me."
We walk past two rotting cars on blocks down a stone-lined path. Everything is overgrown. Vines cover parts of the house. Trees and bushes untrimmed. She leads me to a dirty white door that sticks a bit when opening. "You have the whole basement. Look around. I'll be upstairs."
First thing is the smell. Serious mildew. The air conditioner spits out tepid cool that stinks. Hand prints dot the hallway walls. Grease or dirt, I can't tell.
Enter the main living area. A literal pit. Trash everywhere. Dirty clothes and underwear strewn about. Dozens of empty bottles -- beer, wine, booze. Cobwebs in the high corners. Small mattress pushed against the back wall. NASCAR and Budweiser posters peeling from scotch tape. I don't see rodents, but given the location and the filth, they must be here.
What the fuck? Is she serious? This place needs a biohazard cleaning crew. The kitchen's even worse. Dirty tiles. Stained carpet. Water damage on the ceiling. The stench is overwhelming. Are these people insane? Who the hell would rent such a dump?
I walk back to the entrance. Smell of weed from upstairs. The woman laughs. Bottles are opened. I stop and ponder. Clearly, these people like to party. They're unashamed of their hedonism. I'm not the tidiest guy on earth, but I do have boundaries.
These people are off the charts. Something about that excites me. To let go so fully. To laugh, drink, and smoke in the face of it. Then there's the young woman. Seeing her daily would ease some anxiety. Or probably create more. The hillbilly girls of my youth sing to me. I see them in the yard, running around the dead cars.
No. I'm too old for this. Plus I need to write. I yell up the stairs, "Thanks for your time." The woman appears, beer in hand. I can almost see up her skirt. Her legs are amazing.
"Nope. It's just not for me. Thanks again."
She shrugs and disappears. More laughter as I leave.
The kid's still working on the Cadillac. I drive off, glance in the rearview mirror. The hillbilly girls run into the woods, back to their time. I pull onto the main road and look for a liquor store.
(Above image by Jan Goff-LaFontaine)