One of the good things about living in the only unkempt house on your street, so near Ponce, that final frontier, is that you’re bound to end up with some interesting life situations. Take, for instance, the man who lives in the apartment tacked onto the back of our house. Jack. I met him the day I moved in.
He wandered out, cane in hand, to take some air. My hands were full of box. Roommate Quinn introduced us: “Jack, this is the new roommate, [MC CBS].”
“Oh, you girls are like a baseball team,” he said. “Always coming and going. I can never keep track of you.” And that was Jack. Later Quinn told me that he may or may not be psychic, that he has seizures which might give him powers to that end, and that sometimes people come to his back apartment, possibly for readings.
Well, this explains the random scraps of conversation, in various voices, that I overhear sometimes at night. “I’m so fucking lonely, man.” “The Taliban isn’t what it used to be.” A woman’s agitated tone.
Interactions with Jack in the Back have been few, far between, and sufficiently mysterious. One day I came home from work, and Quinn pointed to a bouquet in our dining room. It was left on the porch that day. A cat-shaped note read:
And then there were some weeks without contact, except for the strange bumping noises I’d hear from across the wall–because apparently he has trouble sleeping sometimes.
I came home from work maybe last week or the week before to find Jack in the Back in the front, raking the lawn (which, I am betting, was a first for the lawn). I was tired and headachey, so I stayed in the car a little while, hoping he’d leave before I walked over the lawn, up to the porch, and to the door. No dice. So I got out of the car and said the customary hey-how-are-you, jingling the keys and looking for the right one, which always takes too long even though I only have four keys on the ring. I was almost in the door when he calls out, “Hey, do you have any nuts?”
“Nuts…that you eat, nuts?”
“Yes. I found a squirrel on the sidewalk, I think his back is crushed, and I’m trying to just give him a nice last meal.” I stared. His shirt said Made In Ireland. His belt missed a loop. Nuts. Yeah, I had nuts. “Great. He’s on that little table back there.”
I went to get the nuts–salted, roasted almonds–and came back out. I was still in heels, and now I was crouching down by a table in the back driveway, peering into a rolled-up paper bag on its side. Jack stroked the squirrel from time to time. The squirrel did not want my nuts. So there I was, making small talk about Squirrels These Days with Jack in the Back. It didn’t seem like the best time to inquire about psychic powers.
I saw him again the next day around the same time. He was trimming the lawn with a weed whacker. We lost him around midnight, I learned, before going inside (I always fumble with the lock too).
That was just about the last time I saw him, I think, but he’s back there doing whatever he does. I’m glad the mystery is intact. A few days ago one of his visitors purposefully burst into our kitchen, quite confident for someone entering the wrong door, and looked around. Nope, Jack’s in the back. Yep, no problem. And last night there were some thuds coming from somewhere beyond my sheetrock, but that could have just been a rat, finally caught in the trap our landlord set, using its last energies to try and get out of the wall.