Ok, so I know Meemaw always says that complaining about the heat doesn’t make it one degree cooler…but…fuck was it hot this weekend. Even for someone who likes running around and getting sweaty, it was ridiculous on Saturday and Sunday. I was scheduled to see both Cody and Noah over the weekend…and had to cancel on both of them due to the weather. I didn’t want my pupils collapsing from dehydration on my watch.
I got a little relief from the heat on Sunday when I went over to the Andrews to use the pool. They were all holed up inside in the air conditioning, so I had the pool largely to myself. It was more fun when Lucas was there, but water’s water…even if it’s still 114 degrees when you get out of it. Carter jumped in the pool for a few minutes, but said it was too fuckin hot and went back inside.
I met up with him again in the kitchen and asked about the news from Lucas. Me and Lucas have been texting some, but I was reckoning that his family had more news than I did. He’s told them he’s doing okay, that he’s doing his best to stay safe even if a lot of kids aren’t, but that Denison’s nothing like the schools you see on the TV with everyone crowded together like a bunch of jerkoffs at stupidass parties.
Turns out Lucas has told me a little more about some things than he’s told his family. He’s texted me that he’s having trouble with his roommate. Lucas has never had to share a room, so he may be having a problem just getting used to anyone in his room…although this dude sounds like he might be a jerkoff. He apparently keeps going on and on about being a ‘light sleeper’ but doesn’t want to hear anybody’s suggestions for making the situation better. The roommate even went to his advisor to complain that Lucas had the ringer on on his phone in the middle of the afternoon. The fuck?? But Lucas says they have a really nice room and he doesn’t want to be the one to have to move. I told him to try toughing it out a little longer…and that your roommate doesn’t need to be your best friend anyway.
Meanwhile…y’all may be wondering about something else that I mentioned a few weeks back:
Yeah, it’s September 7th already, and, like for everyone else, my rent is due on the 1st. I was doing ok making rent all through the quarantine thanks to unemployment, what I was making from working with Lucas, Cody and Noah…and the $600 a week the government was adding to my unemployment check. Now there’s no more money coming from the Andrews and there’s no more $600…at least until the people in Washington can get their shit together and stop turning the question of feeding and sheltering Americans who want to work into something political.
But don’t get anyone started on that topic…
Meemaw told me I was going to need to tighten my belt, and I promise you I have been. I actually even went out and bought myself a big package of those cups of grossass ramen noodles you’re supposed to eat when you don’t have money for food. And, although it was depressing as anything, I ate all 24 of them. I went through a lot of peanut butter and jelly too, although I’ll confess that it’s mostly Joyce who’s kept me fed these past few weeks. I spend a couple nights a week there as it is, but I’ve been going over more than that lately, even if it is just for dinner. So far I haven’t been starving…but I don’t know how much more ramen I can handle.
Even with the ramen, though, I didn’t come out with nearly enough to cover the rent for September. And I didn’t know what I was gonna do. I think that they still have the moratorium on evictions here, and extra time to pay your back rent, but the last thing I wanted to do was get behind. So it looked like I was gonna have to borrow money from somewhere. Dad said that I should always go to him for money rather than to anyone else, but they’ve been feeling the pinch too. Hard to believe, I know, but schools are open again back home, so Mom’s got a job again and I reckon things aren’t as tight as they were for them back in the spring, but still…
I wasn’t totally freaked out, since I knew I wasn’t going to be out on the street come September 2nd, but this is the first time that I’ve had to face the 1st of the month without money for rent. Even when I was in playing ball in Hickory and making next to nothing, me, Slater and Jesus always managed to get our rent checks for when the building manager came around to collect them. It’s a good feeling being able to pay your rent…
…and, let me tell you, it’s a dang bad feeling not being able to.
I didn’t know what to do. Juan Diego always gives us a few days to pay, and we don’t get slammed with a late fees if we don’t have the check on the 1st. So I did the human thing…and procrastinated.
I did that until this past Thursday, which was already the 4th. That morning there was a knock at the door while I was having cold on-sale cereal for breakfast. I opened the door…and it was Juan Diego. And, ok, that’s when I freaked. I don’t freak out often, and it’s not like I started screaming or throwing things or crying…but I did start to have palpitations I think they’re called when I thought that I was going to be cornered for the rent and have to say that I couldn’t pay it.
“Hey man,” I said, trying to appear nonchalant while I was sure he could tell my heart was pounding.
“Hola, cazador.” Ever since Juan Diego found out about my Spanish baseball nickname he’s been calling me by it. Ordinarily, that’s kinda cool…but nothing was feeling cool just then. “I just wanted to bring you your receipt.”
“For your rent. When you pay it online, I bring a handwritten receipt. It’s kinda old-fashioned, but it makes sense to the owners.”
“Yeah. You paid online yesterday.”
“What?,” I asked. I didn’t even know that I could pay my rent online . I always thought rent was something you paid with a check. (It’s practically the only thing I do with a check these days.)
“I got an email this morning saying it was paid. That’s good…I worry about you and the Dominguezes, since you’re still out of work…and I bet losing that extra unemployment hurt.”
“You’re telling me…”
“So you’re good, man?,” he asked.
“I…” I didn’t know what I was, except pretty fuckin confused. But Mom and Dad raised me to be honest, so I had to say something: “I don’t want to sound crazy or anything…but I didn’t pay the rent online.”
“You didn’t? Well…somebody did. The owners don’t just send out emails saying people paid when they didn’t. You should know them better than that by now.”
Actually the owners aren’t total assholes, and let me off without a late fee one month when I got behind – it was the month I blew all that money on Valentine’s Day for Monica, if y’all remember back to the very beginning of the blog.
“I promise you, man…I didn’t pay it.”
“Well…somebody did,” Juan Diego said.
“It’s a mystery,” he said, sounding interested. “Could it have been Miss Joyce?” Juan Diego’s only met Joyce a couple times, but he’s the kind of manager who knows everyone’s business in the building…in a nice way.
“I…don’t think so,” I said. It wouldn’t have been like Joyce just to up and pay my rent without discussing it with me first. I’m sure she’d have helped out and everything, but this wasn’t her style.
“Well…it was someone. You got a good friend out there, amigo,” he said. “I hope you appreciate them. Here,” he said as I went to close the door (I was letting out precious air conditioning, which I totally couldn’t afford to run), “don’t forget your receipt.”
I took it, closed the door and sat down on the couch, surprised as fuck. I mean, yeah, it was great that the rent was paid and I didn’t have to worry about it…but who paid it? Dad would have talked to me about it first, like Joyce, so it clearly wasn’t him. Meemaw? She might have wanted to surprise me, but I didn’t think she would have been able to figure out how to pay my rent online.
Or maybe not…when I got to thinking about it, I remembered that Meemaw does pay her own rent online, and that I joked about her making it into the 21st century at last…and then she made fun of me for paying my rent by check. So maybe it was her?
Only one way to find out…so I called Meemaw.
“Why would I pay your rent, HB?,” she asked when I explained the situation to her.
“Because you knew I wasn’t going to be able to do it myself and you wanted to surprise me?,” I said. “I don’t know…but someone did and I feel like I need to find out who so I can thank them.”
“What about that best friend of yours? It sounds like something he’d have done. You tell me all the time that he doesn’t like being thanked.”
That’s certainly true: Keaton thinks growling is a synonym for ‘you’re welcome’.
“It could be,” I said. Truth be told, it was more his style than Meemaw’s. “But I don’t know that he has that kind of money lying around waiting to be spent on things like someone else’s rent. He has his own rent to worry about.” I’ve told y’all that Keaton put some money by when he was working in Alaska, but this isn’t the time to start spending your savings on a buddy’s rent.
“You should ask him. Who else could it be?”
“I don’t know. I ruled out Joyce as soon as I found out, but, now….maybe it was her?”
“Maybe you’ll never find out…maybe it was just someone trying to do a random act of kindness or something.”
“You don’t just up and spend over a thousand bucks as a random act of kindness for a total stranger,” I said, “and someone would have had to know where I lived and who I am…”
“Secret admirer? You’ve had that problem before.”
“Now you’re making it creepy,” I said.
“It’d be asking a lot from a secret admirer these days. Besides, no one has had a chance to see you without a mask for months…so how’d you get a secret admirer in the first place?”
We both laughed, but Meemaw got me thinking about someone stalking me and trying to get into my good graces by paying my rent…which would have required some big time following me, finding out where I lived and owned the building…
Not too likely, I decided.
We were pretty much out of ideas when I got another call from a 626 number I didn’t recognize, so I said good-bye to Meemaw and picked up the other call.