Heaven Sent

By: Avelyn Paige

A perfect stranger has managed to make me crack a smile for the first time in days. Her bubbly personality is just what I need to feel normal. I’m tired of showing the world my resting bitch face. I need to have fun with the time I have left in this world. She directs me to her bright yellow Jeep. I try to stow rolling my eyes because I knew she’d have something bright and bubbly for a vehicle to match her personality. I slide across the warm seat and toss my bag between my feet as she peels out of the parking lot and turns to merge onto the freeway.

I try to count the cars passing us on the crowded freeway, but after a few minutes, I give up. The amount of people I see driving on the highways blows me away. Sure, Cleveland has its periods of rush hour traffic during the workweek, but I’ve never experienced anything like this at one o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon. Ricca weaves through the traffic like a seasoned pro and finally takes an exit ramp. She laughs when she sees me clutching the seat-belt strapped across my chest. This woman drives like she could be in NASCAR. Turn after turn, I feel like she has her foot planted on the floorboard until she finally pulls up along the street by a small apartment complex. It doesn’t seem to be too dangerous of a neighborhood since there are kids playing basketball in the small park next to the complex, seemingly happy and safe. Just like the bus depot, the streets are lined with flowering trees and dotted with large palm trees Californians sure know how to beautify their state, but it makes me wonder how in the world do they keep them watered with the intense drought they’ve had over the years.

I note that one palm tree, in particular, looks odd. “What’s wrong with that palm tree?” I ask Ricca. “It looks different than the others.”

Ricca laughs hard when she sees what I’m pointing at. “That’s not a palm tree. That’s a cell phone tower that looks like a palm tree.” Looking at it again, I can see the wires hanging out of it.

“Huh, you don’t see that back home.”

Ricca jumps out of her Jeep and motions for me to follow her. We snake through the garden linking the buildings until we pass a doorway with the number three nailed onto it.

“Now, I want to warn you about something before we go in. The previous tenant really liked colorful paint. I’m like ninety-nine percent sure she was a hippie because the place reeked of weed when I moved in. It took me weeks to get the apartment aired out and not smelling like Woodstock.”

The apartment is just as small as I figured it would be for the price with a couch and a single easy chair sit in the living room surrounding a small flat-screen TV. She leads me through to the very small kitchen with just a small countertop, stove, microwave and an apartment-sized refrigerator. It’s much smaller than the kitchen I had in the house in Cleveland, but I doubt I’ll be cooking anything bigger than a microwave meal until I can save up more money. Steaks and crab legs aren’t exactly on my gourmet menu so it will have to be macaroni and cheese cups and ramen.

Next, she leads me to the bedroom, and I finally realize what she meant about the bright colors. A vivid blue that you could probably see from space covers the walls. “Shit, that’s bright! It’s like the face of the sun is shining from the walls of the room. You need sunglasses to walk in here. How you do stand it?” I say while squinting from the brilliant pigment.

“I warned you that the old bat was an extreme hippie. My room was a neon-orange with yellow swirls before I re-painted it hot pink.” Hot pink doesn’t exactly tone down the brightest of a room, but I guess she was using Ricca logic. We both laugh as I make my way into the room. The room is simply furnished with a bed, small dresser, bedside table, and lamp, but even the linens on the bed that seem to be clean. “Well, what do you think? Will this work for you?” Ricca asks. I see hope building in her eyes that I will take it. This is the only decent, affordable place I found online and she seems nice. Hell, I’d have taken a shit hole as long as I didn’t have to deal with a bat-shit-crazy roommate.

“I’ll take it.”

Ricca jumps in the air, screaming like a teenage girl at a pop music concert about to see the boy band she’s crushing on. “I’m so excited! Once you get settled in, we’ll go grab dinner at In N’ Out since it’s the California tradition for newbies. Everyone needs to christen their first day in this beautiful state with a burger from that place since those burgers are so so damn cheap yet oh so good. I’ll take you tomorrow to meet the landlord and get the paperwork signed so we can make it official. My last roommate was paid up until the end of the month so you won’t owe rent until the first of the month. I'm SO SO excited! EEEEK!” she delightfully squeals.

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