As soon as I saw the communal swimming pool with adjoining hot tub I knew immediately that I was in purgatory. It was not a place to live, but rather a place where one goes to wait for real life to begin. A temporary oasis where manicured hedges and stainless steel appliances offer a repose from the hell the outside world has now become. The sales manager didn’t need to tell me that they offer a rent by the month option, the place reeked of Chinese take-away and expensive cologne; the calling card of the transient bachelor.
Wordlessly, I signed my lease for a furnished unit. I may have to live here, but I was certainly not going to get comfortable and I wanted the place to feel as sterile and empty as I did. The only thing that mattered is I was staying in St. Augustine and this complex was only 3 miles away from Zoe, a short jog from Odette.
I screwed up. The fact that I only screwed up on account of Odette’s screwing him offered me little comfort and I began a routine of teaching classes in the morning, playing with Zoe in the afternoons and trying to think of the right thing to say, the one thing that would make all of this alright again in the 2 minutes I had with Odette each night before she shut the door and retreated with Zoe inside the warmth of Luna’s home.
“Chris, you going to the singles luau tonight?” my portly neighbor was waving a flyer in front of my face as I tried to navigate my lock while balancing a small pizza box and a six pack; my Friday night usual.
“Hey Dan, I think I’m going to stay in tonight. Stop by for a beer later if you want. Anyway, I’m not single, I guess.” He started to say something else but I closed the door before I had to hear how I need to “get out there” and how there are so many “babes” in the place. Dan had been here three years and still rented by the month, despite the managers protests that a yearly lease was much more affordable. I admired his optimism. His ex-wife was remarrying next month and as far as I could tell he hadn’t had more than a first date with anyone since he got here, but damn if he didn’t go to the Friday socials week after week because you just never knew when you would meet “the one”.
I cracked open a beer, grabbed a slice of pizza, and slumped down on the leather couch waiting to be surrounded by Verve’s, Bittersweet Symphony that still broke my heart all these years later.
The Manager laughed when I told her that it was the Bose surround sound that sold me on the unit. I didn’t even notice the view of the ocean until after I had been here almost a full day. I wondered what Odette was up to. Luna told me that they had been having bonfires every night. I knew I would be welcome, but was I wanted?
After inhaling my third slice with the realization that I hadn’t eaten anything since the kind bar I wolfed down for breakfast, I thought about what I said to Dan. Was I single? I decided that I needed to see Odette. I grabbed my keys and headed for the fire.