Jack’s a good egg. He stopped by with five dimes asking for change for laundry. I say he can just have a couple quarters, but he insists, “Even Steven.” Except Jack’s easily influenced, as are most students. How else do we learn? Malleable, my mother used to call it. Under Candish’s influence, he maintains the deck garden circa Summer 2005.
He can be gruff, especially with greetings. I decide, finally, it’s just his way of joining a group while he jumps past the uncomfortable moment of acceptance. His brusque style exacerbates tensions among would-be gardeners, though. They were securing yet another bank of morning glories on the deck when Dan makes his rounds of good-bye, accompanied by a buddy who helped with the final packing. Candish’s suddenly busy with pruning as she always is when I enter the deck.
“I thought you left for Colorado,” Jack shouts from the roof where he’s tying-up the long streamers. Dan and his buddy bristle noticeably. “We’re seeking a route to avoid Nebraska,” I shout back, then explain to Dan’s friend that Jack is from Nebraska and not even ashamed of it.
Jack lives in studio 208 and Jonas, living dangerously, is stationed across the hall in 207. For decorating his studio, Jack chose a cool masculine design with strong colors and dark furniture. His ideas respect the layout, and mounted sports equipment add interest. He lives here, gets lucky here, and has a sense that each day is important.
Jonas, ten years younger, lived on top of his own trash for months and lately scrounged a couch from Rebecca who moved to New York City, and a cabinet from Carmen who moved to LA. The red brocade couch would be perfect in Rhonda’s new place, but makes you wonder about Jonas’s sexual orientation. His accoutrements include a lighted twenty-gallon fish tank and spindly potted palms on either side of the red couch. A major element in the overall design is his trash pushed to the other side of the room. He doesn’t live here: I’m thinking. Jonas lives in his head.
Jack and Jonas leave offerings outside the other’s door in a game of one-upmanship. Jack wrapped Jonas’s door with yellow caution tape with DANGER printed on it at regular intervals. Jonas left a pile of something in Jack’s bathroom with his signature card.
About the card. It looks like a sixth-grader’s quick drawing of a fat pony with Jonas’s initials in the center. He reproduces it, voluminously, on white one-inch squares in reflective silver paint or gold or yellow. “Interesting concept,” Paul sniffs. “A signature without an artwork.”
Somehow while they painted the stars and stripes on an adjacent roof late one night in July, Jonas managed to trash my window box that had been placed nearby for extra sun. Other houseplants on the deck suffered only a few splatters of paint. But my sunbox was drowned and beyond resuscitation, except a lantana I rescued. These things are not accidental. I’m doing a slow burn.
“You know the words danger and garden have the same letters,” I say to Paul. On the bulletin board, we start a game of anagrams – gander, grande, Dr. Ange, aged RN, n-raged, red nag, den rag, rag end. “You’re just giving Jonas ideas for new signature cards,” I caution.
Dan visits and deposits some packing for his move to Colorado that we stack in the back hall for a couple days. From that pile of Dan’s stuff, Jonas removes a sizable wall plaque of a bonsai, heavy and dusty. On the fire escape by my studio, he spray-paints Dan’s possession an uneven metallic gold then abandons it, and the spray paint can, from forgetfulness.
Dan throws a fit when he later finds evidence of the vandalism. He searches the stacked goods for other missing items. “The plaque was coated with dust,” I say like it’s my fault. He has no room for the wall plaque, anyhow, in the rented SUV he’s using to move.
When Dan leaves finally, I become the steward of a treasured four-foot bong, a major accoutrement for a major bad habit, awaiting pick-up by its next (eighth) owner. Too bad Dan and Jonas aren’t friends. The bong would be a perfect addition to Jonas’s potpourri of furniture that competes with the trash in his studio. Maybe I could trade it for the red couch to place in Rhonda’s coach house. Then I chuckle. The phrase “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic” comes to mind.
Jack hand-selects twenty bricks while scrounging at Burton Place, but leaves them by his door in the hall. Everbusy with making serial art, Jonas uses the bricks to create a rickety cairn, including dog treats and a used toothpaste tube, situated so Jack would encounter the stack during a hurried late night trip to the water-closet down the hall. Before Jack finds the offering, I spray-paint the crown brick an uneven metallic gold, then carefully replace it and the paint can that was abandoned near Dan’s abused wall plaque.
We’ll see if the puppies bother me again.