Today was the day that the house fell down. It started while Jenny was sleeping. She heard a rattle at her window as the shingles began peeling one by one from the top floor apartment. Jenny opened her bedroom window and twisted her head up to see if any of the neighbors had heard the commotion. All that she saw was a single shingle diving straight for her nose. They collided and she quickly shut the window.
Jenny suffered from anxiety and depression, which w
as quite the cocktail. She had spent the last 77 days going back and forth between rooms in her one bedroom apartment. She alternated yoga in the morning for the anxiety, TV mid afternoon when the depression hit, and by evening she was curled up in bed listening to her favorite podcast on the history of peach cobbler while she waited for the delivery boy to bring her Pad Thai.
Once the couple who lived above her had called the landlord to ask if she had moved out. They were hoping to expand.
“Jenny from 1A?” The landlord asked. “She’s just quiet—a troubled girl.”
“Ah, one of those troubled girls,” the neighbors said nodding, each with one ear to the receiver.
In high school Jenny had been voted “Most Likely To Succeed.” The day she moved to the city, her town had thrown her a party complete with cupcakes with her picture on them. They believed in her. They thought she could be a Broadway actress, or an astronaut, or if she could get her periods under control a marine biologist.
But Jenny had no problems with her daily routine. Jenny just wanted to feel peaceful and safe, and that is how she felt inside the apartment. Well, until today.
The walls began to crack from the inside. Jenny dug for a pair of jeans. She struggled to button them thanks to all that Pad Thai, grabbed her phone and keys and ran out the front door just as the kitchen window popped out of its frame. Out of the pile of shingles in the alleyway Jenny heard a faint meow. She kicked at the pile and a cat emerged. He was white with big grey spots and glow-in-the-dark colored eyes. He was watching Jenny with bedroom eyes, she thought. If cats could do that sort of thing. She stayed away from it. Jenny knew that stray cats are disgusting and carry diseases. What would she do if she got rabies, or strep throat, or Ebola, God forbid. It’s not like she had health insurance.
Jenny walked eleven blocks in a direction she had never gone before. On block seven was a yoga studio with a poster boasting they could “Calm even the most stubborn of nerves!” Jenny made note. On block eleven was a man with a comically large mustache selling bagels and coffee out of a cart. He waved to Jenny.
“Mornin’ miss,” he shouted. “Care to try a cup of our fresh roasted beans?”
“The house I live in fell down this morning,” Jenny said. “I’m not really in the mood for a coffee.”
“A warm egg bagel then?” He asked calmly handing Jenny a bagel wrapped in tinfoil. She opened it and stuck her thumb through the hole letting the warmth overtake her hand. Jenny reached into her pocket, but she hadn’t grabbed any money.
“On the house,” said the man as he loosened the break on his cart. “Since you don’t have one anymore and all.”
“Wait!” Jenny called and he began to wheel away. “Please come back to my house with me. I can pay you.” The man shrugged. He could take his work anywhere after all.
The house had come completely down. The shingles were stacked neatly in the alleyway and the walls and doors were leaning up against the house next door as if someone had come and tidied up the rubble. The detritus of Jenny’s life was spread across the front sidewalk along with the neighbors. They had a collection of ceramic deer that hadn’t survived the crash.
Jenny began to pick through the debris for her wallet.
“I promise its here somewhere,” she said between the lump forming in her throat.
“It’s really no problem,” said the man.
“It is a problem,” Jenny shouted. “You made this bagel, and you deserve to get paid.”
He saw hot tears forming in her eyes and so he helped her search. The best Jenny could come up with for payment was a ceramic deer that had only lost its snout. He put it in his pocket. He gave Jenny a hug. Jenny lost a lot today. But she at least she had a bagel.