“Who goes there?” my landlord questioned playfully, hiding what was most likely minor annoyance at being interrupted. It was ten o’clock at night on a Tuesday and as he stood in the door I could faintly hear the TV from upstairs.
“I’m sorry, Mister B!” I replied, feeling like a dumb child. “I seemed to have locked myself out!” And in almost the same breath: “Also, the garage door is jammed.”
He then hung his head, feigning a more annoyed response with a sigh that bore both real and comic distress; a reaction that came with the temperance that only a patient father of three could have mastered, imaginably through much practice.
“Let’s go take a look”, he said, or something to that effect, and then crossed the threshold of the relatively clean doorway onto the porch in ankle socks soon to be sullied by the outer elements. The wearer seemed to neither notice this detail nor care, even as he came down the porch steps and set foot on concrete. I can’t remember if he had the obligatory barefoot-on-pavement waddle or tip-toe, but either way, nothing short of a cactus would have caused a misstep.
I followed behind, and, having shoes on, know I had no waddle of my own, but nonetheless felt like a naive duckling behind a determined drake, having perhaps destroyed the nest in some idiotic way.
Prior to the garage ordeal, I had went grocery shopping, commuting to the supermarket by way of racing bike. As I left the house, I couldn’t help wondering what it was I forgot. I then realized it was my bike chain, and quickly retrieved it. But it was only later, after having purchased two steaks, chicken breast, a gallon of iced tea, half a gallon of tomato juice, spaghetti and jar of tomato sauce did I realize that I was carrying a good deal of bags and a backpack would have been really quite useful.
I then mentally crossed my fingers and hoped I could get away with riding with it all on my handlebars, but a minor detail seemed to prevent that, at least in the traditional style: the handlebars on a racing bike curve down. I stared at my bike for almost a minute, confronted with a round hole and a square peg. I suspected a man not very far from me, leaning against the window of a pizzeria, to be watching it all, but after looking over at him again I realized that the empty space in the air before him was thankfully of much more importance. We did exchange a brief glance, however, but his dark, far-away eyes, reminiscent of a hard-drug user’s or perhaps of a small animal’s, saved me the trouble of having to nervously smile with embarrassment.
Finally I put my groceries over the brake cables, hoping I would not be left with a fixie braking system by the end of the night. It seemed to work, and after a few push-offs, I was on my way. Fortunately, the distance was not great, and I took my time, monitoring my groceries as they brushed against the spokes, which weakened the fragile membrane of one of the bags. I tried to correct this problem by leaning to one side, but naturally it was impossible to ride in such a manner without driving into traffic, and so I would have to resume my original posture, only to lean again; I repeated this, bee-lining, hoping I could minimize the chances of what turned out to be inevitable.
A noticeable popping sound, onomatopoeically a “pah” or a “pwah” (considering it was from an air-sealed jar), resounded, which was followed immediately, if not spontaneously, by the sound of shattering glass.
Believe it or not, I still don’t consider myself a poet, despite what I then uttered to myself: “the sauce is a loss.” I do not know where these words came from, but they seemed to be reflexive; If I had dropped a baguette, I most likely would have pronounced it deceased with equal rhythm.
I made it home, imagining myself limping. I made sure to take inventory of my groceries the moment I got in, in hopes that if by any chance I had been hemorrhaging food all the way (as I did not dare to stop during the moment of crisis, should anyone be watching), I at least had the steaks and the now-bereaved cousin, tomato juice.
Fortunately it was all there, sans sauce, and I then made my way to the garage to put my bike away and proceed to cook myself a late dinner.
And then I jammed the garage door.
I had also forgotten my keys in the house, so I was forced to ring the bell despite many cartoonish tries involving my full body weight at fixing the garage without waking or bothering anyone. I kept expecting to see someone looking out their window to see who was burglarizing their next door neighbor, but no one seemed interested.
Eventually, the handle of a hedge trimmer proving useless, Mr. B then pried the door loose with a crowbar and small push from myself. I apologized for the hundredth time and we parted ways, having bonded as landlord and tenant.