Stepping inside to my grandmother’s old apartment with Sanguinello was like stepping into someone’s personal time capsule. Furniture from her heyday was placed in the same place that it had been over 40 years ago. Strangely there was no dust on anything and the apartment had a fresh almost tropical smell to it. Bewildered I looked at Sanguinello who was already looking around suspiciously. My grandfather Fade had told me that when they had moved that they had only taken personal things such as clothes, and my father’s toys, all the furniture was supposedly donated to a charity. Yet here it was all of it looking the same as the day they moved out. On the terrace there was a garden… That looked as if it had been painstaking maintained? The grill was polished without the slightest bit of rust on its metal. The cushions on the outdoor furniture looked fresh and new, not even the tiniest bit of fraying from the weather.
Stepping closer into the apartment we could see the kitchen was spotless and clean with a highchair in it. The metal fixtures all gleamed in the sunlight that poured through the many windows. There was a computer on the computer desk left as if its owner would return any minute. Like the rest of the apartment it lacked a thick dust coating and time worn look one would think an apartment that sat vacate for almost over a half century would be. The sound of footsteps coming down the steps echoed quietly through the silent apartment. Curiously we both turn around at the noise and were greeted by the sight of a surprised middle aged maid. “You’re not supposed to be in here. How did you get in here? What do you want?”
“Who are you and what are you doing in my grandmother’s apartment?” I asked brazenly instead of answering either of her questions, since I had ever right to be here as I owned the place. “Oh it’s you! You’re grandmother told me that you would be inheriting this place when she passed away. Sorry my vision isn’t so well anymore otherwise I would have recognized you. I’m Mrs. Jubilee, I’ve been your grandmother’s housekeeper here for years. It has been my job to keep this apartment clean and exactly the way it is for when she would visit here.”
I won’t say that we were completely unsurprised that my grandmother still came here after she moved because that would be a total lie. When my father saw the apartment he was completely shocked at the state that it was in. Like I he was under the impression that it probably had sat for almost half of a decade completely inhibited. He thought it was a joke when I told him on the phone later that night after I had first seen it that it was in perfect condition. But now looking through what used to be his nursery he could see that it was just as I said. “I was told that we only really took clothes and personal things, that all the furniture had been donated or sold. Everything in the new house was new since they had it all decorated and furnished by some designer that was famous at the time. I don’t even remember this room. The nursery that I had in my baby pictures at their house went along with the rest of the teal and grey travesty of a scheme.” He said as we went down to the basement to check out what had been left in storage. “I can’t imagine while she would keep all of this like this or not even tell me when I found out about my father. This place is the one place that connected us, the one place that I knew him as my dad and she still kept it a secret.”
Lying in wait was another surprise hidden in the depths of the dark lower quarters of the building. Tucked away neatly in boxes we found were pictures, letters or just about anything that tied my father’s real father’s name to my grandmother’s. Looking at each picture all my father could really do was sigh bitterly as he flipped through each one. Encased in time there were a number of them that consisted of my grandmother and my biological grandfather. Growing up our father had always said that he was our grandfather but I and nor any of my siblings ever took him seriously it just all seemed like one big joke, like one of the ex-presidents was really his father. But now staring up at us from glossy times long gone it seemed like a joke that the two of them had the last laugh with.
Decorating wise there really wasn’t much to do besides painting, and painting we did a lot of.
Anything and just about everything that I could paint I did. My grandmother surrounded herself with the finer things in life and practically everything was of the best quality. And Sanguinello and I were very well aware of the fact that anything that we replaced was probably not going to be as good as what we had. So most of the stuff stayed as we added in some personal touches here and there with a few rolls of fabric and a lot of paint, trying to forge our own identity in a land that had someone’s life blazed a crossed it. Finally painting over the window frames which the previous building owner did not allow for some reason or another, as the superintendent informed us. But all in all we were both very happy with the apartment and more than thrilled to be officially living together.
Life living with Sanguinello was somewhat different than us staying in the dorms together. It was more impulsive and free. We found ourselves almost acting like teens left alone for the first time by their parents the first two weeks. Together we must have lived mainly on junk food before I stepped up to the plate and attempted to cook. I wish I could say that I had absorbed some of what Can-Can tried to teach me. My attempts were often followed by burnt messes and a few times small fires that Sanguinello often saved me and the rest of the building from. It didn’t take long before Sanguinello decided that it would be better for all if he did the cooking while I did the clean up afterwards.
Lying in bed together the warm afternoon sun shone high through the windows as we began to awaken one weekend. Regretfully I knew our day should be starting but I didn’t want to get up just yet so I snuggled a little closer to his warm body as his arm tightened around me back in response as he also began to stir. As I looked up at his sleepy smile as he looked back at me I was amazed at how much I could love someone before he began to move around. Taking the sheet that covered us he encased it around us, dimming the midmorning light that challenged the thin soft fabric. “What are you doing?” I asked him from the confines of our little encampment as he loomed over me. “Blocking the rest of the world out.” He replied with a smile as if it was the most obvious thing as I waited for him to ‘duh’ me but it didn’t come.
“It’s just a sheet though.” I said unconvinced that anything would be blocked out with the thin sheet that the sun was trying it’s best to penetrate, a battle that was won witnessed by my very own eyes. “Didn’t you ever do this as a child? Try to hide away from everyone in your own little world.” He asked curiously as he looked down at me. The air began to feel warm making it seem smaller under the sheet, like the thin fabric was closing in around us. Trying to focus on something else besides my sudden case of claustrophobia my mind ran through many things in an instant but only one stuck out and that was that one of my painting projects didn’t do that well in class while this other girl that had no talent got the highest grade. I like others was sticking to the rumor that she was sleeping with the teacher since she shamelessly flirted and giggled with him anytime he gave her an ounce of attention. Though it still didn’t help the self-pity feelings I was having and all I really wanted to hear at that moment was something reassuring from Sanguinello. “Do you think anyone would notice if I would just suddenly disappear? Or do you think their worlds would continue to keep turning without missing a single beat?” I asked him thinking of all the work I had done for that project had just been one how big waste. Sometimes it felt like everything I did I could never be good enough that there was always going to be someone out there that was going to be better than me.
I couldn’t see pass the decent grade I got all I could see instead was the grade that I didn’t get. Looking rather serious he brushed all the hair that had fallen in my face when he pulled the sheet over us, so he could look me dead on but that didn’t seem enough so he pulled me up until we were both sitting up. Pressing his forehead against mine Sanguinello said in a quiet voice “Don’t. I don’t ever want you to feel like that. I would miss you; you’re my dot of color in a world of greys. Sometimes I think you’re the only one that understands me. And I love you. I don't know what I'd do if I lost you.”
Late one night during the early Fall the windows were opened slightly as we hoped to get a breeze throughout the apartment since the air conditioner broke sending the whole building into a mini heat wave. Sanguinello woke me up without hesitation for the classes I had the next day in my final year. “Hey Starry… Starry, Starry, Starry… Wake up.” He loudly whispered while I reluctantly opened one eye to see him hovering over me on the bed fully clothed as if he was ready to go out somewhere. “What is it now Sanguinello?” I asked blinking my eyes before I rubbed them as I tried to get them to focus a little more in the dark room. “I had the best idea ever that we have to do right now. So you have to get up right now and get dressed.” He said in a very serious tone as he got up close to my face as I groaned “What is your wonderful idea now? At almost 1 am when I have class tomorrow and have to be awake in less than 6 hours?”
“Tattoos. We should get some tattoos I found a place that is still open right now where we could get them.” Sanguinello answered in a way as if he was verbally unveiling the contents on a silver platter and I soon found myself stumbling around as I tried to quickly get dressed. It wasn’t until we were in the tattoo parlor that I began to wonder what we were doing as it dawned on me that we were really indeed in a tattoo parlor. Sanguinello excitedly talked things over with the artist while I looked around at the tattoo flash that was plastered all over the walls and large bound photo albums lined the counter like testaments of the artist’s skill.
Nervously I wondered over to the brightly decorated lamented glossy pages. As my eyes sifted through some vulgar ones, typical roses and dolphins they found a simple one without any frills. Capturing my attention my imagination quickly sprang into gear and it immediately started to change in my mind to something tempting me to go along with Sanguinello and actually get a tattoo. The words found my mouth before my brain could say no and I found myself asking “Is it possible if I give you a drawing could you tattoo it on me?”
What does it feel like to get a tattoo? Was a question that I would be asked by anyone without one in the years to come but I will just answer that now. The first time is usually always the worst. The second the needle hits your skin it stings and then as they move the needle forming shapes upon your skin it kind of feels like they are cutting you. But most of all its just really stings and by the end of it your already thinking of your next one. By the time both of us were finished the sun was just beginning to light the sky. Since I only had a few hours left before my classes begun and now where nearly enough time to get any sleep we headed in search of a place that was serving breakfast at this time as our tattoos began to itch. Though times were not always good and one really bad one happened one night that Mizu and Toff was staying with us as they came back to the city for the weekend to visit and checkout our new place. We had went to a dinner out by the docks that was well known for its pancakes. All was going well as we look forward to devouring a number of them ourselves but we didn’t even make it out of the parking lot and to the front door before a shard of Sanguinello’s fragmented past made his presence known in the most obnoxious way.
“Hey look who it is! Its Stuttering San! ” a male’s voice shouted at our small group from behind us. Turning around I had no clue whom that guy or any of his friends were, but it was apparent that Sanguinello, Mizu and Toff did. Immediately even before I had a chance to retort to the guy Toff grabbed Sanguinello. “Oh fudge no, no, no. Don’t man, just don’t. Let’s just go in and get something to eat. Just ignore them.” Mizu stood glancing back at Sanguinello and the guy worriedly while Sanguinello just looked rather emotionless and blank instinctively I wrapped my arm around him as he did the same, gripping my side almost painfully.
“Who is that?” I asked but no one seemed to take notice of me so I didn’t receive an answer. “You know though after you left town you got a new nickname. It’s a shame that your mother has such a big mouth otherwise we would have never found out what happened to Psycho San. Yeah that’s right you’re the guy that put his own father in the hospital in high school.” He taunted Sanguinello brazenly without any hint of subtlety. “What are you doing so far from home Hammie? Huckleberry Sprigs is far away from here.” Toff asked, desperate to change the conversation from where it had been going. “Well unlike the likes of you guys I actually go to a real college and not some art school.” Hammie replied smugly as his friends chuckled. Hammie’s smile spread further through his face after noticing that Sanguinello’s hand was laced in mine “Wow, she must be crazy too, for her to be with you. But I don’t mind if a girl is a bit crazy in one area of her life, if you know what I mean. Tell me what you are doing with a guy like him? What exactly do you find attractive in that? Or maybe you’re just easy and don’t have any standards so you’ll go out with trash like that. So darlin’ are you a bit crazy in the sack and looking for a better time than what you are having with him? Because I can give you something that he probably can’t”
There was a pause before I even registered that my hand was now loose and free. The blatantly disrespectful remark must have stunned not only me but Toff as well. By the time I looked over to where Sanguinello was standing he was already gone from there and hitting the pavement using Hammie for a cushion as he brought him down. Scrambling to the mess that was my boyfriend and that berryhole though Toff and I were quick on our feet but not enough before a full out physical altercation ensued. I flanked Sanguinello’s left side as Toff took his right in our efforts to pull them apart, while Hammie’s friends mirrored our actions with him. Dragging Sanguinello to his feet his eyes were glazed over as he began to belligerently shout “I’M GOING TO FUDGING KILL YOU! LET ME THE FUDGE GO! I’M GOING TO FUDGING KILL YOU!”
Struggling against us and now Mizu he continued to shout and by now a small crowd had gathered outside. Whispers filled the night as pointed glances and fingers were pointed in our direction. “We’ve got to get him out of here.” Mizu said without even a hint of quietness to her voice but it didn’t matter it’s not like Sanguinello heard her. The only thing he cared about right now was killing Hammie even though Hammie and his friends had gone. It was our turn now to drag Sanguinello literally kicking and screaming away and as we were doing it a picture began to form in my head of his last night in his parent’s house. It was two blocks later that Sanguinello was finally starting to calm down though the moment we began to loosen our grip on him; he tried to unsuccessfully break free as he verbally protested though not addressing any of us by our names. So we carried him the rest of the way and about three blocks to back to our apartment he began to laugh still looking like he wasn’t seeing the world clearly around him. Sure we got stares but honestly in the past few years that I had lived in the city as sight such as ours wasn’t the oddest thing I’ve seen going down the street.
As I helped get Sanguinello back to our place I could feel myself hiding in fear deep inside my calm demeanor as his words from when we first started dating slowly washed over me like a bucket of ice. “So what else do you want to know or is that enough for now? Because I can tell you a lot more that would probably scare you away.” Because I don’t know if I’d really still be here after witnessing an outburst like that in the beginning. Like right now logically everything and my tired muscles was telling me to leave, running down the street and to the first train to Sweet Valley. But my heart just wanted to take care of him to do anything that would make him feel alright. No one mentioned the fight or anything that had to do with us having to haul him back to the apartment the rest of the time Mizu and Toff stayed with us but by the end of the weekend I was dying to say something.
“Sanguinello I uh kind of want to talk about what happened this um weekend. You know down at the diner…” I tried as delicately as I possibly could approach the subject Sunday evening while Sanguinello appeared to be zoned out on the couch.
“Yeah I kind of lost it there didn’t I?” he replied with a hollowed voice as the air hung thick between us. “But I thought that because you were on medication that everything would be alright?”
“Medication is not always a failsafe it just helps… a lot but it isn’t a hundred percent cure. Sometimes it doesn’t always work or sometimes if you’ve been on it for a while it needs to be increased or you need to find a new one. But it’s never really a perfect cure for everything.” He explained miserably as I processed everything in my head. Truthfully it felt like we were going in circles and I just wasn’t getting it about this part of him. But I still loved him and the thought of leaving him was even just too much for me to handle. So nothing changed and I just accepted that, that this was who he was and I tried to love him a bit more for all the lack of love that he had throughout his life.