Behind Enemy Lies

Storage San Francisco | Dec 1 | 10:42am

Leaving the door of my storage space rolled up made me nervous. That was a useful instinct to learn in my time living there, but my paranoia didn’t help today when I was only back to get my stuff.

As pointless as my life was during the eight months I was in that metal box, those walls were my protection from a world that doesn’t make sense. That place is the closest thing I have anymore to anything feeling like home, but it was time to go.

I’m writing in my car now, their car, while the engine cools down.

Harry took back all the stuff I stole and kept in my trunk, so there was plenty of room to load up everything I own, but my sleeping bag was so worn out and punched with holes, it would fall apart if I tried to bring it, and my wine collection was just a bunch of empty glass. Even the bottle of rubbing alcohol I used to clean myself was empty.

There were also all the pages of newspaper I wrapped around my stuff when I moved in. Those pages, still molded in the shapes of my things, could tell me the exact date in March I threw my life in boxes and put it in storage, even though over the months since then, I pulled all the stuff out of the newsprint and sold it for drinking money.

The space between those four walls had nothing but the echoes of what used to exist, boxes with empty newspaper shapes, the piles of empty wine bottles and the circles on the concrete floor where I stacked my drum kit that day, the one thing I thought I would never get rid of.

In the back was the echo of my food, sealed up tight in my buckets.

I didn’t plan to live in a box, and there were things I didn’t think about before I moved in. My first makeshift bathroom ideas gave me the stomach flu, but once I was locked in with the problem, knowing it was nobody’s fault but mine I couldn’t stop puking, I focused and found a solution. I pieced together a mostly sanitary bathroom system out of a couple five gallon drums. It worked, but I still kinda miss indoor plumbing.

That’s why I walked away, leaving the door of the unit open. I made eye contact with every camera in the hallway on the way out. Finally, it didn’t matter if they saw me.

The one thing I brought from my old life was the wine glass with its layers of backwash an echo of the collection of wines I made when things still mattered. I also brought this notebook, holding my notes about all the events of my new life, for all the good it does me.

I took the elevator with the working camera and stared straight into the lens. My nervous energy started to change to excitement. Like warming up before a show, I was getting ready to face my audience.

The elevator opened. There’s a code they gave me to get in and out of the building, but I always waited for a car to pull up to the keypad and slipped around them to stay out of their log of entrances and exits. Not this time.

I went through the hallway to the office, enemy headquarters. For eight months, having a place to live relied on them not knowing I was there, but my back wasn’t to the wall anymore. It was time to focus and fix a mistake I created a long time ago.

The speakers in the ceiling filled the room with a terrible pop cover of White Christmas. The guy at the desk looked familiar. Maybe he was even the same guy who showed me around the place years ago, when I first wanted somewhere to store my wines. His jumpsuit had a name tag with “Steve” on it.

Steve heard the door close and looked up from his sudoku. “Hey, what’s up.”

“I just thought you should know, there’s a unit open up there. I’m pretty sure it’s abandoned.”

He rolled his chair to the 20th century surveillance system, the bank of tiny TVs under the counter to his right. He flipped through views from around the building, but I already knew there wasn’t a camera that faced my door. He slid back to the computer and clicked a few times. “Hm. Nobody’s logged in.”

“Yeah, I found what I needed.” I held up the wine glass. “I think it was number 402.”

Steve clicked away at the keyboard for a few more seconds. “That’s strange, nobody’s paying for that unit. Shit.” There it was, problem solved. “I gotta call my boss, lock out that unit.” Steve sighed. “I hope nobody’s been sleeping in there. We get a fine.”

I smiled, but there was a second of regret. I talked slower. “I saw some stuff in there. What’s gonna happen to all that?”

“We throw it away. You didn’t take anything, did you?”

“Nope.” I gripped my glass a little tighter. “Hey, you don’t think it’s a little soon for this shitty Christmas music?”

He shook his head. “I can’t turn it off.” I heard in his voice how much he hated it, and I laughed.

He laughed too. After I confronted the Dude and got a free apartment out of it, I was facing one of the guys I spent all that time in fear would find me, but he knew what a stupid job he had, just like me. I walked away. I was free of that place, and the bathroom buckets are Steve’s problem now.

Company Apartment | 140 min later

I’m always walking into creepy homes because of my job, but this was different. This was my creepy home. I opened the door with the same keycard as all those other doors and headed into my private corporate condo.

Then I saw the drum set in the living room and froze. It was beautiful. I couldn’t remember how long it was since I played.

The rest of the place was furnished the same as everyone else’s, functional and clean, nothing easy to steal. The living room had a flat screen TV built into the wall with a DVD player in it. That wasn’t the problem. The small camera mounted to the top of it was. Did the Dude really think I was going to let him keep an eye on me like the rest of his people, after where I just got out of? I didn’t just unplug the camera. I unplugged the fridge, the blinky-lights comcast thing and anything else with a cord.

Then, right when I plugged in my phone charger, I got a text message. My time off for moving was up. I left my glass on the drum stool and headed out to finish the work day.

I’ll wrap this up. I think the engine’s ready to go. I got a new place, but I can only stay there as long as I keep this job. The company pays the rent, so it belongs to them. Shit, maybe I do too a little bit.

2 references to Behind Enemy Lies