Art is perfect, not everything is.
Lines, color, squares, light, circles, vibration, curves, motion, triangles, dimension, equality and the absolute are perfect.
I chanced across a blog named "My Perfect Life" with cute pictures of family gatherings. Perfect kids, perfectly focused animated pictures full of joy and the passage of quality time. That's real "nice".
This writing isn't about perfect. The title is a falsehood.
The phone rang. He said his name was Al, and was answering my ad for shared housing. That was a time where I tried to be discriminating about who I rented to, lived with because I knew it mattered, a lot. There is never really any way to know how those things will turn out. As a rule of thumb, it should start out perfect, and then maybe it will turn out ok. People can be very insistent looking for housing, and I gave him the benefit of doubt even though I knew there shouldn't be any.
Al said he was divorced, was a carpenter for a large construction firm that built office buildings. There were a few other things he didn't tell me. That he had six kids. That he paid crippling child support and took home very little money after a long weeks hard slogging work in the mud building cement forms. That his wife hated him, and made his children hate him too.
Time went by. Time is perfect, remember? Al made a trip to see his family. Apparently it didn't go so well as his kids stole all his tools out of his barely functioning old car and sold them cheap, and came home depressed. He also now had no tools to work with. He borrowed what tools I had to go back to work, but the days wore on and his mood darkened. Rent payments became late, and he was approaching being very, very broke.
Now he wasn't a bad person that I could tell in any way, just depressed. We even had a few laughs early on. However, I will admit I rented rooms out for the money. If a relationship developed as a pseudo-friendship that would be a plus, but that's not enough. I started letting him do work for me in lieu of rent. He did odd jobs around my other property. He installed a new vinyl floor and toilet in a bathroom. I remember the smell of the acetone he must have inhaled taking the old glue off the floor. We worked together building a custom redwood gazebo in the backyard. It was working out so far especially since he didn't have to tell his wife about that under the table money. Eventually the odd jobs played out, and his real job vanished (I'm not sure why, but he just stopped working altogether).
Al started spending a lot of time in his room. Time is perfect , remember? There was silent solitary drinking. There were bruises starting to appear on his face. He said he fell. We had conversations about what was happening in his life. I had helped him all I was really willing to do. I deeply regret telling him to "get it together".
His car finally died and wanted to buy my old small pickup truck. That truck was something I bought really cheap years before because I came to realize cars with cosmetic body damage all over , but otherwise low mileage were good working cars with a real value. It had a raised handmade plywood truck bed shell, but the low mileage it had when I bought it were in the past. It was kinda almost terminal but still ran. So I sold it to him for pretty cheap, but also for probably most of the money he had to spare, a few hundreds of dollars.
One day he said he had some of the rent money he owed me. He owed me a huge amount, but what he offered was perhaps $30. It was very strange, and he more or less forced me to take it since I didn't want it if that was all he had to his name.
The next day when I came home, he was gone. His stuff was gone. Not all of it, but his clothes, and well everything except for some cheap even for Goodwill furniture, and a box of food, were gone.
At this point I will admit I had mixed feelings. Part of me hoped he had decided to move on, part of me wondered if he would come back (he had disappeared for a few days before and come back), and part of me wished I didn't want to know. I did nothing, later a huge regret, but I figured I'd wait a few days to see what might happen.
I got a call from his wife. It seems Al was found dead in his (my old) pickup on the side of a road with all his stuff in the back under that plywood shell. He had taken his life. Not a perfect life, but his only life She wanted to know if I wanted to come to the funeral. I did not. I was in shock. I was still in shock a day later. I was really still in shock a week later. On some level, I will always be in shock.
There was guilt. All the signs had been there. I should have called the police, I should have reported him missing, but that also seemed extreme at the time. The reality is, there was no way to know for sure what was happening, and part of me wished our lives weren't intertwined by mere chance and fate. I did not ask the details, I didn't want to know. It would have hurt too much.
There was the matter of his small pile of stuff in his room. His family didn't want it. I did nothing with it for awhile and closed the door to his room. I didn't want a new roommate any time soon, so there it stayed.
One clear cold winter night I was out walking to get some air, and a block from my place at the corner gas station a man approached me. He emotionally said "I just got out of prison, I don't know what to do, help me". I've been "bummed" countless times in my life. This one was different, this time was different. Time is perfect, remember?
I instructed him to follow me back to my place where I said I could give him some things, some of Al's things. When we got near the complex I told him to wait here. He immediately stopped. He was used to being told to stop. I wasn't about to let a convict into my unit. I went inside, gathered up the bed quilt, some food, and a few things. I presented the stuff to him outside along with $20. He almost thought it was too generous and could not believe what he was getting. He staggered off with his armload of stuff. I never saw him again.
Then I placed a "free furniture" ad for the remainder of Al's stuff. A Mexican lady showed up with a small kid and young man. We loaded up the entire bedroom into their beat up small pickup. The bed, the end tables, dresser, a box of food, everything I have a feeling the bed was for the child. I don't think he had a proper bed, maybe never. Not his own anyway. There were many, many grateful thanks. Their truck "staggered off" with a truckload of stuff. I never saw them again.
The room was finally empty. I still felt empty, but good about where Al's stuff had gone.
All that is left of Al's time is the gazebo he helped me build in my backyard.
The jungle vines wrap around its beams for support. The gophers live below its deck. The begonias cycle towards winter. The nasturtiums slowly blanket above deck. The apple tree drops its fruit. Not perfect, but a cool place where time, perfect time, passes.