A few things have changed since I got back to Denver three weeks ago. Crow moved out. Gone is the spray-painted address on the white stucco wall at the bottom of the dirt driveway. Gone, the trailer with dusty windows streaked into backwards letters by a messenger finger. Gone, his son who smiled and played rap music and who never spoke to me. No more spontaneously appearing vehicles with missing wheels, no Christmas lights hanging drearily in the window, no late night honking from neighborhood boys and girls coming for their meth. I miss Crow in a weird way, since he was the overseer, for better or for worse, of this neighborhood. Theo, my neighbor who has not changed, told me that Crow's landlord evicted him even though he'd been paying the rent. This is a slumlord, by all accounts, who only half-painted the house an unnatural, mortuary-esque chalk white, and failed to cover over the thick splatter of orange paint that was slung onto the north side of the house one night with such airborne force, the paint broke one of the windows. That window is still jagged with ribbons of opaque orange curtaining some dark room I look into whenever I walk by before quickly looking away. I found the house on zillow.com, and Crow's apartment is renting for $600 a month and it still looks like the subterranean crack den that it probably always has been.
Some kid paid full rent for Crow's place for the months of June, July, and August, and hasn't yet moved in. The first week I was home, I heard Theo's door opening and closing across the hallway and assumed it was Theo or his girlfriend who has a white dog named Dignan who, on his first visit across the hall to our place a year and a half ago, pooped a frozen yogurt soft serve swirl of brown right in the middle of our bedroom. But it wasn't either of them, it was the kid whose rent the slumlord was holding. He was never given the go-ahead to move into Crow's place, so Theo let him move in up here. Theo is bipolar and sometimes I can hear him yelling obscenities at the can crusher (his girlfriend told me on a walk that inanimate objects incur his rage, not her). Sometimes when Luke's gone, it's almost nice to hear them through the walls, to know that someone's there, yelling and living. Theo is helping Crow find a lawyer so he can get what he's owed.
Theo drives a hulking gold van and collects everything. Jars, guitars, antique desks, bottles, tables, kennels, metal rods, speakers, pots and pictures and pans. This has changed: when we talked in between our two apartments the other night, I could tell that the mountains behind him had grown. His studio is about half the size of our place, but I think he must have twice the amount of stuff. The containers for our comfort differ between us, but we need them anyways--a drug dealer who waves when you arrive any time of day or a ceiling fan taken from a stack of broken objects in the alley.
There's a new neighbor, too, next door in the white house that has been abandoned for years. He has black glasses and tattoos and wears a red cotton tank top when he's working in the backyard. He owns a salami company called Il Mondo Vecchio--The Old World. I like when he's working on his shed when I get home. I've missed the presence of people outside ever since I left New Orleans. What do people do with their porches if they're never on them? Why all these flowers if there's no one looking at them? I asked Mark, the new neighbor, what he was going to put in his shed and he said "my stuff."