[Sustentation] Chapter 1 - Wesley - Ground Rules

Pulling into the driveway I'm not sure I'm in the right home, or even neighborhood. Half the homes look like small cheap places but a few blocks away there are huge homes with pools. This one is the largest for at least three blocks, but looks to be neglected. The grass is almost to my knees despite the rest of the neatly manicured yards on the block. There’re a few pieces of siding starting to sag away from the house. Those will need to be fixed before winter comes. It might even need some insulation.

I knew the house would be in bad shape when I agreed to move in here, but the rent was so cheap. All I have to pay is $100, do the yard work, clean and make repairs around the house. To be honest, it looks better than I thought it would. My dad was a handyman so I was forced to follow him on jobs for most of my life. Making small repairs should be no issue. As long as the roof doesn't leak, and the basement doesn't flood. I shouldn't have any problems.

I make my way through the overgrowth up the stairs to the porch and reach the front door. Before I can knock on the door, it opens. A thin man with a naturally tan skin and reddish nappy afro opened the door wearing nothing but boxer briefs. He's thin but there's no real muscle definition, the love handles and puffy nipples means he doesn't work out much. I could take him in a fight if things go south, clearly this man is not stable. His arms are heavily tattooed while his torso is bare with the exception of some that make it appear his skin has been peeled back. His sleepy red eyes tell me he's either just woken up or he's just gotten high. Right beneath those eyes is his most distinct tattoo, in red letters, "vampire," is written in all caps with the letters “ire,” in extra thick font.

"You Wesley," he asks.


"I thought you'd be a white boy."

"Well I didn't think you'd be one," I joke, but he doesn't seem to laugh.

"Because my name is Kareem," he asks bluntly.

"Yeah," I'm somewhat ashamed as I answer.

"Well I'm not. Don't forget it."


"Do you want to bring your stuff in or just keep looking over me?"

I expected Kareem to help me bring my stuff in, but he just went back to watching whatever movie he was before I came in. Once everything was inside he finally paused the movie to talk with me. I thought he'd want to get to know me, as roommates usually do. Instead he just wanted to lay some ground rules.

"You know you've got the yard work and repairs right?"

"Yes," I almost feel like I'm talking to an old man.

"If it's something you can't do, tell me. I'll hire someone to do it. I don't want you screwing things up because you got ahead of yourself," as if his home was in great standing already.

"I should be able to handle most of it. Doesn't look too bad."

"Whatever. Next rule, there's wine in the kitchen. Don't drink it. That isn't for you. You can have whatever else you want, never that."

"You make it sound deadly."

"It isn't, but you'll wish yo were dead if I find out."

"You're a funny guy," I try to force a laugh.

"How am I funny?"


"I'm just trying to see how I'm funny."

"I just think you're funny."

"You mean, let me understand this cause, you know, maybe it's me. I'm a little fucked up maybe, but I'm funny how? I mean funny like a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh, I'm here to fucking amuse you? What do you mean funny? Fnny how? How am I so funny," he stands up and starts to pace back and forth.

"I was just saying that the way you speak it's sarcastic and-"

"Sarcastic and what? You said I'm funny. How the fuck am I funny? What the fuck is so funny about me? Tell me, tell me what's funny."

"I'm sorry, you're not funny. I'll go," I stand up. "I didn't mean to offend."

"Sit down you idiot," he easily pushes me back onto the sofa.


"When you watch Goodfellas that'll be your favorite scene. I thought you said you liked movies?"

"Doesn't everyone like movies? That's just not my favorite genre"

"Whatever. Key is on the coffee table. Pick any room upstairs you want."

"Where do you stay?"


Before I could reply, he had already pressed play on his movie, sat down and put his feet up on the coffee table. I could keep trying and failing to have friendly conversations with him, but I figure the whole thing would be pointless. He didn't seem interested in anything but movies and trying to scare me. I wonder what his deal is. 

He really might be crazy. The tattoos should have told me he was out of his mind. The only people with face tats are famous rappers, criminals and people who gave up on life a long time ago. I've never seen any rapper like him before and if he was a criminal he might be able to pay someone else to fix his house. That leaves a person who gave up on life a long time ago which makes sense. I don't smell any marijuana, but he has to have been using it.

I settle on the master bedroom upstairs. It already has curtains, even if they're tacky floral prints, they'll work. It also has an attached bathroom. None of the other rooms were small, but this one is by far the biggest. It isn't messy, just dusty. The entire second floor is dusty, even the other bathroom looks untouched. I'll need to get some furniture. There's a bed in each room, but nothing else. No dresser, no nightstand, and even the beds are haphazardly thrown into each room. Why is he living like this? 

"Hey, I thought of another rule," Kareem scares me.

"I didn't hear you come in."

"Yeah, I'm just a quiet guy."

"What's the other rule."

"Never go in the basement. Even if I invite you." 

"Are you running your own Saw game in the basement?"

"Want to see," for some reason it almost sounds threatening.

"No, I'm good."

"You catch on quick."

"Always been a fast learner."

"Anything you want to know?"

"Is there a church around here?"

"Do I look like I would know where to find a church?"

"No, I guess you'd probably burst into flames if you walked into one."

"Now look who’s being funny,” I don’t get a chance to respond before he’s gone.

I honestly don’t know if this is going to work out. Kareem just gives me a bad vibe. Some people aren’t very extroverted but it feels like he’s going the extra mile just to make sure I don’t talk to him more than a few minutes at a time. Still he’s the one who starts all the conversations; maybe so he can cut them short. Earlier he made a joke quoting the movie scene I’ve never seen before. But even then, he really worked hard to intimidate me. I felt like he might really attack me, I don’t think I’d ever been so afraid of another person. Then he just goes back as if nothing happened. If I could examine his body, I’m sure his tattoos would be odd or filled with threatening designs.

Maybe he’ll just keep to himself and watch movies or stay in the basement. I’ll be at school most of the time and once the semester is over I can move out. It’s too late to find somewhere else to stay. I just have to keep telling myself that God wouldn’t put me through anything that I couldn’t handle. Kareem isn’t an obstacle to overcome but a person that God placed in front of me to teach me a lesson, or perhaps I’m here to teach him a lesson.

I wonder if he would be willing to go to Goodwill with me. I could grab some furniture and he’d be help getting everything in the car. Maybe he knows somewhere else I can get some stuff, I’m not from around here so it’ll be good to have the extra set of eyes. I can make this work, I just need to stay positive.

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