The Cleaner - A snippet from the second chapter.


At first the house was empty without him and then, when I learned to accept the quiet spaces and even to revel in them, it was just expensive.

He moved into an apartment close to the university campus, a two-bedroom garret at the top of a limestone rowhouse down by City Park, with cracked plaster walls and floors that dove sharply down into the corners. I visited him only once there and we moved around each other awkwardly, not wanting even accidental contact. We both regretted it had come to this, but neither of us could fathom a retreat, or was inclined to hunt down a new way forward that might result in us living together again. 

He gave me a tour. There were food crumbs on the kitchen floor, mostly up against the kickboard below the storage cupboards, and in the refrigerator a postage stamp of lettuce leaf had glued itself to the face of the crisper drawer and gone black. I worried that he might accidentally poison himself here. Tumble from the tiny balcony at the front of the house, or fall down the perilous one-glass-of-wine stairs into the lobby. There were the books that I had bought him on his birthday and there were other books that he had stolen from me when he left.