3 Days Notice to Terminate Stability

by Rose Banks

Landlord:  [redacted]                                            

To:  [redacted] Unit #:   964                                                                       

Premises: [redacted]  Street, Bronx, NY, 10460                              

YOU ARE HEREBY GIVEN NOTICE to vacate the premises within the next three days. The accumulated debris from holiday decorations on the brown door of the apartment must be cleared. Remove the white curtain in the shower adorned with flowers. Don’t forget to patch up the pin-sized holes from family portraits in the cream-colored walls.

Any and all belongings must be removed from the area. The roller blades sitting in the corner with the scratched-up Martian on the heels and the helmet with the barbed wire decal will have to be abandoned in the cosmic darkness of a storage bin. All 1,952 trading cards in the upper left-hand drawer will have to be stuffed into a shoe box. All your possessions will have to be spread between the homes of not-so-close neighbors, the godmother who turned you away, your emotionally abusive boyfriend, who occasionally placed his hands around your throat, and an unreliable storage unit.

Don’t forget to pick apart your room in the shadows as your parents speak with hushed voices in the kitchen. Creep as close as possible. Hear them question where to go and who to turn to.

Hear their only concern is you. Where to place you. Hear your father repeat that he’s been on the streets and can do it again, but the streets are no place for women, especially not a teenager. Your mother cries into her hands. She doesn’t care about what happens to her, just that her baby doesn’t have to feel the harshness of sleeping on pavement in an alleyway with rats and ravenous strays.

You won’t have time to collect your thoughts before arriving at the PATH Assessment Shelter with homework and clothes filling your purple backpack. The shelter is frigid. Babies awaiting homes cry in the dim lighting. Each cry renders a new tear you fight into submission as parents act strong for their children. You sleep on the glacier-cold plastic seats using a sweater as a blanket and the backpack as a pillow.

You’ll be out of school for two days because the authorities need to see you in order to believe you exist. To believe your parents are parents. You choke on words as you are forced to face an interviewer.

She’ll ask you a series of questions, prying into your personal and family life, trying to determine how much you need a roof over your head. What do you do after school? How are your academics? Do you work? Do you know how you got here? You remember the one thing your parents told you: Don’t mention your aunt. When the interviewer asks if there is any other place you can go, you’ll say no while biting down the excuses your godmother made up for not taking you in.

Later that afternoon, you’ll head to Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and 137th Street, to the family shelter you were placed in. It’s in a different borough, but at least it’s close to your high school. There is a curfew to follow, or else you risk being locked out. To enter, you will have to ring a bell outside, walk through the hallway to a window, and present identification. Be happy that your mother’s high blood pressure requires an air conditioner in the apartment with the sweltering summer soon approaching.

There is only one window to place it in anyway.

Look down when you enter the apartment to avoid the wispy air of depression that extends from the heating plate with two burners and the mini fridge under the counter. Slip pass the miniscule bathroom and look up when you enter the common area, which took only ten steps to get to from the apartment door. The low circular table holds the Mac your boyfriend lent you to do homework while connected to the Harlem Free Wi-Fi, of which you are just barely in range. Avoid climbing up the black rungs to reach the top bunk until you’re going to sleep. Bite down on your lip as the small cylinders pinch the arches of your feet.

Stare at the cracked ceiling. Fight the urge to bang at the scratches from rodents dwelling in the walls. Tightly close both eyes when the neighbors begin to fight; cover both ears when their child starts crying. Pretend to snore when your parents try to reassure each other that you’ll all make it through this.

Breathe rapidly when you wake up to them fighting. Scream at your father to let your mother go as she rushes off to work, leaving you with your back to the wall, trying to fade away before he can hit the railing in anger. He’ll storm out and leave you alone. You’ll remember the last time his anger was misguided, resulting in a bruise on your lower back that lasted over a month. You can’t remember how old you were, but you remember feeling afraid and watching the sadness in his eyes as you avoided him and flinched at his gaze.

You’ll only feel happiness at your boyfriend’s apartment, with his well-conditioned room and adorable Shih Tzu. After having surgery on your hip, resulting in a five-inch-long scar, you won’t be able to leave the shelter for a while.

You’ll turn to rely on your boyfriend. You’ll overlook his outbursts. You’ll make excuses for him that are better than the ones he’ll give you.

He’ll never hit you, but he’ll grab you, choke you for a moment, jab his finger into your sides as he mocks you for small mistakes, like calling everything a jacket instead of a sweater or a coat.

You’ll fight the thought of leaving him. You’ll fight it because he’s the only stable thing left in the cosmos.

Rose Banks is a recent graduate of SUNY Oswego where she received her B.A. in creative writing. She was born in the Bronx. An Aquarius like her father, she delved into the world of creative expression. Her parents recall her lining up crayons on the carpet to make characters as she weaved a story. She enjoys writing in several genres but focuses on poetry, creative nonfiction, and realistic fiction. She draws inspiration from her personal experiences. Recently she received the Lewis Turco Formal Poetry Award for her poem “Decay.” She writes to help others and create a community of support.