Rent DaybyVincent E©
The sun beat down on the cracked asphalt of the street, and the stagnant, hazy air hung heavy in people’s lungs. It was another unbearable day in the early summer. Steam rose off the sidewalk from the runoff of a fire hydrant that gushed water into the street and added to the humidity. The neighborhood kids enjoyed the urban watering hole. They darted back and forth in front of the mouth of the hydrant taking turns getting wet and cooling off, but their parents just sat on their stoops trying to breath slowly so as not to induce heat stroke. Everyone wanted the ice cream man to come by soon. He was still blocks away from their street. The few people in the neighborhood who had air conditioning stayed inside, but everyone knew that the block was likely to black out from time to time leaving them to come out and join everyone else on the burning street.
Those already outside just did what they could to stay cool. The old Italian men at the corner sat on their stoops and fanned themselves with racing forms. They argued with each other about baseball teams. They were the oldest residents on the street and they remembered back to days gone by and how they themselves used to run across the hydrant to cool off. They were too old to do any running now. The force of the water coming out of the hydrant would probably knock each of them over.
Two of the newer residents of the street sat under the awning of their building drinking shots of vodka. They did not care that the alcohol was only dehydrating them more. It was what they drank in the old country; it was what they would drink in their new country. They had neither children playing outside not memories of water flowing out of hydrants. What they did have was an uncanny idea of which horse would win today.
Two fat Mexican women sat on their steps in the sun not even making an attempt to find shade. They were yelling to their children to be careful and watch for cars as they drove past. The children did not mind the cars. They knew that each driver slowed down before approaching the hydrant because he did not want to skid in the puddle.
Every summer was like this, but this one had seemed to come early. Both May and June had been unseasonably hot and humid, and some tensions had already begun to rise. Two blocks away there had been a fight between neighbors that left one man in intensive care and another in jail awaiting a judge. It was all over loud music or some such stupidity. People did not need a good reason to go after each other this summer; they just needed a reason.
Vincent came down the street in a rented car towards one of the tenement buildings that he owned in the early afternoon, just as the heat was reaching its hottest point of the day. His whole morning had been a real bitch. The radiator of his car gave out, and he had to rent one while his was being fixed. It already cost him more than two hours of his day. He would have been done collecting the rent and on to other chores by now if not for that. He went through the same hassle at every building. It was always someone coming up short with the money. This time someone needed it for bail. Last time someone got laid off. The first of the month was always a pain in the ass.
Don’t these fucking people know I’ve got my own problems?
The bank was on his back over a loan that was turning bad. The city was on his back about faulty wiring in some of his buildings. His wife was on his back about the city and the bank. And his bookie was just on his back. To add to his self-pity he had to go up and down several flights of staircases in the sweltering heat collecting handfuls of sweaty money from people who thought that he was the bad guy for charging them for the privilege of living in his buildings.
These fucking people...
The thought always trailed off when he was feeling sorry for himself.
“Good morning, ladies,” he said with a disingenuous smile to the two fat Mexican women sitting on the steps. “First of the month.”
“Yes, we know what day it is. We do not forget.” One of the women answered him as she reached into her purse and pulled out six fifty-dollar bills.
The other woman got up and walked into the building without excusing herself. She thought that it was stupid for her sister to sit on the stairs with her rent money where anyone could come along and steal it. Moreover, she did not like the company of her landlord.
“It’s about as hot as it ever gets out here, isn’t it Maria?” he asked without looking at her. He pulled out a small book of receipts and began scribbling on the top piece of paper.
“Yes, it’s pretty bad. It reminds me of Mexico. It’s always like this back there.”
If you love it so much why don’t you go back down there, you fucking wetback?
“Yeah, I’ll bet it’s pretty bad down there.” He tore off her copy of the monthly receipt and handed it to her.
Her sister came back out of the building and handed Vincent three one hundred dollar bills. He filled out her receipt and gave it to her without making any conversation. He was in a hurry to get out of the sun, and he didn’t want to engage in any unnecessary chit-chat. It was so hot he couldn’t think of anything else to talk about anyway.
Inside the building he visited the remaining ten apartments taking the lower floors first and working his way up the narrow staircase that was poorly lighted even in the middle of the day. One by one he collected the monthly rent money from each tenant and handed her a receipt. He didn’t stop to talk, and most of them had nothing useful to say to him.
On a day like this he was concerned that all they would want to do is register complaints, but even this bunch of complainers didn’t want to stand in a hot hallway and gripe. They knew it was pointless. Besides, they just wanted him to leave so they could get outside and try to cool off while waiting for the ice cream man.
Apartment by apartment he worked his way up the stairs until he came to his last tenant of the building. She was also his last tenant of the day. If there was anything worthwhile in owning these buildings, it was on the other side of the last door of the day.
Downstairs Maria started new gossip with her sister.
“That girl upstairs, she’s home?” she asked.
“Yes, she’s up there,” answered her sister.
“It’s disgraceful, she should be ashamed of herself. And she has a baby. That’s no way for a mother to behave.”
“It’s not her fault. Don’t blame her. It’s him. That man is a bastard.”
Lynette had seen Vincent coming from down the street. She stood next to the air conditioner in her bedroom and spotted him the minute he had stepped out of the rental car that he was driving. She wasn’t really looking for him; she knew that he would be around the first of the month. She was just standing by the window in the room she shared with her daughter trying to enjoy a little bit of air conditioning while idly staring at the scene in the street.
“Rent day,” she said to her daughter. “Oh well,” she signed with a depressed resignation.
It wasn’t like her daughter understood what she was talking about. She was just shy of fourteen months old, and she didn’t understand anything. That was probably a good thing. Better that the little girl did not understand what was happening, or at least what was about to happen. Better to keep the shame of it from her for as long as possible.
“What am I gonna do when you get older?” Lynette said. “I’ll have to send you outside…into the street.” She spoke sullenly and pressed her head against the hot glass of the window as she finished the sentence. She noticed Vincent downstairs talking to her two Mexican neighbors.
The hot street.
Vincent had always collected one hundred and fifty dollars from her grandmother each and every month, and her grandmother always had the money. It wasn’t much for rent, but it was what her grandmother could afford and as low as Vincent was willing to go. The section eight money was reliable as it was with most of his tenants, but Lynette’s grandmother was more reliable than a government check; he never had a problem collecting from her. Vincent had been willing to charge her less because she was old, because she was never late, and because that poor elderly black woman carried herself with a dignity that even a son of a bitch like him had to respect.
However, Lynette’s grandmother was gone now, and the girl had been left to fend for herself and her new daughter with few job skills, an abbreviated education, and no real prospects other than her own government check. Now coming up with the money for rent was a problem. Now there was no one looking out for her and providing a place for her to live. She had to pay the rent. She had to buy the groceries. She had to be the adult. It was not a responsibility for which she was prepared.
Lynette changed her clothes after she saw Vincent enter the building. She had about fifteen minutes before he got all the way up the stairs. She took off the tee shirt and cutoff jeans she had been wearing. She wasn’t wearing a bra; it was too hot to be constricted in one. She had just let her breasts be supported by the tee shirt that was too small. She didn’t seem to mind that. All the girls wore them tight. She put on a short blue dress with large white polka dots. That and a pair of white cotton bikinis were all she wore. She buttoned up the front of the dress and leaned over her daughter’s crib.
“You be good now, baby. It’s cool enough in here for you. I’ll pull down the shade some more so the sun won’t come in the window.”
After a few minutes of doting on the little girl, Lynette heard a knock at the door. She knew it was her landlord. It was time for her to come up with the rent.
Lynette opened the door and saw him standing there. She did not make eye contact with him. She could not bring herself to look at him. She just opened the door wide enough to let him in, and without saying hello she stepped aside and allowed him into the apartment.
“Hello Lynette,” he said.
“Hello Mr. Vincent,” she replied.
“It’s the first of the month and all,” he reminded her.
“Yeah, I know.” She was looking at her bare feet.
“I see you’re wearing the dress. I take it that you don’t have the money today.”
“I just can’t save that much, Mr. Vincent. I have to by food for Lashawna, and the electric bill was higher this month because of the heat. I had to run that A/C day and night the last two weeks to make it cool enough for her to sleep.”
“I understand, Lynette. I understand. I know it’s tough for you. But it’s tough for me too. I have to get paid.”
“I know,” she whined a little.
“Well, I see that you’re wearing the dress. So I guess it’s the same arrangement as last time?” he asked.
“Yes,” she whispered inaudibly. She stared down at her feet and focused on her red toenails as she dug her big toe into the floorboard.
“What?” he asked. He knew what she said. He just wanted to hear her say it louder. It wasn’t enough that he had to taunt her with her poverty, he had to humiliate her by having her speak up.
Lynette looked up from her feet and turned her head to the living room sofa without ever looking at his face. “Yes,” she said. “Yeah, I guess so.”
She started to step towards the sofa, but Vincent stopped her.
“I’m very hot and thirsty,” he said. “Could you get me a glass of water and some ice?”
“Okay.” She hoped for a reprieve.
In the kitchen Lynette filled a glass with ice and poured some water into it. She handed it to him. He guzzled half the water quickly. The kitchen was as hot and humid as the rest of the building. Lynette felt a small trickle of sweat roll down her back. Vincent’s forehead was beaded with sweat. He brushed it with the short sleeve of his shirt, and then he finished off the water.
“So, how is the air conditioner working?” he asked. “Is it putting out enough cool air?”
“Yes,” she said. “I have my daughter in my bedroom with me so we can both keep cool while sleeping. It gets so hot up here on the top floor.”
Lynette took the glass from his hand, but he stopped her and held her by the elbow. Taking the glass back from her he placed it on a counter top behind him, then he turned to her.
“In here today,” he said.
“In the kitchen?” she asked.
Vincent placed his hands on her hips and squeezed her body through the blue dress. He could feel the heat from her body. She was warm from having spent so much time in the hot apartment. He looked down into the front of her dress and watched a small bead of sweat trickle down between her cleavage and disappear between her breasts.
“Yeah,” he said while staring at her breasts, “in here. In here today.”
Lynette’s landlord spent the next few minutes groping her young body with his sweaty hands. He never squeezed too hard. He just squeezed enough to feel the firmness of her breasts and the roundness of her bum. His hands grazed across her body from breast to cheek, and then from cheek to breast.
She turned away from his face and looked down, but that forced her to watch his hands roaming freely across her body. She was nervous, maybe not as nervous as the first time four months ago, but her heart beat a little faster and her body twitched.
Vincent was occupied with gazing down into the low cut opening of the dress. It was an inexpensive dress from a discount store that he bought two months ago to replace one that he had torn by accident. He felt a hint of guilt at the inadvertent damage to her clothes. He was taking advantage of this girl; pressuring her into something that decency should have prevented her from doing. He was forcing her to compromise herself and the values that her grandmother had tried to teach her so that he could sate his own vulgar lust.
Yet he had felt guilt over accidentally tearing a dress. It was one thing to take advantage of her body, but there was no need to damage her few possessions. He actually bought two dresses that day. One was a plain red dress, just like the one he had torn. Then he bought the blue dress with the white polka dots; it turned him on for some reason. The arrangement was that she should wear this dress just so he couldn’t cause any damage to her regular clothes. It was expendable.
Vincent backed off of her for a few moments. He unbuttoned his shirt and took it off.
“It’s as hot as hell in here,” he said.
“Yeah,” Lynette mumbled. She pondered over the word hell.
Vincent draped his shirt over the inactive radiator and unbuckled his belt and his pants.
“Unbutton your top,” he instructed her.
Lynette unfastened the buttons that closed her dress in front of her breasts while Vincent dropped his pants down around his ankles. His pale sweaty legs were a contrast to her toned black flesh. Vincent reached into the parted garment and with his right hand cupped his sweaty palm around her exposed breast. His left hand went up under her dress and grabbed at the white bikinis she wore underneath.
“Pull these down,” he directed her.
She was uncomfortable pulling her bikinis down, but she complied. She reached up under her dress and tugged them down and dropped them to the floor. As she stepped out of them, Vincent pressed her against the large wooden kitchen table and played with her nipples, twiddling them between his fingers.
Vincent felt his cock harden and he wanted more.
“Rub me,” he said. “Rub me with your palm.”
Lynette reached into his boxers and rubbed the tip of his penis with the palm of her left hand. Vincent continued playing with her nipples. There was something that he wanted.
Lynette looked at the floor to the side of Vincent’s feet. She tried not to focus too long on this middle aged white man who was groping her, but she never put up any resistance to his advances. It never entered her mind to say no or to say stop. The fact was that as uncomfortable as he made her feel emotionally he was less physically abusive of her than the father of her child had been. And even though Vincent may have treated her like a whore, he never called her one. That more than anything else caused her great confusion. The landlord would come over and fuck her for the rent, and then he turned around and bought her an air conditioner so the baby would not suffer the heat of the summer.
He was odd that way. He was always trying to gain some edge over other people as a shield against his own inadequacies. Yet when he had it, some sliver of humanity would interfere. Maybe it was the guilt over his only being able to get over on the poor and the weak. He never had any authority over someone with a backbone. He had never gained an advantage over Lynette’s grandmother; she was strong.
However, Lynette was weak and easily exploited.
“Lie back,” he said. “Lie back against the table.”
“It’s uncomfortable,” she whined.
“Just do it. Lie back against the table.”
Don’t irritate me, dammit. Just do what I tell you.
Lynette withdrew her hand from his penis and lay back and rested her body on the kitchen table. It was a large wooden table, and it did not wobble or show any sign of weakness. Vincent spread her legs apart and reached under her dress to run his finger across her clitoris. He pulled out a chair so that he could sit down and grope her body in comfort.
He pulled up the edge of her dress and revealed her mound of dark black hair. Vincent leaned in and took a long whiff of her sex. She had a ripe smell to her, as if she hadn’t bathed in a day. It could have been that, or it might have been that she had been so hot in the apartment that the smell of sweat just built up. Either way, Vincent enjoyed the pungent aroma.
He pressed his tongue against her labia and licked her from bottom to top. He lapped her like a dog, not wasting any time until he was in a frenzy licking her pussy. Each upward stroke got him more excited, and soon he was digging his tongue inside her sex. As he licked her between her legs he continued pulling gently on her nipples.
Lynette was always confused at this. This strange white man always went down between her legs. No man had ever done that before.
Brothers don’t go down there. Why does he do this?
What really confused her was the mixed message her body sent her. The nervousness and shame she felt when he ran his clammy hands over her breasts were accompanied by something else when he ran his tongue across her pussy. It was not uncomfortable. She was not sure if it was pleasant.
Vincent loved the smell and the taste of her heady slit. He was excited to no end to bury his face between her thighs and lick and suck to his heart’s content. He took deep laps of her labia, then he teased her clitoris with the tip of his tongue. He had a special name for it. He never told her what it was, but then again his mouth was full.
Mmmm, I love sucking on her little black-eyed pea.
He tugged on her nipples, trying to arouse them and make them erect. He pinched them between his fingers while sucking on her clitoris. Lynette closed her eyes and turned her head to the side so as not to look at his hands pulling on her nipples or his head bobbing between her legs.
Sweat rolled off of her body now and gathered on the table beneath the small of her back. It created suction each time her back made flat contact with the table and created a rude noise when she arched her back. Vincent loved the sound. It was the rude sound of sloppy sex. He was hard as he continued sucking on her clitoris and twiddling her nipples. However there was something that he wanted, and he was too hot to put it off any longer.
Vincent stood up from his seat and stood over her body for a moment. Lynette had felt him rise, but she did not open her eyes. She just let him do what he wanted. Vincent ran his pudgy hands over her lean black flesh. He groped her breasts again. He groped between her legs. He groped her firm round ass.