The address leaves me in front of a cement building with lines dividing the block into vertical strips. Each stripe is one window wide and has its own front door. I find number 2179 but I'm supposed to walk around the back and find a silver car with a triangle sticker on the back. Another fucking sticker. I enter the alley and find that the side of the building stretches back farther than I expected. The pavement of the alley is too bumpy and wavy to skate down and I have to klonk my skates across it like boots. Then the building ends and I look down the back. There is some space behind the neighboring building where cars are lined up. The windows from the front seem to repeat themselves back here. I look for the silver car. White, white, red, white, orange, black, black, silver. I step over a huge lump in the pavement that runs diagonally through the entire alley. Is there a root underneath? The sticker is shiny and black. A solid black triangle in the middle of the silver bumper. It looks like a caution symbol or something. I wonder what it means. Maybe they are a part of some team of workers that have to drive together somewhere. Uhg. That sounds awful.
I step around the car to look at the building. There is a small white door. As I look down the building, each spot has an identical door. All white. There is a steel rectangle where the doorknob would be but no visable key hole or key scanner. I slam my hand on it a few times. The metal on my glove clanks against it. I look around for cameras. I can't find any which is strange. Usually people want cameras on all their doors and especially where their cars are. I look up to the roof above me. Maybe they are just not visable from down here. This apartment must be 6 floors high. There is no way they are going to hear me knocking from down here. I turn around and look at the building behind me. I spot two cameras but they are pointed at their own back door which leads down to a parking garage.
The door opens and I turn around to come face to face with a pair of black eyes attached to a person with warm skin, some faint facial hair and a long ponytail. They are wearing a black vest over a black hoodie and a set of black corded headphones around their neck.
"Ah... You order a thing?" I ask. After years of deliveries, I still haven't come up with something better to stay to people.
"Yeah. Please come inside," they say, and back into the building. It's a sliding door that disappeared into the wall. I guess the building is a little newer than it looks. I take my headphones off and leave them on my shoulders. I move my goggles onto my forehead to get a good look at them. They look quietly nervous. They aren't fidgeting but I can tell they are waiting for me to act. These moments when I decide if I'm going to trust someone or not- they feel too small to trust they exist. I know that at some point before I saw them, I wasn't sure if I trusted them or not. And now that I'm looking at then standing just inside, staring at me, I know that I do trust them. Or at least, I trust them enough to decide to go inside. But what made me decide? When did I move from "I don't know" to "Yeah, they're fine"?
They are wearing 2 silver rings. One is on their left index finger and one is on their right middle finger. What finger do people wear their wedding ring on? Am I walking into a married person's apartment while their spouse is at work? Mix did say they requested that I come earlier before somoene else came home. It's that kind of shit that gets me nervous. People are good at covering their own tracks, and therefore mine, when it comes to legal stuff but I swear- sometimes people want to get caught by their partner doing illegal things. I look at them. They could be married. They are cute and look polite and have a nice place.
"Are you married?" I ask. Why not. I might as well. Their eyebrows squish together across their oily forhead.
"No. No I'm not married," they say, trying to work out what it might mean that I'm asking. I step inside and walk a few steps past them into the room. There is a large square shower stall with a toilet that is illuminated by one large square of cyan light in the ceiling.
The room is long and narrow and it stretches back to what I would guess is the front of the building. I don't see a door back there though. One wall of the room is covered in shelves filled with boxes, cans, and rows of blinking LEDs. There is a desk and desk chair that juts out from the wall and a pile of stuff on the other side. It's hard to see because the only lights are some very dim ceiling light boxes between the white ceiling tiles, and a warm glow from a low ceiling on the left side of the room.
"Thank you for coming so quickly. Sorry for having you come to the back door. I know it's awkward. I just... I don't use the front door. My roommates use it to get to their rooms but it's like..." They make a strange gesture. "It's not connected to mine and I wouldn't have heard you. Oh shit! I have a cat! I'm sorry!" They say, pointing at a short grey cat that is meowing at my legs.
"Aw! So cute!" I say, bending over to let it smell my hand. Maybe they are more nervous than they seem. The cat rams its head into my hand. "So friendly!" I say. It's nice to be greeted by a stranger cat. It makes me feel like some sort of magical cat-speaker.
"Yes, she is very affectionate." They sigh. "I always worry people are allergic and all that..." There is a quiet hum buzzing from the wall behind them.
I stand back up and notice the warm light is shining down on a platform with a blanket and a couple pillows on it. It must be one of those sunlight beds. I have read about them. They are really popular in cities that don't have a lot of sun. You can program it to emit your personalized dose of vitamin D while you sleep in it. It would be nice for people who know exactly how long they are going to sleep each night. I can't imagine what that is like.
"You do have the tape, correct?" they ask. I think they noticed me looking at their bed. Oh god.
"Yeah. I've got the cassette tape!" I yelp and then just start babbling my horrible head off. "Quite the antique. You're pretty lucky that Dial had it. He doesn't usually have any of these at all. Said he had just got it in too. Really lucky. Wow..." I hand it to them and they take it from my hand slowly. They sit down in their desk chair and turn on a small lamp that is way too bright for this dark room. They look at both sides of the case and then slowly open it up. They take the tape out and set it down on the messy desk. There are 2 identical empty mugs and a line of soldering pens. On the back end of the desk is a black monitor facing the bed. I can see my reflection in it. Suddenly a loud fan kicks on somewhere in the wall.
"Thank you," they say, looking at the cassette inside. The cat has jumped onto the bed next to me and is meowing for me to come over. It points its head out into the air at me. I step over and stroke its head.
"Yeah, sure," I say. I consider telling them that they probably shouldn't make requests for home deliveries again. But I don't know. It's hard to just say that shit. I look at the wall to see if I can spot something to play the cassette tape on. It's too dark to tell. On the floor farther back, I see a couple tube lights on the floor illuminating a bunch of weird small objects, a keyboard, and a pile of books. I wonder what they are. Probably Public Domain manuals.
The cat is purring loudly and standing on its back legs to push against my hand even harder. I sit down on the bed and let it crawl on my lap. "You have to confirm receipt," I say. I try to reach over the cat into my bag to pull out my handheld. They start telling me their number. "Could you just enter it yourself? Sorry about that, it's just better that way to prevent errors." I lean forward and wave the handheld at them. The space between the bed and the desk is quite narrow. They take it and enter their number and hand it back to me.
"Thank you," they say, very seriously. "I just. I want you to know that I really appreciate your help."
"Well you paid me so like, it's okay."
"I mean, it's a risk that you take, moving these things. And it's a sacrifice that you make so that I don't have to and it deserves more gratitude than just whatever CASH your Directory gives you."
I don't completely like the sound of this, and I stand up and head to the door.
"It's not a risk to me," I say. "I don't have things to risk, like you do. No one is watching me, you know." I reach the door and can't find the button to open it. I pull my goggles over my eyes and try to look as impatient as I can.
"I guess you never really know what you are risking," he says quietly.
"Could you open the door?" I ask. "I have more work to do today." I force a smile and point with my thumb to the door. What if he doesn't let me out of here before listening to the tape and then he finds out that it's fucked up? That's Dial's fault. I'm not taking it back tonight.
They walk over to the door and it opens. I move outside as fast as I can. They hold up a hand to wave goodbye but have a very sad look on their face. What is up with this dude? I've never been more happy to be heading to Spiro's. He may be nuts but at least I know what I'm getting into over there.