After John finished enjoying the view from his balcony, he decided to begin personalizing his space. He bought some things he needed as well as a few accent pieces to spruce up the place a bit. It wasn’t much as he couldn’t afford to spend a whole lot, but the small changes made a difference; it was beginning to look more like home. He worked up a bit of an appetite and grilled some dogs on the balcony. It was his first attempt at cooking, and he was darn proud of himself.
The rest of that day he spent inside getting acquainted with his apartment. There were new sounds, new smells, and new problems to anticipate. John chilled in front of his new television all day and observed everything he could about the place…including that mouse hole behind the television. He noticed there was one in Phoenix’s room too and hoped that they were remnants of a previous problem and nothing for him to deal with. He sat there watching the hole almost daring a tiny creature to come out. Nothing did, and he hoped it stayed that way.
John slept pretty well his first night. The sounds of traffic on the bridge, a distant train, and street performers below were all new to him but soothing nonetheless. He drifted off to sleep within minutes and woke up feeling awesome. He even arrived at work early, and everyone was shocked to see him in such a good mood.
As he strutted through the lobby, Jade was exiting the lab to speak with the guy at the front desk.
“Oh! Hi Jade! Congrats!”
Naturally, John wanted to know what she was being congratulated for. The last time he congratulated her, she acted like she didn’t know what he was talking about. There was only one way to find out. He had to go speak to the office gossiper: Aiden McGowan. No one knows how this dude knew so much because it wasn’t like he was super popular–quite the contrary. He was the creepiest guy in the lab, and barely anyone ever spoke to him. Aiden had dirt on everyone! It was almost as if he worked for the Sims Intelligence Agency or something.
“There he is,” Aiden yelled when John walked in. “How’s my main man John?”
“That good, huh? Well well well! You got lucky with the misses this weekend?”
“Even better… We got divorced!”
“Ohhhhh! Watch out ladies the tom cat is back in the alley!”
John had to laugh. He had an advantage over Aiden; he was a stranger in town, and no one knew anything about him. It was no wonder Aiden latched onto him and acted like they were best buds. However, it wasn’t going to work. One thing that annoyed John about Mary was the fact that she was always hiding their inadequacies from everyone. But, now, he saw that it was a useful skill. Aiden was going to have to do more than act like his best bud to draw information from him.
“So, when I came in just now, the receptionist was congratulating Jade. Do you know why?”
“Oh, you know I know. Remember I told you she and this lame dude got married a month or two ago? Turns out they hadn’t moved in together yet! He was still living with his mother. You know Mila Munch, right? She didn’t want Jade in her house. I think Jade was ashamed of him and wouldn’t let him move in with her at the party house. Anyway, she couldn’t have been too ashamed of him because he knocked her up!”
“She had a baby? When was she even pregnant?”
“She had two babies! Remember a week or two ago she was on vacation? Well, it was more like a staycation, he he he. Guess she didn’t want us to know…or anyone! But word spreads fast, ya know? Needless to say, her and hubs live together now…stinkin cute little family too. They got a cute little cottage out in the country and everything. You’ll never guess where…”
John raised an eyebrow.
“Right down the street from his mother!”
The two men shared a hearty laugh, but John really did wonder how Aiden of all people knew all these intimate details of everyone’s life.
The day flew by, and John worked harder than he ever had; perhaps because for once he wasn’t frustrated and tense. All of his hard work paid off too. Before he left for the day, the boss called him in the office and said that he had been promoted! The bonus wasn’t large, but it helped. He took the money and bought a few things for Phoenix’s room to make it more homey. In the early evening, John decided that he should see what San Myshuno was all about.
So far he had only admired it from his balcony. It was time to get outside and see what his new neighborhood had to offer. He walked across the street to the park. There was a basketball court, food stands, street performers and artists. That particular night there was only one food stand: Mexican food. John had zero experience with Mexican food and looked forward to the new experience.
“Uhhh… What’s good here?” John asked the man.
“Everything, dude. You can’t go wrong.”
That didn’t help.
“What would you recommend?”
“How about an empanada?”
“Sure. That sounds great.” John had no idea what that was.
He paid the man and took his meal to a picnic table nearby. Before he dug into the meal, he took the time to appreciate his new surroundings. Seeing the Spice District from a new vantage point was rewarding, and he felt like in time he would be very comfortable there. He picked up the empanada and inspected it. Pastry filled with…something, he thought. He brought it to his nose and sniffed it. Spicy meat? Beans? Finally, he put it in his mouth and chewed. It was decent. He didn’t let it cool much and burned his tongue, but decent. He wasn’t sure if he would order it again though.
“Hey,” a young man said. “Mind if I join you?”
“Uhh, no. Of course. Please. I’m John.”
“Nice to meet you.”
They talked for a few moments and then John left him to explore more of the neighborhood. He had been hearing someone passionately strumming a guitar the entire time he was out there and went to watch. He was captivated by the street performer. A beautiful, blond, young lady played the guitar with her case open to accept tips. She played like she had a message to convey to anyone who would stop and listen. He wasn’t sure which was more captivating: her beauty or her music.
Behind her was another young girl who was probably still in high school. She had begun a sidewalk mural. He had never seen this done before. At first, he thought it may have been illegal as it appeared like defacing public property. However, she looked so innocent and carefree about it, it simply had to be ok. He was amazed by everyone’s ambition in that town. It was almost as if everyone had the same motto: just get out there and make it happen! They all had big dreams and started wherever they could and however they could to reach the top. It was admirable.
All night John had been trying to avoid embarrassment at the basketball court; he hadn’t touched a ball since his early teen years. However, this was a new life he was living. He didn’t have to be afraid of what others would say anymore, so he changed his clothes, found a ball, and went to the court.