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Lodging

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Kensington Market hasn't changed since Geoffrey's student days at U of T. Still the same mix of grunge and would-be hip, like the second-hand clothing place next door.

The apartment's over a cheap pizza joint, so that's going to be a blast in summer. Right now it's winter, he's just got out of the halfway house, and he doesn't care. It's furnished, after a fashion - a rickety folding table and mismatched kitchen chairs, a lumpy couch, a hard narrow bed, an expandable clothes rail, a wrought-iron standard lamp trailing flex that looks too old for code. The boiler clanks and thumps when you run the hot water, the fridge sounds like an alien invasion, the cooker is almost certainly a health hazard. What the hell, it's not like he's going to have visitors. Or cook.

"Are you sure about this, Geoffrey?" His social worker gives him that worried look again, the one that reminds him of Anna.

"It's fine," he says, knowing he'd have felt the same about it himself before the hospital.

He hands over the deposit and a month's rent in advance to the landlord, scrawls his signature on the tenancy agreement and pockets the keys.

A front door key. It's the kind of thing you take for granted, till you find out what it's like not having a door of your own that you can lock. Or being locked up because you're officially insane. He has a front door key again. He may not have a lot else going for him, but he has that.

 

Anna gives him that exact same worried look when she turns up at the apartment, three days later. Of course she'd manage to track him down somehow, if anybody could; he doesn't ask her how. She doesn't say anything about how he looks, or how the place looks, though she's almost vibrating with the effort not to. Once, he'd have been irritated by her concern, or touched, or maybe both. The pills make everything feel a long way off.

He signs the forms she's brought with her, the ones that say he's not coming back. He doesn't see why there has to be paperwork. Everybody already knows what happened, and what it meant.

She puts the papers in her bag, but doesn't make a move to go. What else does she want from him?

The heavy metal band in the house next door starts up again through the thin walls, with a screech that makes them both jump. Geoffrey has already learned that they have two songs in their repertoire and they can't play either of them. This is the fast one.

"Oh!" Anna says, a little shakily. "Oh, Geoffrey."

Oh Christ, she's not going to cry, is she? He's not mentally equipped to deal with that.

"Would you like some tea?" he asks hastily.

He's pretty sure there's tea in the cupboard, though he can't remember what kind. Jen the social worker made him get a bunch of groceries from the supermarket two blocks away when he moved in, and he said yes to everything so it would be over quicker.

"Oh no, no thank you." Anna flushes up from her neck to her ears. She shifts uncomfortably from foot to foot. "I, um – "

"Bathroom's through there if you want it," he says. "It's safer than it looks."

"It's not that," she says with a shudder. "There's - I have some stuff in the car that belongs to you."

"From the theatre?" Someone - maybe Anna, he never asked - had brought his street clothes to the hospital, the day after he was admitted. He doesn't remember leaving anything else in his dressing-room.

She winces. "From Ellen. I - she asked me to take it. Store it. When you were, um. There."

Getting rid of the traces. Of course Ellen wouldn't want his things in the house. It was always her house, though for a time he'd thought of it as theirs, as home. He feels a dull ache that could flare up into anger, and for a moment he thinks he might yell at Anna to throw the whole fucking lot in the garbage, but the spark isn't there. Anyway, it's not her fault.

The last of New Burbage is packed into the trunk of Anna's car. This is what it comes down to, then: three cardboard boxes, crisscrossed with a mess of parcel tape. Ellen never could wrap for shit.

"I think that one's got books in it," Anna says, as he braces himself to carry the load upstairs.

When Anna's gone he stacks the boxes in a corner, unopened. Whatever's in them, it doesn't matter now. He lies down on the bed in his coat and shoes, and puts a pillow over his head to drown out the noise through the wall.