Still Renting | Joshua Michael Maher

I am not as hungry as I used to be. I don’t count pennies at night anymore. I don’t recycle cans and bottles; I just leave them on the curb. I’ll never talk about getting a second job again. I buy the three-ply toilet paper, more often than not.

You’re not as tired as you were last year. You always clean our apartment in the daytime. You don’t ask for help reaching the top shelf. You load the dishwasher without someone asking you to. You surprise me with dinner three times a week, even if it was ordered online.

I am not as hungry as I used to be, but I still fear failure the same. I still only drink water at restaurants; I still order the cheapest thing. I still get mad at the ice-cream truck when it parks directly across the street. I still hate the neighbor’s music. I still refuse to take out their trash, even if it’s in our can. I still hate when you call this petty – even though I know it is.

You’re not as tired as you were last year, though you nap in the afternoons. You sometimes don’t reply to my texts all day. You get mad when I bring this up. You watch Netflix at night and pause it to talk. You don’t want to try that thing I suggested, despite what the magazine says. You order more food than we can eat each time. You practice signing when I’m trying to read.

I am not as hungry as I used to be, but I’m working more and more. I come in early every morning, but my paycheck doesn’t notice, or doesn’t care. I try to bring sandwiches I make at home; somehow I always end up at Wendy’s. I walk around after work so I’m not crushed on the rush hour train. I lie to homeless people who ask for help. I still spend my money on the same things.

You’re not as tired as you were last year, but you’re somehow more compassionate. You volunteer every week, sometimes at places I’ve never heard of. You argue with strangers on television, and make a more coherent argument. You read newspapers you know you’ll hate – just to rip apart the story. You give clothes away instead of selling them. Your coffee is always fair trade.

We are getting better. We are already fine. We lost our neighbors who lived here before we were born. We got new ones with MBAs. We lost our work ethic and blamed social media. We found jobs instead of careers. We saw parts of the world our parents only dreamed of. We heard that’s why we’re still renting. We get told there’s still time: for new starts, new people, new jobs, new courses, new backyards, new furniture, and curtains.

Joshua Michael Maher can be found in Flash Fiction Magazine, Seizure Online Journal, Cow Hide Journal, Spinebind, and a few other places. Born and raised in Australia, he is now living in Brooklyn with his partner and dog while trying to salvage a short story collection, short film ideas, and his late 20s.

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