Beautiful People, episode 2 from Missing by Luis Garcia, (Audio)

Listen to Luis Garcia read his short story “Beautiful People” from his collection of short stories “Missing.” The 33-minute episode is produced with sound effects and music samples by Jolt Radio.

Read along with the story. It’s pasted below the podcast.

And to read the whole book, support local art and buy it here.

Beautiful People

The handsome young man lived with his girlfriend and his roommate and his roommate’s girlfriend in an apartment that came to be known in their circle as the Party House. He and his roommate, who was a handsome young man himself, had long talked about buying or leasing or renting a place together. This was before they were roommates, of course, for the handsome young man had been living in a warehouse loft with his former band mates — who were neither particularly handsome nor clean nor well-mannered — since he moved out of his parents’ house when he was nineteen.

But that had only lasted about a year, maybe a little more, before the band started to break slowly up and he decided that such an arrangement was not actually particularly fun at all to live in, what with all their living like bums squatting with no hot water or anything remotely like a kitchen or a washer or a dryer or even a real front door, or even a normal shower that was not a Port-o-Potty like shower they bought at Home Depot that ran only really cold water, and the ever present fuggy rank unnamable smell of rotting socks or something they lived with, and the mess that was a mess like no other ever found indoors, an industrially dirty, beer-mud-on-the-concrete-floor-type mess of the kind you would expect to find in the lot on the day after a carnival or a fair, and this was like every day, the mess, but for the handsome young man the worst part of it all was the embarrassment of having to go back to his parents’ house to sleep and shower once a week, or so, for some semblance of normalcy or, better said, respite from what seemed like a great big giant step backwards in life.

And so the handsome young man began to conspire with a college friend of his (the would-be roommate) who was lucky enough to still be living with his parents, and together they searched for the right place for six months (that felt like forever). It was the handsome young man’s soon-to-be roommate who did most of the searching, online and in the papers, since it was the handsome young man who lived in the front-doorless, Internet-accessless, caveman-like bum squalor with his stupid loud-farting sock-smelling beer-drinking pot-smoking keg-standing bong-clearing friends in that stupid air-conditionedless bad idea with an indoor trampoline and a rope swing attached to the twenty-foot ceiling, and the soon-to-be roommate had made a list of places they drove around to.

There were places too close to the hood, and some even in the hood, and there were places right next door to methadone clinics and hourly-rate motels and homeless shelters and halfway houses and rehabs and, really, it was not looking good at all until the very last place they walked into. It had two bedrooms and dark wooden floors and a kitchen with a bar in both the living and dining rooms, and not just one or two or even three but four doors this apartment had, doors from the kitchen and living room out to the front balcony-slash-porch, and doors from what would be their bedrooms out to the back balcony-slash-porch, and it had a big bathroom too that they would share, and the neighbors they saw around seemed nice and good-looking waving at them from afar as if they knew them, and plus and also the landlord, who was showing them around, and who was a not at all bad-looking young man himself, would be their downstairs neighbor. So they put down and moved in, bought some cool secondhand furniture at Goodwill and at the Salvation Army, picked up a few nice giveaways they found on Craigslist, brought their old stereos and stuff from their old rooms at home, and their parents bought them and even gave them some basic necessities from their own homes too like towels and linens and pots and pans and plates and cups and spoons and forks and knives and even a toaster and a blender and a microwave oven, and with all this stuff they were happy, occasionally celebrating with beers and high fives in their new kitchen.

Beautiful People

At the time they moved in, the handsome young man and the handsome young man’s roommate were both single or just sort of dating, but they did not remain single or just sort of dating for long. Within months they each had steady girlfriends, and the girlfriends happened to be best friends, to each other, that is, and they were both very beautiful young ladies.

It was not long before the girls moved in with them and the fervor for interior decorating really began to unfold and quickly became a communal effort that brought them all closer together as friends or even like a little family, one might say, and soon the apartment took on a very stylish yet DIY look as diverse as their individual personalities, expressed through strategically placed computers and LCD screens all over the place, photographs taped with masking tape directly to the walls, orchids, and the one or two potted mind-altering plants, plus other plants, and the throw rugs and the bookshelves stacked with high-minded literature and National Geographic magazines, and the arcane scientific and technologic textbooks only someone like the handsome young man’s roommate might actually be caught reading, and the weird knick knacks and conversation pieces of the old-school-type like Rubik’s Cubes and Chia Pets and Pet Rocks, and the Battleship and Candyland games for the entertainment of idle times, and also the handsome young man’s old record player and impressive indie and punk rock record collection laid out neat and orderly (and not just for show), and when the handsome young man’s roommate’s girlfriend’s parents gave them an old antique-like matching dining room and coffee table set that matched all so perfectly with the apartment’s dark wooden floors and bars they were really, really happy because it seemed to like tie all their efforts together, somehow, and that very night they celebrated with beer and wine and pot and laughs and hors d’oeuvres the girls had made and then, later on, sex.

It was the place to be. Over time they hosted dinner parties, Halloween parties, birthday parties, event after parties, Secret Santa parties, unfriendly domino tournaments that got physical and friendly poker tournaments that went nowhere, plus potlucks and front balcony-slash-porch barbecues and slumber parties and independent movie screenings, and it was also the pre-beach going gathering spot and the post all-night clubbing crash site too, a refuge for too-drunk-to-drive-homers and on New Year’s, well, you could just imagine. By this time there were four keys out — one for the handsome young man and one for the handsome young man’s girlfriend and one for the handsome young man’s roommate and one for the handsome young man’s roommate’s girlfriend.

But then one day one of the handsome young man’s girlfriend’s girlfriends decided to move out of the city to another city on the whole other side of the country to live with one of her many cross-country boyfriends, only to within less than a week break up with this boyfriend and then have to come back all brokenhearted with nowhere to stay, and so she was given a key and invited to sleep on the couch. It was around this same time that one of the handsome young man and the handsome young man’s roommate’s friends, who worked as a first mate on a tall ship sailing the high seas, came around asking could he like maybe sleep on their floor or their couch when he was in their city on shore leave.

These were all beautiful people, the handsome young man and his girlfriend and his roommate and his roommate’s girlfriend, so naturally they gave him a key too, without question. But then it was not long before the handsome young man’s girlfriend’s girlfriend found herself a new boyfriend who actually lived in their own city this time, and whose parents had a very recent and devastating financial thing involving the foreclosure of a home and the repossession of lots of stuff, effectively putting him out on his ass, he said, and so he too got a key. Then a few months later there came their all mutual and pretty much famous friend who had spent the last five years of her life after high school touring the United States of America by broken down car after broken down car funded solely by her efforts as a solo musician, and so obviously she got a key too.

So now there were eight keys out — one for the handsome young man and one for his girlfriend and one for his roommate and one for his roommate’s girlfriend and one for his girlfriend’s girlfriend and one for his girlfriend’s girlfriend’s boyfriend and one for the sailor and one for their hardworking musician friend who was pretty much famous — and for a long time it remained at eight keys out, even after the sailor had one day come home with a sailor girlfriend of his, because this particular sailor girlfriend of his was definitely not and by no means getting a key too. She didn’t need one.

And it was around this time that the Party House moniker was dubbed, though not by anyone who actually lived there, meaning anyone in possession of a key. No one who ever actually lived there called it the Party House. It was a term flung absently about in their circle but not in the house, which was technically not even a house but an apartment.

Beautiful People

The handsome young man would sometimes come home from work — for by this time they were all, by the way, the handsome young man and his girlfriend and his roommate and his roommate’s girlfriend, all out of school and working successfully, or something like that, in their respective artsy DIY-promoting and freelance computer programming and fashion-designing and event-coordinating fields — he would come home from work to a full house having a party on full blast.

This coming-home-to-a-bunch-of-what-were-essentially-fucking-strangers-mostly experience was not limited only to the handsome young man, but his girlfriend and his roommate and his roommate’s girlfriend had all also experienced it once or twice or hell fucking lots of times. But they were not complaining about it, really, not necessarily, they would say, it was just, you know, kind of unexpected sometimes.

So anyway the handsome young man’s mind had one day started to wander slowly off from his home life or apartment life or whatever, and from his girlfriend, too, and even from his friends in general, so that he began to busy himself forging relationships with his neighbors, of which there were six in the building — the landlord who lived right below, the gay couple who lived right behind the landlord, the lesbian couple who lived right above the gay couple, and the very attractive girl everyone suspected was either a call girl of some sort of a stripper who lived almost like central to all of them in the building — and his busy forging of these relationships he could not have explained aside from the sheer boredom of the almost sometimes overwhelming social circle or network he seemed to suddenly find himself at the center of or maybe like realize was there all around him, for there were in fact times when relationships were strained in the house or apartment or whatever the fuck you want to call it between him and his roommate and between him and his roommate’s girlfriend and between his girlfriend and his girlfriend’s girlfriend and between his roommate’s girlfriend and his girlfriend’s girlfriend’s boyfriend and between the sailor and the pretty much famous hardworking musician and even between him and his own girlfriend whom he believed he truly loved. And so, even though these strains tended to slacken or blow over they still took an emotional sort of subconscious or what have you, like, toll.

These things went on for almost two years, the strained and almost even bad times escalated, buffered by the good times and the parties and the sex and the games and the just plain good old good-natured get-togethers on holidays and paydays. And during this time the handsome young man had busily expanded his own personal circle of friends to include his neighbors, who began to regularly show up when the Party House’s noise level rose, like for instance at the Halloween party when the gay couple showed up as twin homosexual Tarzans all greased-up and the lesbian couple as pink-clad drag queen ninjas, or like on Christmas at the Secret Santa party they showed up with gifts to trade or at potlucks with food to share. Nobody wondered what was up or who would invite them even, but whatever, because the things going on happened behind doors not theirs that were closed.

Except of course for the handsome young man’s girlfriend, who did wonder. She was by far the most levelheaded of the bunch and, maybe even, the most beautiful. So anyway she one day took it upon herself to borrow her mother’s friend’s daughter’s car so she could be, you know, like QT on the DL when she came and parallel parked it up the street from their building in a spot that afforded a clear sightline, more or less directly, to almost all of the building’s doors. Surely too far to be seen, but just as she had suspected, too far also to see clearly all the building’s doors herself, she had the foresight to borrow or more like steal the handsome young man’s really expensive bird watching binoculars so as to see what exactly went down. This was on a day the handsome young man had off from work, and she had left early that morning (he was still asleep in bed naked) under the pretense that she was going to work. She had already planned this day off for a whole week for this very reason: to leave in her own car to her mother’s house to borrow her mother’s car real quick, to then go to her mother’s friend’s house and borrow her mother’s friend’s daughter’s car, for the honest reason she gave but that no one had honestly believed and here she was, spying — just as she had told her mother and her mother’s friend and her mother’s friend’s daughter, to spy on her boyfriend — spying, with binoculars and everything. Though she felt badly about spying, she really felt she had no choice, for there were in her mind reparations to be made. The handsome young man’s girlfriend’s intentions were indeed less confrontational than conciliatory in nature. Nip this in the bud, she reasoned, watching that morning through his binoculars the handsome young man exit their apartment’s front door and go downstairs and knock on the landlord’s door. It opened and in he went and stayed in for almost but not quite a whole hour before he came out through the doorway where the landlord now stood smiling leaning against the doorjamb in only a leopard print towel around his waist. Then she watched the handsome young man go directly around to the gay couple’s apartment and knock, and she knew they were home because they worked from home and their car was there, and in there the handsome young man went and stayed for almost two hours. It had not occurred to the handsome young man’s girlfriend to pack a lunch, who would have thought? And she grew hungry, but she could not move, for her curiosity and wonder and awe were piqued, to say the least.

When the handsome young man came out of their apartment he was adjusting his clothes in a way only she knew meant he had just put his clothes back on. She then watched him go upstairs to, could it be? Yes, the lesbian couple’s apartment. The handsome young man’s girlfriend knew here in this case too that only one of the couple was home, namely the cuter one with the dreads who worked as a DJ-slash-bartender, and into their door he went and stayed exactly one hour. That the handsome young man’s girlfriend had a natural bent or sensitivity for the concinnity in all things, and was supernaturally understanding, and that she was not a jealous person — one of those rare truly not jealous persons who really truly knows no jealousy on account of an unwavering faith in their love, and knew that the handsome young man’s actions had nothing to do with love but rather had all to do with the boredom she felt she knew he felt, and something else like a subconscious yearning for change in his life — and that she truly, truly loved him and wanted to marry him and was about three or four months pregnant with their child, helped the whole situation: she sitting there hungrier than a mother and just literally unbelieving of the fact that her boyfriend, the handsome young man, father of her child, was actually fucking literally everyone in the building, watching it all unfold through the binoculars he used to watch fucking birds.

Watching him come out of the lesbians’ apartment doing his little idiosyncratic post-coitus clothing adjustments was all she needed to see, really, but she kept watching anyway to see if — as she had initially suspected, the whole reason she was here in the first place — to see if he would go into, yes, he was going into the very attractive suspected call girl-slash-stripper’s apartment. Through the binoculars the handsome young man’s girlfriend-slash-new baby momma saw the very attractive suspected call girl-slash-stripper answer the door in just a T-shirt and mouth the words, how much time we got, before he went in and disappeared. The handsome young man’s girlfriend-slash-new baby momma did not wait to watch him come out but drove off with a Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwich in the front of her mind, while thinking in the back of her mind all these other things that would soon change all of their lives.

Like how the handsome young man’s roommate’s girlfriend — who was herself beginning to maybe exhibit symptoms of severe clinical manic depression, or something totally unstable like that, crying and screaming at the air about shit only she could have solved and then barricading herself for days on end in their apartment’s bedroom’s walk-in closet — had aired to her, the handsome young man’s girlfriend-slash-new baby momma, that her boyfriend, the handsome young man’s roommate, was maybe, she suspected, using pharmaceutical-grade amphetamines like Ritalin or Dexedrine or something, what with all his whole five-day stints up writing computer programs without blinking, salivating tears down his cheeks, in their room’s little spider- and beetle- and just really all types of bug-infested Wild Kingdom that with all its overgrown plants and pot plants and LCD computer screens everywhere looked like a post-apocalyptic NASA control center being reclaimed by Mother Nature, while she hid in the closet crying and screaming manic depressively, subsisting solely on wine, alone in the dark. And how now more people seemed to be living there in the Party House with surely more unsanctioned keys out, including the drunk sailor chick, who was technically not a sailor anymore but who now tended bar full-time while her sailor ex-boyfriend picked up an H habit in Thailand and was now back all nodding inhabiting the couch always. And how things kept turning up missing. And how now there were two or maybe even three ferrets running around foraging the apartment’s wildlife that came with all the plants that were now pretty much trees everywhere, and whose ferrets? Well who knew? And plus now if you wanted to come in via the back balcony-slash-porch you needed a machete to like chop your way through the forest there. And how the handsome young man’s girlfriend-slash-new baby momma’s girlfriend and her boyfriend had taken to recently fighting a lot, throwing at each other breakable shit that was never even theirs to break in the first place. And these were only the top five things on the handsome young man’s girlfriend-slash-new baby momma’s list of concerns.

Beautiful People

So finally that very same day, or very same night, actually, the handsome young man’s girlfriend-slash-new baby momma sat the handsome young man down on their bed in their room while she stood and very peacefully and beautifully and diplomatically and non-confrontationally confronted him, sort of jokingly in tone but not really joking at all: Was he really actually sleeping with all their neighbors? And don’t lie, babe, she said. But lie he did not, or even think to, for the handsome young man outright confessed, though wordlessly, to what she already knew, and her reaction was to him totally unexpected in that she seemed actually kind of proud of this feat, his ability to be able to easily bone anyone and everyone who laid eyes on him, or vice versa, telling him now in a hushed conspiratorial tone, a tone he knew well, that they maybe should just get the hell out of here, the Party House, meaning, and get their own place far, far away from these people and this town and this scene because babe I’m tired, and I love you, and I know you’re tired too of this shit babe. I can see it in your eyes babe but babe listen no listen good there’s a good thing here look, touch it, feel here and come you touch it too babe no I know you can’t feel I can’t feel it either from outside but it’s true babe it’s true we’re not anymore alone.

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J.J. Colagrande

Has written about Miami culture for almost twenty years, first with The Miami Herald, then Miami New Times and Huffington Post. He's the publisher of The Jitney and a full-time professor.