Charles Blackstone

          “I need to talk to you.”
          “Zach and I sort of broke up.”
          “Sort of? How sort of?”
          “I don't know . . . I guess it had been coming for a long time, you know the story with him, and the porn, and the . . . I don't know, the ambivalence . . . and so, yeah, that's it.”
          “So what are you going to do now? Are you going to move out?”
          “We're stuck in this lease.”
          “How much longer do you have?”
          “A year.”
          “How do you have a year?”
          “I don't know . . . don't make this hard for me. Okay?”
          “Just tell me why it is you have a year left on your lease. How is that even possible?”
          “We resigned recently. That's how.”
          “How recently?”
          “A week or two ago. I don't remember. I haven't been myself lately. God. You really know how to turn everything around, don't you.”
          “I'm not turning anything around. I'm just trying to understand.”
          “So understand. Do you understand? It's over. Over.”
          “Okay, fine, it's over. So are you going to leave DC?”
          “I can't leave. I'm stuck in this lease.”
          “What is he going to do? Make you stay? Can he do that?”
          “I don't think he can do that. I mean, he shouldn't be able to do that. I just want to do what's fair.”
          “You're probably the only person I know who thinks about how to break up with someone fairly. Most people just grab what they can take and run.”
          “Yeah, well, you know that's not me. I mean, you should know that's not how I am. I may be stubborn at times, maybe a little mean-”
          “Ruthless, I'd say.”
          “Okay, ruthless. But I'm principled. Always principled.”
          “Whose name is the place in?”
          “Both of ours. Well, his. His, really. I'm not on the lease.”
          “So you can go, then. Right?”
          “No, not right. I can't really go.”
          “Why not?”
          “I'm kind of like-god, this is embarrassing.”
          “Just tell me. This is getting frustrating.”
          “I'm sort of the co-signer. I don't even know what the hell we set up. My name isn't on the place, but if Zach stops paying, well, I'm fucked.”
          “Can he afford to keep living there on his own?”
          “No . . . I mean, at least I don't think he can.”
          “Will he find a roommate?”
          “He said he won't live with anyone.”
          “So where does that leave you?”
          “Exactly what I said!”
          “Seriously, though. Where does that leave you?”
          “Fucked, I guess.”
          “What does he expect you're going to do? He can't seriously think that you're going to pay half the rent — ”
          “Sixty-three percent.”
          “Sixty-three percent?”
          “Yeah, that's what I pay.”
          “How do you figure?”
          “Uh, do you want me to get a calculator? You can check my work. The rent's two thousand and I — ”
          “Two thousand dollars for a one-bedroom? Jesus.”
          “Don't get me started. It's a junior one-bedroom, too.”
          “So how do you figure this sixty-three percent?”
          “Well, I don't know how we ended up at this figure-well, maybe I do, but whatever, he pays . . . Okay, I pay twelve-sixty and he pays the rest. Seven forty. That's his share. The worst part is that he's been using the parking space.”
          “You don't have a car.”
          “No, no, I don't. You're right.”
          “Why does he only pay — ”
          “Thirty-seven percent?”
          “Yeah. Why is Zach only responsible for thirty-seven percent of your rent? The rent for the apartment which you and he both share equally, as in fifty-fifty?”
          “Shared. Remember this is all past tense now.”
          “Shared. Fine. Why?”
         “That's what he was paying when he was renting the attic apartment from his parents and, well, I liked this place. He said it was too much. Not like he couldn't afford it. He just didn't want to pay it. He said he couldn't think of himself living in a two-thousand dollar apartment. But, as I said, I liked it, and I didn't really care what he thought.”
          “But he was kind of an important factor in the decision-making process, wouldn't you say?”
          “I wouldn't say an important factor. Or maybe just not all-important.”
          “No, no. Certainly not.”
         “Anyway, so, yeah, I wanted the place, he didn't want to pay more than he was paying, and, so . . . we did it.”
          “Do you still think it was worth it?”
         “Well, it was worth it until he started becoming more interested in his stack of porn magazines. It was worth it until staying up until two in the morning, with one hand on an XBOX controller and the other on a crust of Pizza Hut Supreme hand-tossed was the only thing he wanted to do, preferably without me in the room, probably so he could put his hand down his pants in between slices.”
          “It was until you had to pay sixty-three percent of an apartment you're not living in.”
          “I don't want to pay for it. It's so unfair.”
          “I don't think you should have to either.”
          “He's going to force me to.”
          “Just say no.”
          “I can't. I'm not strong enough.”
          “Well don't look at me. I can't give you advice. I say yes way more often than I say no.”
          “You're the strongest person I know.”
          “If I'm the strongest person you know, you know a lot of weak people. I had several post-dinner spoons of peanut butter on two occasions last week. One time I was a little tipsy. It's a large container, so I think I took more liberties with it than I would have had it been a small container.”
          “Still. Can I move in with you?”
          “Yeah, right.”
          “No, seriously. Can I?”
          “We live in two separate cities, for one thing. For another, I happen to be engaged to marry someone . . . I can't believe I just listed those things in that order. Obviously my being engaged trumps matters of geography.”
          “Come on, Sam. Live with me. Let me live with you.”
          “I can't. What about Wendy? What would she think?”
          “She won't even notice me around. Come on. This is a victimless crime.”
          “Not if Zach finds out you and your sixty-three percent have taken up residence in Chicago.”
          “Don't think about that. Just say yes.”
          “Can we just settle for me telling you that you're crazy and offering to help you surf Craigslist for a few hours tomorrow afternoon?”
          “God, I should have known you'd do this to me.”
          “Do what to you? And when did you decide that you wanted to live with me?”
          “You make me sound all pre-meditated. I didn't plan this out.”
          “It seems like you at least gave it some thought.”
          “It just occurred to me now, during this very conversation, that it might be . . . I don't know . . . somewhat logical to stay with you. At least for a little while.”
          “And the being engaged to someone else part. That didn't enter into your reasoning.”
          “No, it didn't. But I don't see why that would be such an impossible obstacle. I mean, we broke up years ago. And we were hardly together at all.”
          “The best worst three weeks of my life.”
          “So, what's the big deal? We've been friends for a while now. I see you when I come into town. We have coffee, just like this. I go back to DC and we email and talk on the phone once in a while when you're drunk at some bar where neither of us can hear anything. So now we'll do the same things. Except for — ”
          “Except for the fact that you'll be living in my guest room.”
         “Yeah, right! I forgot about that part! You even have a room with a door. Here I was thinking about your old place and getting myself all ready for couch life with a clothesline of thongs festooned between the windows and the TV.”
         “Don't get too excited. It's the same couch that you remember from two years ago. But, yeah, it's in a room. And the room has a door.”
         “Even better!”
         “Though I'm extremely amused by this premise, and think there are loads of sitcom-worthy possibilities here: ex-girlfriend moves into apartment with ex-boyfriend and his current fiancée, I can't really escape the main issue.”
          “What's the main issue?”
          “Wendy. You remember her, right? The headstrong young magazine editor who rounds out our ensemble cast? She hasn't said yes yet. Actually she hasn't even heard about this yet . . . Unless you've told her.”
          “No, I haven't told her. Why would I have told her? She and I don't talk. We've never even met.”
         “We'll have to correct that. If we're going to get anywhere with your plan.”
          “My plan? Have I not won at least your preliminary approval?”
         “I haven't decided yet.”
          “Okay. Well, let me know when you make up your mind.”
          “Trust me. You'll be the first to know.”