The door swings open and after it is the black face of the hallway. I take off my shoes in the dark, breathing shallowly on the stale, musty air as I grope for the light switch; the single, naked bulb stutters into life. There is a dark skitter of motion in the corner as a cockroach runs from the light. I pass into the kitchen and go to the sink for a glass of water. My eyes move to the crack. A slight trickle of water is seeping from the lower edge. The bricks surrounding it are damp with moisture, and a small amount of wet dust has crumbled onto the floor. Coming closer, I notice that the water has an orangish tint to it, as if it's saturated with some dissolved mineral.
I'll have to call the landlord about it tomorrow, but for now I leave it, getting some things out of the fridge to prepare dinner. As I cook, my gaze continually returns to the crack, and the narrow, wet stain on the bricks; there's an impulse to try to dry the wall with a cloth, but for some reason I'm reluctant to go near it again. My face tightens, and instead of eating at the kitchen table, I take my plate into the opposite room and sit down at the couch.
My thoughts turn to my old apartment, and I think again how far down the ladder I've fallen; this place is a shit hole. The ceilings are too low, and there's hardly any natural light. The tiles in the shower are spotted with mildew, and there's the smell of dampness and mould that only seems to be getting worse the longer I stay here. The only consolation is that I didn't have a choice. There was no way I could stay where I was, not after she left.
Once we returned from the capital things between us went from bad to worse. We'd spent a year in an apartment the size of this room, everything crammed together, the kitchen next to the closet-sized bathroom, our bed serving as a couch as well as a place to sleep, and living like that, confronted with the fact of her whenever I turned my head, took a toll. I tried to look at the situation positively, telling myself that at the least we were getting a good education about one another, but we must not have been paying attention, because things fell apart almost as soon as we got back.
Neither of us had wanted to leave the capital; the living conditions had been cramped and we'd had our share of arguments, but we'd both been working in our fields and we had friends there. Things only changed when the trouble started, and one by one the people we knew began to move away. Eventually we had no choice but to leave ourselves, which was an easier decision for me than it had been for her; I had a job waiting for me, while she was a film-maker, or she wanted to be, and she spent the majority of her time volunteering on any shoot that would take her. In the capital she'd done well enough, but there just wasn't enough work in town to keep her afloat. It didn't help that we moved into an apartment above our price range - despite what I was making, I couldn't have supported her even if I wanted to (which I didn't), and I told her that she needed to find a job. Surprisingly, she agreed, and the following week she was hired at a small cafe. It wasn't much, but at least she would have earned enough to chip in on rent. Who knows, maybe if she'd stuck with it we'd still be together. As it turned out, a friend offered her the chance to DP on his vanity project, an independent movie he'd been saving up for nearly ten years to produce. Naturally she took the offer, quitting her gig at the cafe before she'd collected a single paycheck. Of course her friend couldn't pay her anything, but he was planning on entering the film in a festival in the capital, and the exposure would be good for her.