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 I appealed to my last resort, my father’s father, known to me as “Pops”, known to the rest of the world as “that cranky old geezer”. He truly was a cranky old geezer. But the reason I hadn’t considered living with him as my first option was not that-he had always been very kind to me and my family-; the reason, was what I considered would be a lifestyle incompatibility. Our schedules would clash constantly, and I didn’t want to impose that on him. On the other hand, he lived a few blocks from my Burger Joint, and he could use some company. 


I moved in. He greeted me with a huge smile, the biggest I had ever seen on his face. That made me happy. If all my odyssey amounted to that smile, it was already worth it. I had a good feeling about what was to come. 


Then I entered the apartment. 

To say it was gloomy would be an understatement. He, as many old people do, kept his windows constantly closed. He also kept his blinds constantly closed unless someone else opened them. Both TVs, the one in the living room and the one in his bedroom were constantly on too, the same news channel on, the volume always at 100. The apartment smelled like a second-hand furniture deposit mixed with piss, which makes sense considering that the furniture was a million years old, and my grandpa was incontinent. The closed windows didn’t help. “Grandpa, do you mind if I open the blinds and windows a bit?” I asked. “Sure! Just beware to open the windows only if you’re in the room. There’s too many burglars out there”. There weren’t, but the man had turned into a real Don Quijote over the last years. I acted quickly, before he changed his mind.


Once I let the sun and wind in, the place blossomed. The fresh breeze carried away the stench and invited a hint of the surrounding Eucalyptus’ fragrance in. The furniture gained a new life upon the touch of the sun rays, they went from “old” to “vintage”. “Much better!” exclaimed pops. That was a relief. I grabbed the TV remotes and lowered the volume. He didn’t notice. This became a daily routine. 


The apartment wasn’t huge, but it was enough for two people. My room, however, was tiny. It consisted of a single bed, a wardrobe that didn’t have space for any of my stuff, and a little table where I would put my laptop to watch Netflix. Between my bedroom and the bathroom there was always a little trail of piss, caused by all the times my grandpa wasn’t able to reach the bathroom in time, which were plenty. I was used to stepping over my uncle to get to my room, so stepping over a little piss trail wasn’t that big a change. 


The first day I had a bit of mixed feelings. I tend to be optimistic, but that day, as I was trying to accommodate my clothes in the only available drawer in the wardrobe, I couldn’t help but to wish that my situation was different. I also felt a bit ungrateful. My grandpa was offering me a place to stay for free, how could I complain? Most people would kill for what I had. And yet, internally, I complained. I complained about my tiny room, I complained about the piss trail, I complained about the volume of the TV. I laid in bed trying to put my thoughts in order. This was my new reality and I had to face it. And be thankful, for Christ’s sake! 

I got up, chin up, sang a bit, danced a bit, and got out to buy some stuff to make sandwiches with. 


I came back singing a sandwich song I had made up while buying things and went straight to the kitchen for the first time. A quick exploration revealed that almost nothing in that kitchen worked. The fridge was broken, so it was used as a pantry; and the freezer half-worked, so it was used as a fridge. The oven was broken. The microwave was broken. The stovetop had four gas burners of which only one worked. The faucet reluctantly released a thin thread of cold water. It was the perfect amount of water to make your life miserable, but not so little that you would have no choice but to pay a plumber to fix it. I laughed. I felt like Job. I was being tested, and I intended to pass that test. I had everything I needed to make a damn good sandwich, and a damn good sandwich I made. I figured the only thing I could do if I wanted to improve things was make my business grow. I would dedicate my time and energy to creating the best burgers in the Universe. 


A month went by as months do. That morning, as most mornings, I was awakened by my grandpa chanting “son of a bitch” at the president when he appeared on TV. I involuntarily listened to the morning news from my bed. My door was closed but I could still hear clearly. I had gotten used to this being part of my mornings. I didn’t mind it, it kept me informed. I made breakfast for two and sat at the table with grandpa. Our conversation would always start by him asking me how many burgers I had sold the day before. “How many?” he asked. “12” I replied. “A 50% increase from last week” he tried to cheer me up. He was an accountant, so he was always trying to analyze numbers in this sort of way. “Diego, you know I saw Alvarez yesterday..”. “Yeah, what did he say?” I asked. “He said one year” he said calmly. He didn’t show any sign of sadness or worry, or anything really. He may as well have been talking about the weather. “That sucks. Are you alright?” I asked. I didn’t know how to react. “Yeah.. that’s life. I’m just mad that my brothers got to live past eighty and I won’t”. I laughed even though he wasn’t making a joke. “Yup, you’re gonna lose that competition there. Unless the doctors are wrong, who knows..”. “Who knows..” 

We watched the news channel in silence.

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