UNITED STATES—As they sank into the couch, Mr. Monroy opted for Nescafe and Mrs. Monroy accepted the honey-ginger tea proffered by Mr. Wynn.
“Thank you, Don Carlos,” she said. With the real estate sharks absent, the ‘don’ reinserted in their courtly discourse. And she started to speak frankly about why they were forced into selling.
“During the summer we got really behind on the mortgage,” she spoke, glancing at the skies that threatened more rain. “We exhausted all our savings in a few weeks. And we didn’t have a way to get caught up. It was so depresssing. It felt like when we first came from Central America.”
Under the influence of the sugar cubes and the caffeine and the powdered nostalgia of Nescafe, the normally untalkative Mr. Monroy spoke with unprecedented candor:
“We thought of selling. Because we got behind on the mortgage payments, and each month it was one more huge stone that had to be pushed to the top of the path. I got a glimpse of what it is to be stuck. We had paid every month on time for ten years, every month, no exception. These people has the nerve to call me on Saturday morning. We’d never paid late once in ten years, and they started harassing me and asking questions that were none of their business. That was when my eyes started bleeding,” he said.
Mr. Monroy pointed to the hematoma blotch that made half his eye a red mess. Mr. Wynn couldn’t look at it without flinching.
“The doctor explained that it’s because he did a lot of welding without a protective mask,” said Mrs. Monroy.”
“My eyes start to bleed. And these people keep bothering me. They treat us like delinquents,” said Mr. Monroy. “I see a strange area code and stop answering the phone. I miss a very important landscaping job because of that. I didn’t answer because I think it is some garbage call. I miss the job and it’s one reason we must sell.”
Mrs. Monroy placed a calming palm on his shoulder. Mr. Wynn looked to her for some symbol of where things were going. He felt only desolation now at the words “must sell.” He and his daughter would be looking for a new home, a new school. And so it was.
“Mr. Monroy and I moved when our daughter was in high school,” said Mrs. Monroy. “I was thinking about this. Our daughter had to leave behind her group of friends and the neighborhood. She got very (how do they say?), very depress. She had to go to a counselor and they started giving her pastillas.” She questioned with her eyes.
“Pills?” said Mr. Wynn, tentatively.
Out of her handbag Mrs. Monroy took a folded copy of stapled papers.
“We think,” she looked over to her husband, whose blotched eyes were down. “We decided you should stay three more years.”
“Oh well,” said Mr. Wynn. Inside he was jumping for joy. “The new contract is for three years, so your daughter can finish high school here.”
Mr. Wynn looked at it. He had to look at it again. His excitement, after weeks of despair, prevented him from seeing anything. Finally, he saw that they had raised by 50 dollars. The rent hadn’t raised in the last five years.
“There is only one thing that keeps this contract from being wonderful,” said Mr. Wynn.
Mrs. Monroy looked at him perplexed.
“Don Carlos, what can you mean?”
He faced both Monroys now and said, “You should raise me rent another $300…”
They were shocked, no tenant had ever done something like this. It violated the very antagonism that joined tenants to landlords. But Mr. Wynn was so grateful to them for considering his daughter’s wellbeing, and they were grateful to be able to keep the charmingly ramshackle house near Bunker Hill because his had taken their situation into account.
It is the way it should be.