Don't make the problem worse.
Knock knock knock knock.
“Who is it?” replied Elle.
“It’s the person you’re mad at most,” answered JZ.
Elle cracked the door open to her apartment. “Sorry I didn’t come to work today. I’m super busy. I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said under her breath.
“Why are you talking like you have a secret? Why won’t you let me in?” he asked a little quieter than his normal volume.
“You didn’t have to come all the way here,” she said under her breath.
His eyes widened and he pointed at the door. “Is there someone else in there?” he asked with a hint of jealousy.
“He’s not going to leave. Can you go in the closet?” she quietly asked behind the door. She waited a moment, then opened the door just enough to get out, and closed it behind her. “There is someone else in there,” she said quietly, looking him straight in the eyes.
He was taken aback. “Who is it? Is it a male or female? Who would be in your apartment at 9pm?”
“He is male. He is my landlord.”
“Why is he in there?”
“We’re working on a math problem.”
He was confused and was, once again, taken aback. “I can help you with math problems. Why are you doing math problems?”
She looked at him tiredly and began to talk but he interrupted, “Are you sleeping with him because you can’t pay your rent?” JZ saw her face instantly change from tired to furious and she punched him with all her strength aiming at his jaw. He did not expect it and rubbed his injury with anger on his face.
“Go. I don’t want to see or hear you,” she ordered angrily, keeping her voice low and pointed toward the exit.
“Am I correct or incorrect?” he loudly demanded.
“If you think I have bad character, don’t find me and I won’t find you,” she said with boiling fury in her low voice.
“Am I correct or incorrect?” he loudly repeated.
“You choose if you are correct or incorrect,” she angrily said, keeping her voice down. “Go,” she said, pointing at the exit, then walked back to her door.
He forcefully grabbed her arm and pulled her back. She punched him with her other fist, but he blocked it with his hand. She kicked him in the shin and pushed him away. She quickly opened her door to enter, but he was right behind her and pushed the door wide open, tightly grabbed both her arms, lifting her into her apartment. She held his livid stare.
“Am I correct or incorrect?” he loudly demanded.
“Look up,” she said angrily with a low tone.
He bent his neck back to look up at the ceiling and squinted. “Are those…spiders?”
“Can you tell him what those things are?” Elle asked her landlord.
“They’re cameras and listening devices,” said an older man’s voice hidden by the closet door, tired from a long day. “Before you do anything else, we’ve been taking these down since 7am. They were in the bathroom, too.”
“But there are still so many…” he said quietly with some calmness in his voice, the darkened ceiling holding his attention.
“They used super glue or something,” added the landlord. “I thought about putting another ceiling up to cover the cameras, but they could still probably listen to her. It would be too expensive and she would have to stay with my family for a few days, but knowing her, she would choose the street before staying at a neighbor’s place.”
JZ’s face softened, then looked down at Elle’s furious face. She kept her anger, and glanced at his large, tightly gripped hands still on her arms like she was a captured criminal. He let go, regretting his actions. He gently held her hands in his but she shook them off. He held his hands together, bent a little sideways to look at her infuriated face. “Can you forgive me for my inexcusable actions and accusation?” he asked gently.
“Whatever it is, I will not give you what you ask. Get out. Don’t find me because I won’t find you,” she said with spite. She put her hand under his navy blue dress shirt she was still wearing from yesterday, and something clicked. She pulled the hair clip out and held it in front of his face. Without looking at him, she said, “Take it and go.”
He was taken aback. “This is yours,” he quietly said with hurt in his eyes.
“Not mines,” she retorted.
“You might want to use it someday,” he gently reasoned.
“I won’t,” she retorted.
“You might want to give it to your daughter someday.”
Her face changed. She took a couple of steps and extended her hand up to her landlord on the ladder, “Give this to your wife as a gift,” she said.
He glanced at it. “It’s very pretty, but it doesn’t belong to us,” he kindly replied. “Thank you for your generosity.”
She heard the word “but” and knew he declined. She placed it on the floor and wound up her foot. JZ quickly dropped to her foot, locked his fingers together, and placed his hands under her small foot striking down. “She must be really mad if she has this much strength,” he thought to himself, instantly feeling himself losing the battle. “If I use all my strength, she’ll fall; if I don’t, she’ll shatter it.” “Old man!” he struggled to say, “Pick it up before she breaks it!” Hearing that, she added a burst of strength.
The landlord climbed down the ladder at a normal pace, while JZ restrained her as much as possible. He bent down picked it up, then JZ released his fingers, and they heard several cracks. She immediately removed her foot and sat down. With less anger, she held his hands to examine his fingers. She tightly pressed his fingers in between her palms and watched him try to resist the pain. She heard one crack and thought, “Guess that one popped back in. Let’s see if there’s more.” She adjusted his fingers in the balls of her hands and popped one by one, back in to their rightful spots, except for one. She positioned her fingers on either side of the spot, and made eye-contact with him. “One, two, three,” she quietly said and bent his finger the other way. He released a loud grunt for the duration then took a couple of breaths.
She made eye-contact with him again, and held up her hands like tiger’s claws, and kept bending and straightening. He imitated. She saw the problematic joint and loosened it up. Then she gently held his wrist and led him to her bed. She dumped all her clothes that were on her bed into the luggage beside the bed, moved the pillow to the other side, and swung the blanket over the pillow. “Sit,” she quietly ordered and pointed to where the pillow once was. He sat and leaned against the wall. She got on the bed and covered the two of them with the blanket as best she could.
“What is she doing?” curiously thought the landlord, watching the single mountain and scratching his head. He heard her instruct, “No smiling,” then said to himself, “Naughty kids,” seeing the mountain with multiple edges, then returned to peeling more cameras off the ceiling with a gum scraper and hammer.
When she uncovered the blanket and got off the bed, JZ said, “You smell really bad,” and smiled. With a less concerned face, she jokingly punched his arm. She went to the kitchen and took out her wooden and silver pair of chopsticks and broke them in half against the counter, then placed them on the bed. He picked up a silver piece and said with pain in his heart and voice, “You didn’t have to break these.”
“No talking,” she ordered, and tore one of her blouses into eight strips. Without expression on her face, she placed the halves horizontally across his joints, and tied each piece of chopstick diagonally with two strips of cloth. “Is this ok?” she quietly asked after the last one was tied, examining her work. She glanced and saw him nod.
She went to the landlord. “Come back tomorrow. I don’t want your wife to be mad at me,” she said wearily.
“Alright,” he said tiredly and climbed down the ladder. “Here,” he said handing her the hair clip.
“Thanks. Good night.”
“Good night.” The landlord quietly exited.