A few weeks ago I decided to become an adult. Becoming an adult is an expensive, multistep process that could take several years, but I think it will be worth it. Honestly, sometimes I think I can’t afford not to become an adult. Not if I want a girlfriend.
To move in the direction of my goal, here is what I had to buy, short-term: a bed, a desk, a dresser, a pair of jeans that aren’t baggy or torn, and a couple polo shirts. I also vowed to get another part-time job so I could make rent and maybe afford a gym membership. (Though the interaction I had with the jacked up, goateed guy at Village Fitness the other day was, frankly, terrifying.) The long-term is more exciting—I’m going to be a wildly successful screenwriter/playwright: a thin, sexy, foul-mouthed one like Martin McDonagh—but I shouldn’t even talk about that until I have a nice big walnut desk on which to write my award-winning black comedies.
I’m getting ahead of myself.
The impetus for my decision was this: a few weeks ago my air mattress—souped-up with a Batman comforter and matching pillowcases—started slowly deflating in the night. I would wake up sunken into the center, perpetually disappointed, the bed a chubby but underweight V. Oof, I’d say to the bed. Hissssss, the bed replied. The romance was gone, and trying to re-inflate it several times a day was loud and weird. My roommates assumed I was vacuuming my room at all hours, some sort of closet insomniac neat freak, which is less than ideal, only half-right, really. I needed a real bed, and figured while I was at it, I might as well acquire all that other crap that makes a person feel grown up—like somebody with roots and responsibilities and furniture that’s not full of hot air.
Craigslist, it goes without saying, is a strange place. It’s like the world’s biggest flea market, but with actual fleas. We don’t just log on looking for tangible stuff—beds and desks and dressers and concert tickets. We visit Craigslist to laugh, and at least one-third of the time, laughter is a symptom of superiority. For many of us, Craigslist exists mainly to reaffirm that we are not among the perverse or insane, or those PRONE TO TYPING IN ALL CAPS AND USING ZEES IN PLACE OF EZZEZ. To remind us that we are broke, but not poor; alone, but not desperate. We’re short on money or time; we’re not crazy. We get a similar kick out of COPS and People of Walmart, among other things—a quick toke of superiority, ha-ha, look at these fucking people, can you believe these people? Ah, I feel better about sitting on my ass all day.
So while I needed a bed, I also needed a self-esteem boost. Considering my income—which, counter to my ambitions, remains childlike—Craigslist was a no-brainer. After several unsuccessful attempts at contacting sellers, I saw the following ad for a “queen mattress and box and frame – $50 (atlanta)”:
Guess room queen size bed. Clean no stains, non smoke, no pets. Absolutely nothing wrong with it. I purchased new about 5 to 6 years ago from original mattreess factory. No problems at all. Firm bed. The room is now occupied so this in the way.
The ad was accompanied by two decently lit photos that seemed to confirm most of the above (I couldn’t tell from the pictures if “this in the way”), but anytime someone goes out of their way to say both Absolutely nothing wrong with it and No problems at all, I’m skeptical. I also wasn’t sure about this “Guess room”—was it some sort of Riddler-esque mystery room with a question mark on the door? Seemed a little creepy, but I emailed the seller because fifty bucks is an absolute steal for a queen-sized bed, and adulthood was beckoning, like a responsible, mildly attractive woman in a pantsuit, calling me to confirm our dinner plans at a nice but reasonably priced restaurant, where she would ask for light dressing on her salad and insist on going Dutch. Adulthood: what a babe.
One minute after I’d written asking if the bed was still available, signing off with my name and phone number, I received a not-super-helpful response from someone named crazyhumble.
CRAZYHUMBLE (4:01 PM): Yes
ME (4:02 PM): And it includes the box spring and frame, all for $50? Could I come look at it tonight or tomorrow?
CRAZYHUMBLE (4:12 PM): Yes
CRAZYHUMBLE (4:12 PM): Tonight if I still have it
ME (4:13 PM): Great. Where are you located and what time should I come by?
CRAZYHUMBLE (4:38 PM): Come now [address and phone number omitted]. someone else suppose to come look also later. But I don’t hold for no one
ME (4:43 PM): OK I’ll be there in 30-40 minutes. Please text me if you get rid of it before I get there.
CRAZYHUMBLE (4:44 PM): I hold it for u. If u coming now
ME (4:45 PM): I am.
I saved the number and address in my phone under (first name) Crazy (last name) Humble, threw on my torn baggy jeans, and got in my pickup truck. Crazy Humble was a (wo?)man of few words, a bit of a wildcard (“I don’t hold for no one” / “I hold it for u”), so I wasn’t sure what to expect. As I waited in line at the ATM, I texted my friend: Pretty sure I’m gonna get a Weather out of this.
Sitting in rush hour traffic (that “30-40 minutes” would take an hour), I realized that the best-case scenario—that Crazy Humble was just plain Crazy, hilariously so, but the bed pristine—was also the least likely. Maybe they priced it so low because they’re batty, I thought, and they don’t measure value monetarily. More likely, Crazy Humble was your run-of-the-mill shady Craigslist dealer: chain-smoking in his/her trailer on a Tuesday afternoon, cats running the joint, adorning Crazy Humble like furry jewelry, the mattress soaked in a zoo’s worth of different species’ pisses, a bed bug farm, the world’s flattest flea circus, or already gone, or all of the above.
Whoa, I said out loud as I turned onto Crazy Humble’s street. This is actually a nice neighborhood. There was no way this street didn’t end in a cul-de-sac; it was assuredly shaped like a long slender tennis racket, the kind its suburban inhabitants wield on the weekends. I backed my truck into the paved driveway, blocking in two sensible, forgettable sedans, one black and one white. These adults were all about balance, moderation. I could learn a lot from them.
Before I reached the front door of the house, which was already open (only the screen shut), a short, extremely muscular black man in a beige tank top walked out, extended a hand, and introduced himself. (His name didn’t register even then: he was and will remain Crazy Humble.) The man shook my hand with infallible firmness. His head was shaved and he reminded me of Sergeant Doakes from Dexter. He was too nice to be a cop, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d been a veteran.
Just inside, on the living room couch, sat two adorable young girls—Humble progeny. (I don’t know if this makes me racist or just stupid, but I immediately thought of Sasha and Malia Obama.) I said hi to the girls; they giggled and said hi back. Crazy Humble gestured to the hardwood floor and said, “Here it is.” I’d barely noticed the mattress and box spring, the former wrapped in clear plastic, right at my feet.
It looked… fine. No visible rips or stains, and not a cat in sight, thank god. I didn’t smell any smoke, and Humble struck me as the kind of man who thought of addiction as some sort of weakness. (So much I could learn!) “There’s really nothing wrong with it,” he said, and I thought how different this statement sounded now, coming from his mouth, in this house, with the thing on the floor in front of me. “Yeah,” I said. “Looks good.” I gave the bed a once-over, but the truth is that I’d bought it as soon as I’d turned onto Humble Ave.
The elder Humble progeny, who was maybe seven, ran over to hold the front door open for us without being asked. Humble and I loaded the mattress and box spring into my truck, by which I mean: I spotted Humble as he and his watermelon biceps loaded the mattress and box spring into my truck. He made small talk as we worked, asking where I was from and saying things like, “You might could put one more cord across the top.” He punctuated his statements with Boss, which, as an aspiring adult with zero authority, I fucking love.
Humble threw in the frame but added that it was “kind of hard to assemble,” which meant I wouldn’t even bother trying. (“Kind of hard” for Humble = impossible for Evan.) After he’d loaded everything and I’d tied it down and paid him, Humble said, “That should do it. I think you can drive home as fast as you want, Boss.” We shook hands (again, infallible firmness), he went back inside to his family, and I got back in my truck and texted my friend. I wrote: That guy was so normal it was disappointing.
But what I meant was this: I so wanted that guy to be an unforgettable fuckup, some poor, cat-accumulating lunatic, not just because it would be bleakly funny (fodder for my next black comedy?), but because it would make me feel better about my own sad situation. Instead, he had everything I want—a full-time job, a beautiful family, a furnished home, a chiseled physique, ADULTHOOD. The only reason his online exchanges were so laughable is because he’s an adult, an actual man who didn’t grow up with his fingers glued to a keyboard. I drove over there hoping for Crazy, and I got humbled.
When I got home, I deflated my air mattress, folded it up, and shoved it into a corner for lack of storage space. I backed my truck as close to my front door as possible, pulled the mattress and box spring out of the back, and pushed them one at a time up the stairs, end over end, then slid them through the kitchen and into my bedroom. I wiped my forehead with the back of my arm, set the mattress on top of the box spring, and put sheets on it. I grabbed the Batman comforter. I hesitated.
Evan Allgood's work has appeared in McSweeney's, The Millions, LA Review of Books, The Toast, and The Billfold. He lives in Brooklyn and contributes regularly to Paste. Follow and maybe later unfollow him on Twitter @evoooooooooooo.