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Address to Nowhere

Address to Nowhere

By Teralyn PilgrimPublished 3 years ago Updated 3 years ago 7 min read
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Address to Nowhere
Photo by Brandable Box on Unsplash

Based on a true story.

David was living the wrong kind of life.

He decided this, all of a sudden, right as he was lifting his key into the hole of a tin mail box in his apartment complex. A group of rogue teenage boys were kicking something around on a lobby floor splotched with stains, laughing louder than they needed to. An elderly man carried his cane and his mail tucked under his arm as he left without saying hello. Everything was the same, and David couldn’t pinpoint anything that would suddenly motivate him to reevaluate his life. Maybe it was that sameness that finally got to him.

He had a good life. An okay life, anyway. He enjoyed working at the coffeeshop. He liked his girlfriend alright. It was just that, he never saw himself living in a tiny apartment in New York City with a woman he liked just alright, owing money to everyone he knew and not able to write anymore.

His junk mail disappointed him, though he didn’t know what he expected. His mail box door banged closed like a tiny high school locker.

What were those kids kicking around, anyway? It was driving David nuts. He looked and saw The Box slide across the floor and crash into a wall.

“The Box” had earned its capital “T” and capital “B” because it had been in the apartment lobby for so long, it practically blended with the decor. Everyone was familiar with the round scrawl on the address line written in sharpie: 518 W 38th St New York, NY 10018. If someone off the street were to ask any of the residents what 518 W 38th St led to, they would all say that’s where The Box was supposed to go.

The Box had no return address. Just a name they all knew after seeing it every time they checked their mail: Billy Clementine.

Maybe it was because of Billy Clementine that David felt depressed. The Box felt like a metaphor for his future: it was prepared, packaged, wrapped in paper, and ready to go somewhere, but it just sat on the floor for people to ignore and step over. David had walked around Billy Clementine’s box for months, just like everyone else, and had ignored it, too.

Seeing the kids kick it around was too much. As the box smashed into the wall and the cardboard sides slightly buckled, David envisioned himself crumpling into a wall, too, defeated.

David scooped up the box — one of the kids said, “Ah, man” — and went outside into the cold air. He would walk it to 518 W 38th St and deliver the damn thing himself.

David had already unbuttoned his coat, so when the wind seared down his exposed neck, he cursed and felt grumpier than ever. With The Box tucked under one arm and his other hand grasping his coat closed, he thought, he didn’t need to be a famous rock star to be happy. He would have liked the world to hear his lyrics, but it was enough to play with his band in small locations on the weekends. Bare minimum, if he had to give up on every other dream, all he really needed was to write the songs. It was the writing that made him truly happy.

He had written songs. Lots of them. So many, that after years of doing the same things every day, seeing the same people and thinking the same thoughts, he ran out of things to sing about. Nothing inspired him. That’s what made him decide this was the wrong life.

The address 514 W 38th St was a Chinese restaurant. 516 was a dry cleaners. 518 was…nothing. The number skipped to a pawnshop at 520. In the place where 518 should be, there was just an alley with an overfull dumpster and no doors.

It looked like Billy Clementine wasn’t getting his Box.

David took The Box up to his apartment where it at least wouldn’t get kicked around anymore. The girlfriend he liked alright was sitting at their kitchen table, which was only big enough for two and probably as old as the complex. Her hands were aggressively full of bills. Molly must have had a bad day working at the gym. Whenever she was frustrated at her coworkers, her clients, or even if the subway was too hot and crowded, she picked a problem to get good and mad about so she could rant at David. Overdue bills was easy ammunition.

After about thirty minutes he was able to extricate himself from the fight. Molly slammed the door as she left the apartment and he sank with relief into his desk chair.

He opened his computer to search for Billy Clementine. All he found were businesses: a concert avenue, and a florist shop.

David tore off the nearly-shredded paper and sliced The Box down the middle. Why not? The tape on the sides snapped as he pulled up the flaps. Pink peanuts lightly fell to the ground as he rummaged inside. All he found was a black Moleskine book sealed in a sheet of plastic.

Why on earth would someone package a Moleskine book with peanuts?

David used to love Moleskine books. He had a shelf of them, each book brimming with precious lyrics in raw form that were turned into great songs. His band had played all his songs so many times, though they never had the funds to record any of them. That would have been something. Recordings were like etchings in stone; a song exists forever after that. People all over the world can listen to it.

The Moleskine book sat on his desk. The whole room seemed to weigh into it, like a bowling bowl on a stretched bed sheet. There was always something alluring about a book of fresh blank pages. It made him ache to write something, anything, even if it was garbage, even if he ripped the page out afterwards.

He thought about the address that didn’t exist, how there was an emptiness between rooms where a home ought to be. Maybe he could do something with that.

David made himself comfortable in his desk chair. He removed the plastic covering from the book and took too long deciding on which pen to use. The first page of a blank book was a lot of pressure. He opened the cover and clicked his pen.

“Okay,” he said.

He pressed the pen to the paper. The tip tore straight through the page.

Behind the first page, there was no second page. Instead, there was a hole where the pages had been carved out. Inside the hole was a stack of cash.

David lifted the stack and held it, carefully in his fingers, like it might fly away if he moved suddenly. He had to touch it to make sure it was real.

“Please be hundreds,” he said out loud.

They were hundred dollar bills, every single one of them.

The Box had been awfully big for just one Moleskine. David plunged his hand into the peanuts and groped around until his fingers touched another book covered in plastic.

Peanuts slid off his desk in a waterfall as he turned The Box upside down. More Moleskine books toppled out — six of them. His fingers fumbled with the plastic as he tore holes and ripped it off. Every book hid a stack of cash.

David only realized he had been holding his breath when he let out the air to count. “One, two…”

When David reached the end of the stack, he had counted to two hundred. He leaned back in his chair, looked at his paint-cracked ceiling, and tried to process this.

He had just come into possession of twenty thousand dollars.

“Is that everything?” asked Blake, the neighbor living in 2A.

“That’s it,” said David. “Thanks for your help.”

Blake pulled on the cord to the moving van and the door loudly slid shut.

“So, you’re a big-time musician now. Moving out of this dump to a better place?”

Blake didn’t ask David how he had paid off all his debts, returned all the money he owed to his friends and family, and had enough left over to record and sell his songs. Other people had asked. David made vague responses that involved savings accounts and sometimes gifts from rich grandparents. To his parents and his band members, he had whispered the truth about the $20,000 that had changed his life.

David’s music was selling well enough that he didn’t have to stay in his tiny apartment with a two-person kitchen table and a sort-of-alright girlfriend anymore. He had a nice apartment now with enough room for his band to practice, and a shelf for a long row of Moleskines brimming with new and old songs.

“I wish you the best of luck.” Blake shook David’s hand. “Don’t forget about us when you get rich and famous, got it?”

“Yeah, okay,” he said with a humble chuckle.

“You guys live here?” said a voice behind him.

The man who spoke held his hand in each pocket in a casual way, with the thumbs sticking out and wrapped around his belt buckle. He had an overly-sweet smile and cold eyes, like a salesman who wants something.

“I live here,” said Blake. “He used to.”

“Maybe you guys could help me. A friend of mine lost some money around here.”

David struggled to control his breathing. Ever since finding the twenty thousand dollars, he had been looking over his shoulder, wondering if the owner of the black books would find him and break his legs. That was a big reason for him to leave the complex.

I was only one day away from not running into whoever this is, David thought.

“Do either of you know anything about it?” the man asked.

“Nope,” said Blake, answering for both of them. David said nothing. He was a terrible liar. And even though he was scared, he was dying to ask the man if his name was Billy Clementine, or if the person named Billy Clementine never existed.

The man narrowed his eyes and frowned. “Hmm,” he said. With his hands still in his pockets, he walked away.

David’s best-selling song was about the irony of an address that led to nothing. “Address to Nowhere” even made it on the radio. He also wrote a song about unexpected endings, and another about new beginnings.

The story of a mysterious black book was one he would never tell.

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About the Creator

Teralyn Pilgrim

Teralyn Pilgrim has an MFA in Creative Writing from Western New England University and a BA in English from Brigham Young University. Her work has been published in the Copperfield Review.

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