That summer was a sunny one. Let`s use this phrase as a springboard to hoist us into the next chapter, where we find Carmen emerging from the doorway of her modest first-floor studio apartment in Sea Gate. There is a low porch with a lantern attached to the wall near the exterior door.
Carmen can turn the lantern on and off at any time she wants. With a generosity unusual for homeowners, the landlord allows Carmen to use the light for no extra fee. This lantern brings not only practical, but also psychological benefit. It provides the illusion for Carmen that she is not alone, that someone is in the apartment, that someone awaits her. That’s why the light burns in any weather at any time, and Carmen is grateful for this small gift in her life.
Carmen hadn’t always felt fearful of returning to an empty apartment. When she worked for the sex-business, she and two other working girls, Amy and Gladys, rented an apartment together. The place was an absolute mess: clothing strewn about, make-up, dishes, empty vodka and beer bottles everywhere. No matter how hard Carmen tried to keep things orderly, it all inevitably fell apart, just as she fell into forgetfulness after nights out with clients.
At that time, she didn’t yet fear an empty house. But her life changed when she got close
to Sam, a man she picked up in a bar.
Sam was an overgrown child of 45 years of age. His parents resided in Florida, and he lived on their dime in New York. He assured his parents that he was busy promoting a web design project. But in reality the shithead didn’t do a damn thing. He hung out at bars and restaurants, dropped money once a month in an Atlantic City casino, and spent all his days sitting in computer chat rooms.
Carmen’s feminine charms overwhelmed this guy so much that he started to pursue her, made reservations at expensive restaurants, and brought her to his house in Sea Gate, where he’d rented a luxury apartment and insisted Carmen should come live with him.