Young professional seeks quiet cohabitant to co-sign a lease in a midtown apartment. $900/month to live in a curtained-off corner of the living room. If you have to ask “why don’t you just move to Brooklyn?” we aren’t a good fit. You can find the rent listing here.
I have odd hours, so you’ll rarely see or hear me. Just stay out of my stuff and we’ll get along fine.
Query at: email@example.com.
Prince Charming, Manhattan’s handsomest superhero, lounged romantically in an uncomfortable gray chair in the corner of the Starbucks, his dented Macbook Air perched on his muscular thigh.
He wished that instead of throwing thongs at him, women would throw money. Then maybe he wouldn’t need a roommate.
One eye on the door, he shifted in his seat. No one had recognized him yet, but it wouldn’t be long. It never was, especially not in the Times Square Starbucks he frequented.
Mb1223@aol.com. He read the ad again. If you have to ask “why don’t you just move to Brooklyn?” we aren’t a good fit. The question “why don’t you just move to Brooklyn?” had not and would never cross Prince Charming’s lips. Prince Charming made it a point to never rescue anyone in Brooklyn, because a person who had ventured off of the island of Manhattan had clearly made some sort of mistake. He would never galavant in Gowanus. He did not prance through Park Slope. He refused to canter through Crown Heights. Brooklyn was a stain on the shining spires of midtown. But it was nothing to Staten Island — oh, god. He shuddered.
“Is that Prince Charming?” he heard someone whisper. He shifted a little in his seat, and if the move happened to push his rippling pectorals and oversized biceps into prominence, that was a fault of his faultless musculature, and certainly not a calculated decision on his part.
“I think it is,” the whisperer’s friend said, in a much louder voice. Prince Charming rubbed listless fingers across his slightly sticky mousepad, pretending not to hear. “Can we — should we talk to him?”
“To him?” Prince Charming fought a wince; maybe the speaker was his friend and fellow hero The Screech. But he’d heard this conversation before. He frowned adorably at his computer screen.
Hello, he typed. I am seeking a room in a midtown apartment.
Giggles nearby and coming closer. I do not want to live in Brooklyn either. Why would one even have to express such a thing?
He deleted the word “room” and typed space.
He looked up. Two young women stood before him, both in business casual blouses and slacks. “Are you — sorry if you aren’t — are you Prince Charming?”
Smiling, he shut his laptop and stood up. “What can two lovely young ladies like yourselves want from Prince Charming?” he asked.
The screeching one squeaked. The other held out a piece of paper and a pen. “An autograph,” she said, her eyes wide.
“For my fans?” He laughed. “Anything.” He took the pen and paper and scrawled a few loops on the page. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a city to save.” He marched out of the Starbucks, and paused in the artificial brightness of the New York City night, realizing he didn’t have anywhere to go.
A man with a weaker core would have slumped in defeat. Charming allowed himself a sigh and then turned toward SICH. Superheroes In Capes Headquarters was formed in 2007, before smartphones meant that the heroes were constantly battling autocorrect in a war against SUCH.
He knew the other heroes weren’t thrilled about it, but he could find peace and decent internet there for the night. Get a job, he thought as he walked south down eighth avenue. I have a job. None of them work as hard as me at the hero thing. But he felt uncomfortable in the pit of his stomach; society’s expectations had weighed on him heavily since his 25th birthday last week, when his mother declared that he was on his own.
“Saving the city doesn’t pay!” Charming had yelled, slamming his fist onto the table and accidentally shattering it.
“Then do something that does!” his mother had screamed back, shorter and more terrifying than any of the villains at VARE (Villains Always Rule Everything, which also had autocorrect problems with the equally insidious “care”). “And buy me a new table!”
Charming turned left on 22nd street, and climbed up the worn stone steps to the SICH entrance. He tapped on the door — once and then three times in quick succession.
“Coming,” someone called from inside. It sounded like Lac. Charming leaned stylishly on the doorpost and waited, tapping his left fingers on the outside of his computer.
The door creaked open. “Hey, Char,” Lac said. “Sleeping here again?”
Charming was not the most perceptive man in the world, but even he couldn’t help noticing that Lac sounded unenthused. “I'm sending an email to a potential new roommate,” he said. “It will be a good fit for me. So just a few more nights.”
Lactose Intolerable sighed and pulled the door wide. “Awesome,” he muttered.
“Well hey, what gives you the right to sleep here?” Charming shouldered past Lac even though there was a lot of room to enter.
“Umm… I pay rent?”
“You fart a lot,” Charming accused. The air smelled suspiciously of Glade.
“I don’t complain when you cause millions of dollars of infrastructure damage, do I? Let me use my powers.”
“Stupid powers,” Charming muttered, vaulting himself over the back of the couch and landing in a comfortable flop on the soft cushions.
He reopened his laptop and typed in his password, Ch@rmer12. The password had been Charmer for a very long time, but SICH’s cyber safety awareness class (led by The Screech) had taught him that you needed characters and numbers, so that if your nemesis came into possession of your device they would take a longer time hacking it.
He reviewed the email he’d written to this person, and then went back to the initial ad. It was sparse on personal data, but the associated link had pictures of a sick pad with a granite kitchen and gorgeous skyline views.
Please let me know if you need any additional information. I am able to pay the specified rent. Which he was. Basically. If he dipped into his savings from the book deal and someone would send him a royalty check for his action figure.
He didn’t believe that the action figure wasn’t making waves. Kids loved a strong, handsome superhero. Even if it was hard to make an action figure “super strong.” Someone had done it with G.I. Joe.
Send. Charming closed his laptop, tossed it onto the coffee table, and shimmied down the couch, stretching his shoulder blades. He would call his mother in the morning. She couldn’t still be mad about the table. He wiggled a little bit, and then reached back to move the lumpy couch pillow into a better position.
“Seriously, on our best couch?” he heard Lac whine, from somewhere nearby. His eyes had closed.
“It’s our only couch,” Charming muttered, and rolled his face into the back of the couch, breathing in dust and dirt and old popcorn. He drifted off to sleep like that, and in his dreams he was the best actor in all the movies. But when the film ended, he was also the janitor, cleaning up spilled cokes and empty popcorn bags from the narrow spaces between the seats.