"Hello." She said in her broken English. The mist from her breathe quickly fading  in the cold Chicago air.

 

 "Hello" he said, briefly glancing up,  then back down at his clip board again.

 

 "You work on building?" She replied again, her polish accent strong through her aged lips. "You measure?" She asked, bringing her worn sweater over her wrinkled neck.

 

 "Yes, ma'am,  I'm a surveyor, I'm taking measurements of the building for the sale. Do you live here?" Said the man without looking up from his work, trying to dismiss  the unwanted attention that will surely slow down his already dragging day. 

 

"Yes. Until end  January. New owner, rent is now more. My husband is very sick. We have to move now."  She said, now privately starting to sob. "I'm sorry, It's  very hard. I'm sorry. Merry new year" She said, slowly raising her push cart into the building. 

 

"Happy new year" he said back Sadly.  "I'm sorry," he says. "I hope your husband feels better" he said again, now feeling embarrassed for his rudeness....

 

"Hey dude, I can't  find shit for monuments" Luis interrupted walking towards the man from  down the walkway. "This is going to be a long job." He said again.  The light from the low winter sun glaring from behind him."Yeah." The man said, still looking at the now closed doorway as if the old wife's sorrow had left an image on it.  " Let's look down the block this way " he finally answered, still deep in reflection from his previous encounter. "What's wrong man?" The  partner asked. "Nothing bro. Nothing" 

 

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"klamemtyna, czy to ty?" A voice spoke faintly from behind a slightly closed door. "tak, moja miłość."  she says. "I have returned from the market" slowly closing the front door. "You have woken? I make duszone cabage for super."  "Yes my dear wife. I am awake" the old man now appearing from behind the previously closed door says. "why have you gone out in this cold? You will catch  fever!" The husband says. "Then the two of us will lie in bed without nobody to cook for us" he chuckled, afterwards letting out a low dry cough. "I dress warm my dear Piotr. It is no colder that Warclow, our first home, my love. "  She said while turning on an old gas stove. "I will make some stewed cabbage to welcome the new year and ease your lungs". "Nothing will ease my lungs now wife but the long sleep." Piotr says. "Ahh, you talk foolishly. You have survived war and poverty, you will surely survive a cold" his wife replies turning back to the stove knowing "A cold" would be very welcomed to the blackness now developed in her husbands lungs.  She sets a pot to boil and sits at the little metal table with her husband. The light from outside highlighting the medical bills on the table.  Because of the shadows from the small apartment, they seem to glow as a reminder of their  uncertain future. Piotr, gathers them slowly and moves them to the side. Klamemtyna turns her focus out of the window overlooking the alley and garage the tenants with cars share at the two young men. "Have they come to run us out Klamemtyna? " says Piotr. "Are they here to evict us?" He says clearing his throat and wiping his brow. "No, Piotr they are not."....

 

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"Then towards the end of the night , the cops start to throw people out of the place, one by one and taking some to jail even. They were acting like assholes. I mean seriously, even throwing some to the ground. I started recording the whole thing. Hell, it's my right.  I pay for their salary. I should be allowed to record them while they work. Then, they started fucking with me! Can you believe that!? We were just there trying to enjoy our New Years Eve! And they're messing with me while I was trying to leave and recording them doing these things." Luis shouted. 

 

 "I can see where they may have been a little frustrated by the end of the night with a bunch of fools that enjoyed a long evening of free drinks though. I can't really fault them for that. Most people , regardless of their position tend to act by reflex when they're frustrated. " the man said. 

 

"Well, whatever. They were being dicks." His young assistant sparked back.   "Anyways,  what'd you do for New Years?"    

 

 "Me? I stayed home with the wife and kids. I can't afford to be going to clubs and big parties anymore for New Years. Either I spend too much money or I'll get thrown in jail again and then spend even more money I don't have getting bailed out. That shit was for my early twenties bro. I have too many responsibilities now.  Besides, my oldest son is getting over a cold so we just chilled, had a couple drinks and waited till the new years and went to bed." The man said, taking some final measurements of the frame garage.  It was a weird lot the two were surveying. The apartment building  had an asphalt alley surrounding it, the yard and garage on all sides,  not including the front where the main street connects to the alleys,  as if it was some sort of island separated from the rest of the city by a black river. The building was old and brick but still had a solid foundation. Perfect for a  "gut and renovate" and at an are that was a key spot for new development, the fate of this building, and subsequently the people in it, was certain.   "Ok, that's everything. Lets get the equipment and begin  spinning in the job." Said the man describing  the process in  which surveyors pick up needed points radially.  "It should take less than an hour" he said again, clipping his pencil to his clip board. 

 

"That's what she said!" Luis quipped back with a long laugh. Truly showing his age. The man let out a small laugh. "Hey, when you get older and have kids, you'll both be happy with short and sweet. " he remarked back with another little laugh. "Though I'm sure you're girlfriend already lies and tells you that." The man now returning the quip. "When are you gonna work up the nerve and get married anyways? You two are old enough and have been together for a while." The man asked.

 

 "I know, it isn't about nerve though. We want to get married. We've been together since high school but we just want to make sure all of finances are in check first" Luis said.

 

 "Well, my personal opinion is, if you wait till the time is right, the time will pass you up. It happened to my older brother. Kept waiting till the time was right. Eventually,  the time passed  by, at least, to his then girlfriend. I wasn't going to have that shit happen to me. My wife and I were dating for eleven months before I popped the question. The time may not have been right for me to get married. I was only twenty two and she was older. I wasn't a chief yet either, I was still a rod man, like you i  lived with my brother and didn't have any kind of savings yet but I asked anyways.  We've been married for over ten years. Remember Luis,  If the relationship is right, everything else will work itself out"......

 

"What are they doing Klamentyna?" asks Poitr now standing by the little window above the door that leads to the rear deck and steps. Their third floor apartment had a good view above most of the surrounding buildings. Even in the distance to the south they could see  some of  the building downtown. For now however, the view was to watch the two young men go through a process they will ultimately lead to their departure. One that would weigh heavily on them.

 

"The older one said he was measuring. Such arrogance in his voice at first. He reminded me of you when you were younger Piotr." She said with a smile. "I still remember when we first came to the country, to this city. Angelika, was just a baby then. I remember you coming home from the factory everyday, dirty.." She said stirring the cabbage in the pot "....and hungry" She continued with a smile.

 

"Ah yes my love. My body was stronger then. Younger. I never thought I would age.." he stopped "... never thought I would age so quickly. Our child is grown now, with a family of her own. Far from us. She has her life now, her own happiness, her own troubles." He says walking  back to the pile of bills on the table. "I dare not trouble her with ours." Earlier that day he woke to find Klamemtyna gone. He rose from bed to check the small apartment for his wife only to assume she went to the market near by. Not knowing how long she had been gone, he quickly went to the nightstand and took out and opened envelope hiding in the drawer under another pile of papers. It was a letter from his life insurance company. He took the letter out and looked over it again.  Since he his sickness had taken another turn for the worst, he had paid more attention to it. He put the letter down again and turned on the small desk lamp over the table. He opened the drawer again and  took out an old pair of  glasses. Sitting back down on the bed, he took the phone and dialed the numbers he had written on the cover of the letter. "czesc. Piotr. Is it all done." he said to the voice at the other end of the line. " You are sure it was written right?. Putting the envelope away again. "dziękuję mojemu przyjacielowi. Thank you my friend. At least now I know she would be greatly taken care of......if in fact, something were to happen to me."  Hearing the keys to the door he quickly hung the phone, turned the light off and layed back down on the bed. ""klamemtyna, czy to ty?"....

 

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The door opens as the man entered his home. " Hey! Dads home!" Said his oldest son. The man carefully steps inside and removes his boots with the door still open behind him. 

 

"Take off your boots! Don't track mud in!" He hears his wife call from the kitchen. 

 

" Hey, come here." The man tells his son. "Where's you brother?" He asks as he hands his son a bouquet of roses.  "Hold these, let me put my jacket and boots away. Where's you brother?" He asked again. "He's playing in the room." his son replies."Are these for mom?' his son asks. "Of course. They're not for you." The father says with a wink. " Thank you." He says while taking back the bouquet. " Go play." He says to his son as son smiles at him and continues in the living room where he was watching his favorite show.

 

"I'm home babe" The man said as he walked into the kitchen where his wife stood finishing up dinner. "These beautiful flowers for this beautiful woman." he said as he presented the bouquet to his wife. He loved seeing her smile and flowers always made he smile and today was no different. "Thank you babe." His wife said happily giving her husband a long hug and a small kiss. " They're beautiful." She said as she prepared a vase with water to put them in. " Dinner is ready. Sit down. How was work? Is it still cold outside?" His wife asks. 

 

" Yeah, it's still cold. Work was fine. Just another day. Had an odd encounter at one of my sites with a tenant to the property I was doing. Kind of

made me sad. Looks like the place was getting ready to rehab and it was raising the rent to make the current tenants move out. I know it's just the way world works but still.." He paused a second, opening a beer he grabbed from the fridge."....It's sad." He finished

 

" That is sad." his agreed, setting a plate of food in front of him. "Unfortunately, there's nothing you can do though. That's not part of your job." His wife said, trying ease her husbands mind. 

 

"No, I know. One can't help but think though sometimes. Some of the properties I survey are foreclosures and stuff you know. Sometimes I get so used to doing my job that I forget that people used to live on these properties. They had lives there. Children. memories and in some occasions, It's not their decision to end their time there. The decision was made by some businessman behind a desk that doesn't care about unexpected expenses that are not his own." he rants as he eats dinner. "and me, I'm just part of the process." He finishes. 

 

"Hey, I get it." His wife says hugging him from behind his seat at the table. "Just remember that it's not you that's sometimes taking things away from people who don't deserve to have them taken away . Remember that sometimes you are also included in the process of starting a life for a new family. Part of the process that will begin future memories, families." She says softly pressing her cheek against his. "You're good at your job and are a good man for even considering these things and I love you for it babe." She says walking back into the kitchen.

 

"Thanks babe" The man says, staring at his wife fix herself a plate for dinner. "Are the kids eating ?"

 

"No, they ate already."

 

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" Luis. Hi. I didn't expect you to be home already" She said as she walked through the door of their Apartment. 

 

"Yeah, we finished a little sooner than we thought we were going to. So we called it a day." He said with his eyes fixated on the video game he was playing. The Chief was acting weird anyways. I think someone said something to him that got in his head. He gets that way sometimes." Luis said. 

 

"That's weird." says his girlfriend as she put away her coat. " I picked up some dinner. You haven't grabbed anything yet have you?"

 

"No, not yet. " He said still playing his game. "How was you day? Lots of people coming into the bank?" He continued, pausing the game and getting to help his girlfriend with the bags. 

 

"Yeah. Lot's of people." she says. "It's always busy at the beginning of the year. Lots of Loan applications. People trying to buy and sell homes. Build and renovate , not to mention the bank handles most of its  foreclosures around this time too." She added while unpacking the meal and setting it on the table. " lots of work is good though I guess. money isnt going to make itself." she joked. "And we can't buy a house without money, right Luis?" she added. " You do want a house don't you?"

"Yeah. Maybe one day." Luis said starting on his dinner. "Big house over here in the suburbs. Maybe a kid or two. A nice car." He said with a mocking smile. "The works! " he shouted with his hands stretched apart in the air. 

 

 

"Don't mock me Luis! "She said laughing. "I'm just saying. We've been together for a long time. It'll be nice to finally." She paused.  "You know. Start." She said, getting up from the table and sitting down back down at the computer. 

 

Luis, having watched her sad journey to the computer finishes the food already in his mouth. Takes a wipe with a napkin and walks over to his girl. "Listen, I know we've been together for a long time and I want to start too but we had a plan remember?" He tells her putting his hand on her shoulder. "To make sure we're financially stable enough to start our future. we're just not there yet. It's still not time."

 

She meets his hand on her shoulder with hers. "I know Luis. I know." She turns and smiles at him as he walks back to finish his dinner. She turns back around and stares at the computer and whispers "but what if the right time passes us by?" 

 

 

 

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" Good Night Dad." Says the mans Oldest Son.

 

"Goodnight mom. Good night daddy." Says his little boy.

 

"Good night boys." Says the man. Turning off the lights. He closes the door to their room and walks into his. His wife was already laying down. He checks on his workload for the next day and lays down next to his wife.   "are you still thinking about the lady?" She said, resting her face on her hand.  "Nah....Yeah.... A little" he says laying next to her. "I can't imagine being that old and helpless or how her husband must feel wanting to take care of his wife. Wanting to make sure she is happy and healthy but not having the energy to."

 

"Well.." his wife interrupted "we can only hope we put ourselves in a better situation to where we won't have to worry about things like this. Hope that our sons will grow to be self reliant men." She said. Turning off the table lamp. "I know you'll do your best for us babe. You always do. 

 

He smiled and held her close. "I love you, you know." He told her. "I love you too." She replied. 

 

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"Are you mad at me?" Luis asked, standing at the door to his bedroom. "I wasn't trying to be sarcastic or trying to poke fun earlier,  you know. 

 

"I know." His girlfriend say. "I just get frustrated sometime and keep hoping that one day you'll surprise me and take a risk. We've been together for so long and sometimes it feels like we still haven't even started, you know. Sometimes it feels like we've gotten so used to each other that there's no real point in getting married anymore, like you just don't even want it anymore." 

 

Luis sighed. "This was a joint decision, remember? To be financially ready for the whole thing. We'll get there. It'll happen. " he said........

 

"Are you awake. " Luis asked in a whisper, hoping for no response. After a couple seconds he gently got out of bed and made his way into the closet and closed the door.  He dug around under some boxes foe a couple seconds until her retrieved a small white box. He opened the box to reveal a beautiful engagement.  "I do want this. More than anyone thinks."

 

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" pochodzą kochanie. Come , let's go to bed." Piotr says, letting out a horrible cough. 

 

Klamemtyna quickly walks over to her husband with a glass of water. "Piotr, you have not taken your medicine." She walks to the bathroom counter and removes a bottle. "Here. So you sleep better." She hands him a small cup filled with a dark liquid. "Drink.  Don't be a mule." 

 

Piotr takes the cup and drinks.  "This is horrible and does nothing." He says with a grimaced face. "Come now." He stands back up and takes her by the hand. "Let's go to bed." They walk together passed the wall nearer to their small bedroom. The wall had photo frame of all sizes hanging in random positions. They stop and look at each together.  They spoke about each of them with a loving smile on their faces.  "remember this one." He would say. "We took Angelika to the pier to watch the boats come and out."  And "look how young  they were. We had so much fun when they lived here." Klamemtyna said.  "Urszula wrote last month. To tell me her mother passed away. She had been so lonely since he died. Now they are together again." 

 

She began to sob. "We have to leave now too." She broke down. "Where will we go?! We have no money. You can not move in this cold. You will get worse" She said with her shaking voice. " maybe Angelika..." She started but was quickly interrupted by Piotr. "No. We will not burden Angelika. I have my benefits. We will survive. Like we have always survived." He continued leading his wife to bed. " nie martw się." He said laying her down. "Do not worry." He said again, slowly walking around the foot of the bed and laying down next to her. He covered his wife and then himself with a blanket. "I have always made sure you lived a good life my dear." He said rolling to the side and embracing her. "I may not be a young man anymore but I will a continue to make sure you will live healthy." He whispered as she fell asleep. He lay there staring at his wife. For a second he saw a glimpse of her as a young woman. The way she looked when they first met and fell in love. He saw her lips were as smooth as they were as when she would kiss their child goodnight.  Then again he saw her as she slept. His wife. His life. He coughed quietly. Wiped his brow. "I have lived a great life my wife. With you. For you. For our family." He whispered. Letting out another, deeper cough. Trying hard not to wake her. " I have gotten everything from life that I wanted. A loving companion, a beautiful family and wonderful friends..." he paused wiping his brow again and beginning to breathe faintly.  "I still have one last job to do and I hope you understand my love." He whispered as he lays his head down on the pillow at eye level with her. "You will live well until we meet again my dear Klamemtyna. I have always loved you and I will always love you." He said quietly taking deeper breaths as his eyes began to close. " Dobranoc moja miłość Klamemtyna. Good night my love.His eyes close as his breathing becomes more faint. "Good night my dear Piotr." She whispers, as she sleeps. She moves her arm to embrace her still husband and gently kisses his forehead with her eyes still close. He takes his last breath........

 

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