1When Uber drivers drop me off on my block, they ask me if I’m sure I know where I’m going. Do you live here? Is it safe? Are you visiting? I hate these questions. They’re right, though. This is not my block. I live with one of my best friends, the poet Nate Marshall, on the 7700 block of South Paxton Avenue in South Shore. Nate is black, and I am Mexican. Nate is building his life here, and I am a tenant. I pay rent every month. Nate and his partner have plans for what to do with the house after I leave. Maybe transform a room into an office. Maybe buy a new furniture set. I daydream with my own partner about our own life and where we might build it.

Hard-boiled eggs in a pot
Photo: Nick Murway

2On a typical morning, I drink two cups of coffee, eat a banana, and make two hard-boiled eggs before leaving the house. I leave two more hard-boiled eggs for Nate in the pot. This is the only type of domestic life I know.

3Nate and I live in a house we nicknamed Remi Mansion. Nate’s sister, Jamesa, and her dog, Remi, used to live with us. Since Jamesa and Remi moved, it’s been Nate and me holding down the house. Sometimes we throw parties, but because we’re getting old, they end by 11 p.m. Once, I invited some out-of-town friends over to do a poetry reading at the house. When we were teenagers, Nate and I talked about owning a brownstone in Brooklyn. I would live on one floor, Nate would live on another floor, and on the bottom floor we would have a recording studio. Remi Mansion is that brownstone dream, sometimes.

4Our block is a residential block. In the evenings, when I walk home from the bus stop, it’s quiet. No one is outside. The trees keep me company. Our neighbors care about how our block looks. All of the lawns are neat except ours. All around our block, there is a kind of flower I spot. It has a long stem and a drooping pale purple flower. When I start to see that flower, I know that I am almost home. I asked my friend Jasmine if she knew what the flower was or if it was native to this part of the city, and she said it was probably a weed. I am trying to figure out how to contribute to my neighborhood and not just take from it.

5The best part about living with my best friend is that on an occasional Tuesday night in the middle of January, when the cold is at its worst, Nate and I will crack open a bottle of tequila and then it’s a dance party. Nate’s the one dancing. I’m nodding my head. The world doesn’t feel so lonely then.*

6This is what I know, and I don’t care how long you’ve been playing: If you play Nate and me at spades, you will lose. It’s a simple fact, but if you need references, we have a whole lot of people you can talk to. That’s the way it’s been since Nate and I started playing cards together. Since we started talking via AOL Instant Messenger and driving to open mics together on the North Side. We’re going to be partners way past when I move out of Remi Mansion. Listen, there’s almost nothing I’m sure of, but I promise you that.

*No. 5 is the lie. The best part about living with my best friend is the random marathons of The Flash and Black Lightning.

José Olivarez is the author of the poetry collection Citizen Illegal.