The protagonist was about 5'5" with straight black shoulder-length hair and brown skin, Latina perhaps. A male friend stood nearby having just driven with her from somewhere several days drive away; he was keeping her company and helping her check into her apartment in LA. A young blonde co-ed stood by the apartment doorway and read a name off her clipboard. The protag frowned and stated her name which was slightly different.
"Ah, right," the co-ed said. It was the next name down on her list; she crossed it off and let them in.
Protag and her Male Friend walked into the empty apartment. The low grade pile of gray carpet was covered with crumbs, dirt, and other small debris. It wasn't terrible, but protag commented that she'd always vacuumed before she moved out to avoid cleaning fees. MF agreed and suggested she complain to the landlord, but Protag remembered she hadn't had to pay a security deposit for this place, so it was to be expected. Besides all of her duffels and boxes from the car were already there resting on the floor.
MF suggested ordering in, but Protag didn't want to eat sitting on the floor in its current state. She had some ideas of where to eat having lived in LA before, near but not exactly in this neighborhood. As they walked down the long hall of the second floor, they entered the mall section. It included elements reminiscent of the Tallahassee Mall and the Metreon in San Francisco, but also, apparently, included an apartment complex. An escalator plunged down into the food court; a bowling alley was further down the hall on the ground level; an arcade dinged, beeped, and flashed lights in the periphery. Sensory overload.
They walked back to the apartment. The door was open and a young woman was unloading her stuff. The co-ed stood next to her and crossed her name off the list. The young woman had the name the co-ed had originally said.
Before Protag could vocalize her protest, the landlord showed up to fix the mix-up. "Get your stuff and follow me," the short, gruff old man said as he strode away. There was too much to carry and they were losing him. Protag found a shopping cart that someone had left behind, filled it with stuff and took off after the old man. MF grabbed what he could and followed.
At the end of the hall, Protag saw the old man step onto a steep escalator going up. After three flights up, she stood on the narrow landing between the up escalators to wait for MF. The old man was nowhere to be seen, but they continued up looking for him and for her apartment. Around the tenth flight, they overheard a tenant comment to another that it was better to get off at the 13th floor.
Protag and MF continued up. At the 14th floor, they stepped off to check the hallway for the landlord. Two thugs stood in front of the restaurant kitchen style doors. They walked past, but Protag felt uneasy. The old man wasn't there. A woman on a balcony above them said, "You're really better off getting off on the 13th floor."
MF and Protag walked between the thugs again without incident, but started their way down. They found the landlord's office: she was now a middle-aged woman, heavyset and friendly; she invited them in, pointing out where they should sit. There was paperwork to complete.
The landlord fanned out a bunch of business card sized coupons: Parking, 1 credit; Laundry, 1 credit; and others. Protag wondered what 1 credit was good for and if she was also going to have to pay to park under the mall. The landlord slid the lease agreement across her desk and waited for Protag to sign. I shared Protag's perspective and pushed the lease slightly away from me.
"What's the matter, honey?" the landlord asked.
I looked over at MF and then back at the landlord, "To be honest, if I'd been living here and looking at apartments, I never would've considered this place. I didn't know it was a high-rise." Suddenly the crumb-covered apartment on the second floor seemed very appealing even though the surroundings would probably be loud. "And I'm concerned about security; I don't feel safe here."
The landlord looked at me with understanding. I wondered if she'd let MF and I stay a few days, so I could find another place to live, or at least the night because it was getting late. The options ran through my head: I could offer to pay her a prorated amount- even if I paid more than that as incentive, it would still be less than a motel. I considered seeing if I could stay with friends but nixed the idea; they'd already done enough and I wanted to do this (aside from MF) on my own. Maybe this is another sign I don't belong in LA, maybe I should go back where I came from, I thought to myself. I looked at the landlord and tried to gauge what she would respond to; I wasn't sure how much I had committed to living in her high-rise, but I knew I didn't want to.
The dream didn't start with me, but it certainly became my story.