Friendly Lounge, a block from my apartment. 59-year-old Robert has worked for Aramark for 21 years. Headquartered in Philadelphia, Aramark specializes in food service for institutions, including schools and prisons. Robert used to make $25 an hour, but is now only bringing in $16.10 an hour, "And they fuck you up the ass too!" He said while clutching the bar and pushing his buttocks out. "I got so sick of it, I applied at just about every restaurant in Center City, but who would you hire, me or some 19-year-old?"
I told Robert many people would kill to be making $16 an hour. Paying $400 a month, Robert shares a house with four other people.
"How big is your room?"
"The size of this napkin!"
"And how are your housemates? Are they clean?"
"Hell no, they're filthy! When I go into the bathroom, I'm afraid to step on the floor. The ceiling tiles are falling down. The wall tiles are falling out. It's gross in there!"
"How's the kitchen?"
"That's gross too! I never use it. I have a little refrigerator in my room."
"No one washes the dishes?"
"Never! That's why I'm looking for a new apartment, so if you know of anything, tell me. I can't afford much, though. I used to live on South Street, that was nice, but it's gotten way too expensive."
South Street is popular with people from the suburbs and tourists. Six blocks of it are filled with restaurants and bars. Robert recounted, "I lived next to the sneaker store. One day, I came home late and saw these black guys. I think they were trying to break into the sneaker store."
"But there's a steel gate. How do you break into that?"
"I don't know, but they were climbing all over it. They were really chimping out, you know. There were maybe twenty of them."
"Twenty?! You must be exaggerating! I still don't understand, though, what they were trying to do. I mean, how do you break through a steel gate and then glass?"
"I don't know, but they were just black people acting like black people. It was like the Philadelphia zoo! They were niggers, basically," and he whispered as he said the taboo word. "Sorry to be using the N word, and my best friend is black too, but these guys were niggers. I didn't want to open my door and have them fuck me up the ass, so I called 911."
When his dad died, Robert inherited an old car which he didn't need, so he just parked it on the street, "I didn't even keep it locked because I didn't want anybody to break into it. I knew people slept in it, though, because I found condoms."
"Yeah," and he made a jerking motion with his hand.
Seeing my wedding band, Robert said, "You're lucky to have somebody to go home to. I always had a lover, a boyfriend, but I haven't had anybody in ten years. And it's not the," and he suddenly dipped his head down near my crotch, "but the support, you know. I can't just go home and say to somebody, 'Bitch, I love you!'"
Robert told me and the bartender, Don, about The Purge, "In this movie, you have twelve hours once a year to do whatever the fuck you want. You can kill or rape anybody you want!"
"Even people I hate, I wouldn't want to do physical harm to," I said.
"I don't hate anybody," Don said. "I have no enemies, and I'd say that if some people don't like me, it's because they don't really know me."