T he door to 4D stood defiantly near the end of the hall. A rich navy blue hue accented by fresh gold hardware, it would have looked more at home in a home design magazine than the fourth floor of our glorified brick motel. All the other doors in the building were a dilapidated brick red that did a great job hiding the color of dried blood. The doorknobs were old and the cheap coat of fake gold metal that adorned them all was flaking off. You’d find it stuck to your jacket and mitts like expensive dandruff.
My raised fist didn’t get in a single knock before her door swung open.
“Hi,” she said.
I slowly lowered my hand.
“Hi. I’m Addy.”
And then she smiled.
It was then that I realized the distance between us the first time I’d seen her had been a blessing in disguise. If I’d seen her smile from this close the first time I would have fallen from my window onto the alley below and cracked like an egg. They’d be carrying me away in a stretcher made of toilet paper tubes and newspaper while Jerry sang a sad tune he’d made up with one hand firmly over his heart and the other holding up his sweatpants.
Shaking the thought of Jerry’s trousers falling down, I found myself catching a breath I hadn’t noticed got away.
“I like your door,” I managed to say.
“Thank you. I did it myself.”
She stepped aside and warmly welcomed me into the rest of my life. I took my shoes off and stepped inside a magazine of after photos to my apartment’s before. The bones were the same but little plants hung around the room and an intricate area rug masked the splintered wood that I knew lay beneath.
“I didn’t know it was broken from the last tenant.”
She raised her eyebrows at me.
“What was broken?”
“The door,” I gestured towards it.
“It wasn’t broken when I moved in.”
“No.” She scrunched her nose. “But it was rather ugly.”
I shrugged my lips.
“Something tells me Gary wouldn’t have updated the door for me.”
“Me. My door.”
“No. Who’s Gary?”
“Gary’s the supe – how have you not met Gary?”
“How has Gary not met me?” she asked, the twinkle ever-present in her eyes. I stood there, hands on my hips like an idiot and staring at that damn door in disbelief.
“Does Gary know you did this?”
“I don’t know who Gary is so I honestly couldn’t tell you if he knows. Did you want another bun? There’s butter.”
So we ate.
She had freckles that dotted the bridge of her nose and cascaded onto her cheeks. Her eyes were green like a forest. Not a specific tree. Just, all of them. It had me on my heels which I only say in defense of what came out of my mouth next:
“You ever seen dog shit shine like diamonds?”
She was mid chew. I was too. I could see the gears in her mind grind to a halt because her jaw did the same. She muscled through a swallow before responding with what I can only imagine was a galleon of restraint, and simply said:
“I can’t say that I have.”
I was so far into the deep end I couldn’t even see the shore anymore. So I kept swimming.
“Would you like to?”
What stared back at me was what I can only assume was the face of a woman wondering just how desperate she was for a bit of fun. I pictured the soothing bath salts that were probably tucked under her cupboard. The bottle of wine on her counter that a more refined person might have suggested opening first before delving into the lexicon of sparkling puppy poo, and the quilt for two that sat on her day bed where one could listen to the sounds of the city with a simple cracking of a window.
The longer I looked, the further down the curated list of activities my suggestion seemed to fall.
She shrugged and asked, “Should I change first?”, gesturing down at her red velvet Christmas costume.
I shook my head.
“Shouldn’t be a problem.”
TO BE CONTINUED…
READ PART ONE