The steps go past the apartment below mine on the second floor landing, and continue on up to my landing on the third floor. I’m glad I’m on the top floor, because it means nobody will be climbing the stairs past my kitchen window. On nights when it’s too hot and humid to sleep, I sit out on the landing and listen to the night sounds from the city beyond my courtyard. Three other apartments face on the courtyard. To the right of me is a little old woman that I see from time to time hanging some things to dry on her railing. I spoke to her only once when I went to my mailbox and she was there at hers. I’d often seen the name on her box, and I said “Good morning Ms. Rossita.”
“I am not Rossita,” she barked with a scowl. She slammed her box closed and said, “She was here before me, years ago,” and shuffled away. I’ve never bothered to speak to her again.
On my left there is a gay couple. They are quiet and courteous, and their landing has a lot of potted plants on it, most of which are marijuana, some are geraniums, and one is a tomato plant. Donald seems to work at home on a computer, and Ivan goes out in work clothes, like a trucker. Directly across from me there’s a couple sharing the apartment. I can’t understand why they’re together. He’s a nice looking man in his mid-forties, with thick hair greying at the temples. She’s about my age, a bit heavy, with very big tits and very bad taste in clothes. According to their mailbox tag, he’s James Gordon and she’s Rhoda Blum. I’ve never seen her go out to work, or even do much around the apartment. He goes out early every morning in a suit and carries a cheap briefcase. I think he must be a low-level white-collar worker, and she just lazes around the apartment smoking and drinking beer.
That first summer passed quickly into autumn and my life was filled with work. I was happy to be busy and earning some good money. It wasn’t all work, of course. I still meet Shirley at least twice a week: once a week for lunch and once a week for an evening at a club or a quiet bar. We just relax together and catch each other up on what’s happening in life.
One September evening I returned home just as it got dark. It was a mild night for September, and I sat out on my landing to enjoy it. I can’t see into the apartments to the right and left of me, ‘cause they’re at right angles to mine. The old woman never shows a light anyway, but I can see the glow from the windows of the boys on the left on their landing, but I can’t see into their place. It’s different when I look across the courtyard. Their curtains are always open, and the woman – Rhoda, I guess is her name – must be afraid of the dark or something, because she keeps lights all the lights on all the time. On this particular evening, the man – James – was not yet home.