I’m sitting on the top step, my body in the shade but my feet on the third step, in the sun, and I’m smoking my e-cigarette and reading a book about ‘shame’, when the woman in the apartment opposite me comes out and stands on her step.
‘Hello there,’ I say, ‘How are you?’
‘Well,’ says the woman who is dressed in a white muslin shirt, white linen trousers, a handbag and a Bandaid across the right side of her hairline, ‘I’m famished,’
‘Oh, dear,’ I say, ‘in that case you’d best get something to eat,’
‘Well,’ she says, turning back and closing her aqua coloured door with a metal number 4 stuck to it, ‘I’m on my way to the Tuning Fork. Do you know it?’
I tell her no, I don’t, and she tells me they have good soup there.
‘They have really good soup there,’ she says, ‘and they have 95 beers on tap,’
‘Well, I don’t drink alcohol,’ I tell her, ‘but I do eat soup,’
Then, as if she’s been given a gentle shove by an unseen force, the woman staggers.
‘Oh,’ she says, flicking her long dark hair back with her left hand as she rights herself, ‘I nearly fell over yesterday,’
Then she emits a high-pitched giggle.
‘It could be your ears,’ I tell her, ‘when your ears are waxed up you can lose your balance,’
She says ‘Oooh’ to this, as if I have just told her a great secret.
‘But it could also be those ear buds you have connected to your phone,’ I say, ‘take those out and see if you stop wobbling,’
And she does, she takes the ear buds out of her ears right there and then, lets out another giggle, and says thank you.
Then, because she has three cats that I hear her cooing to as an adult might to a baby, I ask about them.
‘They’re indoor cats now,’ she says, ‘because they kept getting beaten up,’
‘I was coming out of the bathroom the other day,’ I tell her, ‘and I had left the front door open and a bold ginger cat had come in and then gone running off when he saw me,’
‘That’s one of the cats who beat my cats up,’ she says, ‘and now my little cat has to stay inside because that ginger cat tore her cornea,’
‘Oh,’ I say, ‘that’s gross and bad luck,’
Then she gives another of her high-pitched giggles and says thank you.
Then she holds out her hand for me to shake and says-‘What was your name again?’ as if I had already told her and she’d forgotten.
I tell her my name and she responds by telling me hers and we shake on it and then say good bye to each other.
And then she leaves for the Tuning Fork, where the soup is good and there are 95 beers on tap to go with it, and I stay on the step, my feet warming under a pleasant sun, and continue with my book on shame.