New Room New Home New Life
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall. Who said that? Is that a quote? It felt like a quote. Gazing across the street that belonged to her new apartment, she thought she saw the gargoyle on the opposite building wink first, then nod. She sighed. Then she sighed again. She tried to do it like that screen actress had done it, when she was dying. It felt good. At dinner to night, she was going to really, really complain. She didn’t like her walls. They were all covered with silly stoopid flowers. And she didn’t think it was fair that Matthew got the room next to the bathroom. He’d get in there first and stay there forever. He too wayyy too long showers. Made muscles in the mirror. Thinks himself so cool. Him and his nerdy friends. They’d had to move closer to his school and further away from hers. Mary Elise would never come over here. And it was too far for her to ride her bike over there. She wasn’t allowed to go to other kid’s homes after school anyway. Pretty soon it’d be summer. Then she’d be stuck. Here in this grotty room. In this unknown part of town.
She looked out the window again. Fourth floor. And Matthew got the fire escape landing, too. He could go sit outside on it. Sneak smokes. She checked out the store across the street and down a ways. A bodega, it was called. A Cuban owned it. Mom said it was okay for emergencies but too expensive for regular shopping. The owner had a parrot. It had a cage but the cage door was left open so she guessed the parrot could fly around if it wanted. First time she’d gone in there she’d been alone. To get Mom a newspaper. The next time, she’d had to take Sally. But Sally was only just three, so that didn’t count. She had been the only adult. Mom had sent her for milk. For cereal and for her coffee. Mom had said that she HAD to take Sally. “Hold her hand and don’t let her out of your sight.” “Why can’t Matthew watch her?” sbe’d whined. Well, she had. She knew she had. She knew it wouldn’t work and it didn’t. “Matthew has to help me unload things in our storage area in the basement. Just take her and go. GO!” Her mother made shooing motions at her. Sally trundled over and grabbed her hand. “Ho’ hans,” she announced solemnly, and started pulling.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, she told the radiator she was leaning on. I love Sally. I really do. It’s just that being in the middle SUCKS! Something flashed, high up on the building across the street. A movement? A reflection? She couldn’t see anything, staring directly where the flash had been. She checked the gargoyle again. It smirked and nodded at her. That couldn’t be right, she thought. She tugged idly at a loose corner of the wallpaper, next to the radiator. It came away suddenly. She let go, thinking “oh-oh!” The loose piece hung down, like some bizarre tongue. She scrambled to her feet and over to her desk, rummaging through the top drawer. No paste. No glue. Tape, though. She tore off a strip, folded it double-sided, and carefully stuck it to both wall and wallpaper tongue. Smoothing it down hard, she sighed with relief as it stayed neatly in place. I’m sorry, wall, she thought, stroking the ugly wallpaper. You could’t help what they put on you.
She sighed again. Leaned on the windowsill and stared at the gargoyle. I’m going to name you, she thought. Something impressive. Something foreign. Like Basil. No, Boris. Boris? Well, she couldn’t be too weird. The kids at school would never believe her. Yes, Boris. She was going to make him very mysterious, very exotic, very -- very much her very own mysterious, exotic neighbor. Who lived across the street. Who’d nodded to her. -- She wouldn’t mention the wink -- or the smirk --. Yes, Boris. Who lived across the street. At the top of that brownstone over there. Who was -- a writer! Yessss, a very famous writer. In -- ah, Bulgaria. No, Russia. That was it. He was a Russian émigré She knew about that from Aunt Dot. Aunt Dot lived in Brighton Beach. There were lots of Russian émigrés there. So. Yes. And Boris was - ah - what was that word Mr. Abbott’d used last week in English class? Retiring, that was it. In fact, Boris was a hermit. No, ah, wait, wait -- he was a recluse! Oh, good. That was good. And he knew her. And he liked her. He sent her on errands. To -- to the bodega. He’d seen her at her window from his window. And he’d uh, he’d smiled and nodded to her. And then, he’d beckoned her over. And when she’d got across the street, he’d dropped a note down on a long string with a beautiful green quartz stone tied to it. To weigh it down. There was money, too. Wait, the note and the money were both in a tiny velvet bag that was tied to the quartz stone. And the note asked for Parliament cigarettes. No, that wasn’t right. She couldn’t buy cigarettes. No, the note said, “Please give this note to the owner of the bodega.” And then it’d said, “Give the bearer of this note ...”.
She kicked at the baseboard. It made a pleasant sound. Hollow, kind of. She thumped it again. A rap at the door, sharp sounding. “Are you in there? I need you to go to the store. My head’s splitting. I just need some asprin, that’s all.” Her mother pushed the door open and peered around it. “And, you can get a magazine and a soda for yourself, too. You’ve been really good about this move.” Her mother pulled her into a loose hug, bending and nuzzling her hair, saying, “You smell so GOOD. I do love you, you know.” Her mother held her off and stared nito her eyes with warmth and love. Her Mom was tired. Her face looked weary. “Here. Here’s the money. Go.” The halls were dark and cool. The elevators were all mirrored. She loved the elevator. She watched herself all the way down. At the bodega, she waited her turn. There were three people, all waiting to be waited on. This is a waiting game, she thought, and was pleased with herself.
When she got back outside, she looked up to find the gargoyle again. Engaging its glance, she dropped a little curtsey. “Boris,” she said, inclining her head in a formal nod.
Loping across the street, she stopped just before entering her building. Looking over at the gargoyle again, she wagged her fingers until it looked down at her.
First she winked. Then she smirked. Lastly, she nodded.