As I step into the elevator, I see her. She is not aware of me following her. I live in the apartment next to her, and I am in love with her, but I am not even sure if she knows I exist. As she steps into the elevator beside me, our eyes meet. I watch her finger press against the button sending us both to the fourth floor of the building. I gaze at her perfect face: her piercing blue eyes; her perfectly shaped nose; her soft pink lips. Her skin is perfect--not a blemish. She smells of vanilla scented perfume.
Suddenly, hey eyes turn to catch me and a warm shiver of nervous tension draws sweat to my arms and blush to my face. I try to discreetly draw my focus away, but fail. How could anyone possibly look away from a face so perfect, not even Hemingway could describe it? He might say something like, 'Her face was pretty.' but, pretty couldn't even begin to describe her beauty. Shannon Bart's face was---lets put it this way; her eyes had the power to command the attention of anybody and, everybody in a room. She had shoulder-length, chocolate brown hair that fit in with her delicate latte skin, like the moon sat in the night sky. So contrasting, yet so perfect. She turned her head a fraction and sent me a shy thin-lipped smile. I was stunned because all I could think was: what on earth could make her nervous? But I keep it together, barely, and all I can do in the mean time is stare back and let out a smile so small, I'm not even sure she could make it out. After that her eyes would only drift over in my direction, though not meeting my face for longer than a split second.
The elevator made its 'ping' noise, and the doors opened. I watched, as Shannon exited the elevator, and walked down the hall to apartment number forty-two. I followed, keeping my distance so it wasn't too obvious. It was too late though. She stopped at her door and removed her key from her purse. I couldn't take my eyes off of her as I removed my key from my left breast pocket. She must have noticed my obvious stare, because she looked over. And this time she made full eye contact with me. She, ever so slightly raised her eyebrows, and unlocked her door. After she entered I heard the door lock behind her. I fumbled around with my keys but, eventually got into my apartment.
Though I have lived her for five and a half months, my apartment is still quite bare: where the living room should be I have a typewriter sitting on top of a fold out table. I have a chair but, it is elsewhere. My bedroom is very bleak. I have an unmade bed; a nightstand and a side table lamp on top of that. I have a view that nobody could appreciate--a brick wall. I have a bathroom attached to my bedroom. It is a mess as well. I have cigarette butts in my toilet. I should really stop but, can't seem to. It is bare where my dining area should be. I have a kitchen, it is also a mess. In the cabinets are a few coffee mugs. I have no fridge though. I have a coffee maker on my counter. I have a small pantry with chips, hot coco packets and, paper plates and cups in it. The chair that is supposed to sitting at my table is actually sitting under a vent in the wall, that leads directly into Shannon's apartment. The vent allows me to listen to what goes on next door. On occasion I look through it, when I get tired of listening. I have since learned that she has a boyfriend--Mark Holden. He seems like a nice man.
After watching Shannon, watch the weather forecast, I went down to check my mail. On my way up Mark stepped into the elevator and, I said hello.Like Shannon, he gave a shy smile. After the elevator ride was over, Mark went to Shannon's door, and knocked. After a moment she answered the door in a white tank-top and pajama pants. She had wet hair and a toothbrush in her mouth. As soon as I got in I went to the vent.
All I could hear was Shannon and Mark taking on the futon; "So, I rode up on the elevator with a man, he looks young. Have you met him yet?" Shannon removed the toothbrush from her mouth. " No. But I assume he writes. I hear that darn typewriter going all the time. I guess I'll introduce myself next time I see him." I passed the time by writing. It was around five-thirty in the afternoon, when I heard the forks and knives clinking against the expensive china plates. I looked through the vent and saw Mark and Shannon eating dinner.
The next day we rode up on the elevator together. I was anxious for her to speak. "So... I uh...see you moved in not too long ago." I was taken by her voice. "Yes."
"Do you write?"
"Yes I do. Thank you for noticing."
"I couldn't help but notice. I can hear the typewriter through the vent." This made me feel guilty, yet I was glad that she knew I was there. "I am sorry, I wasn't trying to disturb you at all." She smiled at me, and I could tell that this was her way of accepting my apology. It was quiet for quite a while, before she spoke again. "Anything I'd know?" This question disturbed the agonizing silence. "Huh?"
"Your writing--anything I'd know?"
"No, they're all failures." This was true; I had a, quite large, pile of rejection papers in my side table drawer. She looked at me and smiled. "Well. I've got to go." The elevator doors opened and she stepped out.
When I got home, instead of going to my vent or typewriter, I laid on down on my bed. I could only imagine what Shannon was doing; maybe she was snacking on some cheese and crackers; maybe she was brushing her hair; maybe she was lounging on her futon, watching television. I could only imagine. After I put out my cigarette, I drifted off to sleep....
I was awakened by a dog barking from the sidewalk below. After freshening up, I went for a walk and stopped for breakfast. When I got home I started working on my book--it is about Shannon. Her life just seems so much more interesting than anything I could make up. She volunteers for the Peace Corps. From what I can hear her reading out loud she is supposed to be going to Africa soon. Not too soon I hope, though. I would miss her, so. She wears a lot of pant suits. Almost on a daily basis. I have no idea why, though. Normally, pant suits on a woman aren't so flattering--not in Shannon's case. She usually wears a maroon or black suit with black shoes with a small heel. She didn't come home tonight, so I assumed she was with Mark.
I decided to send her a gift; slip it under her door rather. I chose a necklace with a small golden butterfly on it. But this wasn't just any butterfly necklace--- I got it engraved. It said, For my dearest Shannon.She may know it is from me, but that doesn't matter.
When I saw Mark and Shannon leave for the morning, I put my gift in an envelope and slid it under her door. I waited silently for their return. When I heard the door click shut, I stalked over to the vent and peered through. I saw Mark on the phone, and it sounded like he was speaking to Shannon. He was mumbling about how he had forgotten something and that he would be right back. I saw that the white envelope had caught his eye, and he was bending down to pick it up. "Hey, I found an envelope on the floor. Did you drop something?" He waited for a moment, while Shannon answered his question. "No, it's unmarked. Do you want me to open it anyway?" He tore off one side and dumped out its contents. After he explained what he had found, he set it on the coffee table and left.
When the couple arrived back, they put their things on the floor beside the futon, and sat down. Mark went back into the restroom and Shannon picked up the gift and, looked at it. Her mind dug through the pile of possibilities---- Was this from an admirer? Was is just a juvenile prank? What did it mean? She had some ideas of who it was from. She was able to partly picture his face, but not entirely.
I could tell by the way Mark and Shannon were acting towards each other, things weren't doing so well. When he came out of the bathroom she asked him what it meant. He replied with a shrug. Later that evening, Mark left, and Shannon was busy at her computer, probably researching the many aspects of Africa. The next morning, I decided to go for a jog. When I saw her in the cafe, I had to enter. She ordered a regular coffee, and sat down at the table by herself. She looked upset about something. I couldn't tell what, though. I, also, ordered a regular coffee. My eyes followed her every move. She sat at the table, slouched over, staring at the hot beverage. Every once in a while her eyes would follow the steam rising from the Styrofoam cup. She didn't smile at all.
The bell on the front door rang and Mark walked in. His eyes scanned the room for Shannon. When he spotted her, he slowly walked over to her, and squatted down to her eye level. When he tried to pat her back, she shewed him away. He tried to touch her again and, she quickly turned around, and began quietly yelling at him,"Get away from me! I don't, ever, want you near me again!" He pulled out a chair and sat down next to her. Apparently he could not comprehend what 'Get away from me!' means. As soon as he situated himself in the chair Shannon got up to throw away her cup.
I quickly walked over to the garbage can. When she caught up with me I said hi. She asked if we could talk back over at my table. I, of course, said yes. We walked, side by side, to my table in the far left corner of the building. We sat on opposite sides of the table.
Her mouth was moving like she was about to say something, but couldn't. Finally she mustered out something, "My...ugh...friend said that he found something in an envelope, on my floor, about two days ago." I shot her a questioning look, trying to act like I had nothing to do with it. But I could tell, she quickly saw through my thin charade. "I say this because a neighbour said that she saw you slipping something under my door, and then escaping back into your apartment. Did you slip that under my door?"
"So you got my gift?"
"Yes, I did." She looked down at the table and back at me. "How did you know that I was going to be here today? What I mean to say is: Are you following me?"
"I have to admit to a secret attraction. I'm sorry if you're frightened. It's just that... I taken with you. That, just, doesn't happen with me often. I am.... Never mind." She nodded and switched her hand position to under her chin. "Listen. Mr...?"
"Anderson. Eric Anderson."
"Listen, Mr.Anderson. I am very flattered by you but, I would appreciate it if...you just backed off a little." I nodded and scooted back from the table. When I got out of the cafe I took off jogging towards home.
When I returned to my apartment I rolled my chair over to my desk and began writing. For dinner, I ordered Chinese. After eating my chicken teryaki, I went to sleep. For the first night in almost a year, I didn't dream about her. The next morning, I sat I at my desk, staring at my typewriter, it was about an hour before I heard a knock. It was her, and all I could think was 'why in the world would she be knocking on my door?' I opened the door and looked at her. She held out the necklace. "What is this for," I asked. "I gave it to you as a friendly gesture. I didn't mean to scare you, at all." She took a breath and spoke, "I am giving you this because there is another gesture I can not return."
"I am sorry if I scared you. But, like I said, I am taken with you. Would you like to come in, for a drink?" She put the shining gold necklace in my hand, and walked past me. "You have no furniture."
" I have what I need."
"Ah! I see."
"Would you like some hot coco? Sorry, but, I haven't been to the store lately." She nodded. I walked into my kitchen and grabbed a mug out of the cabinet. I quickly made the hot coco and brought it to her. "You can go ahead and sit down."
"Oh, I don't plan on staying long." I ,again, asked her to sit down, and she did. I walked over to the nightstand and turned on the lamp. When I sat down, the light bulb went out. The both of us looked back towards the lamp, in surprise. "What do ya' know?" I opened the nightstand drawer, and grabbed out another light bulb. After screwing in the bulb, I walked back over to the bed. I wasn't more than halfway there when the bulb went out again. She stood up and handed me her drink. "I think I'd better go. I'm waiting for somebody to come over."
"But you haven't even finished your coco yet."
"I'm sorry but I need to go. I guess I'll see you around." With that, she left. I stood there for a bit before I realized I had spilled the coco on the floor, and I had dropped the ceramic cup on the floor. I picked up the pieces of the shattered mug, and I wiped up the coco.
I went to my room and changed into a dark green shirt, old grey sweatpants, and running shoes. I went down stairs and saw Mark towards the elevator. I didn't even make contact as we passed each other. I went outside and began running. About halfway down the sidewalk, I saw her. She was absolutely glowing in the mid afternoon sunlight, as she jogged down the sidewalk towards me. Her clothing consisted of, a black t-shirt, red mid thigh mesh shorts, and running shoes. He hair was pinned back out of her face.
She was growing nearer as I wondered, should I say something to her? Yes. "Hello Miss Bart." I said as she jogged past me. She didn't even acknowledge my hello. I continued running down the sidewalk, not looking back at all. I was growing more and more tired of running, so I stopped at the same cafe I always go to.
When I walked in the door, I was out of breath. I ordered a bottled water and a peach yogurt. Then I sat at the same table Shannon, and I had sat at only one day ago. I could recall every insignificant detail of our conversation. I could picture her sitting across from me, wearing her black suit (It wasn't a pant-suit, though. It had a knee length black skirt instead of black pants. The rest was the same: the black jacket, white button down under the jacket.) She looked quite sad. I thought, maybe, because of Mark-they were quietly fighting at their table, before she asked to come sit with me. She was not bothered by the steam, rising from the cup, at all.
Then...the memory just, slipped away...
By the time I finished daydreaming, my water was warm, too warm to enjoy. I wasn't even hungry for my yogurt anymore. I threw away my mid afternoon snack and headed back home. I was almost there when, I tripped over my untied shoelace. I had a feeling that everybody on the street was staring at me, but when I looked around nobody, at all, was looking. I tied my shoelace, and walked the rest of the way back to the building.
Before I even got to my door, I heard an argument erupting from Shannon's apartment. She always looked so sweet and, innocent. I could never imagine her raising her voice at anybody. I, slowly, unlock my door, trying to soak up every bit of the conversation I possibly could.
I sat at my typewriter, bewildered by what I was hearing:
"I saw you, Mark! You and another woman walking down the street, hand in hand.
"She was my sister. You can't just go around, making assumptions--"
"You kissed her!" Mark tried to speak but, Shannon raised her hand, to silence him. "It wasn't a friendly little peck. You kissed her the way you used to kiss me. What is up with you lately?" Mark just shrugged as if he meant to say 'I don't know? What is up with you?' Shannon rushed into the bedroom, and emerged with an open suitcase full of clothing. She hurriedly walked over to the door and told Mark open it. When he did, Shannon tossed out the open suitcase, making sure that, when she did, some of its contents fell out. She grabbed Mark forearm and forced him out of the open door. I laughed inside. How could anyone, possibly cheat on Shannon? Now Mark... Little Marky Mark. I could probably see somebody cheating on him. He looks, and acts very irresponsible. I figured out why he is living with Shannon--he couldn't pay his rent. I heard it through the vent.
Yesterday I got horrible news: Shannon is going to Africa. I am going to miss her greatly. I am going to miss her so greatly, that I am contemplating wether I sould go or not. I am leaning towards yes for now. She is supposed to be leaving tomorrow. I just can't believe it.... Shannon is going to Africa.... Africa.... I have to get my mind off of it. I should go rent a movie. Yes, a movie. That should do the trick. When I got to the video store, it was empty. I was, strangly, in the mood for a family film. I scanned the rack for a film. Actually, I ran my fingers across a row of movies. What ever I stopped on I rented. I stopped on 'The Mighty'. It sounded like a good one. I got home and popped the movie into my VHS. It was a little over an hour and a half long. For a family film it was actually pretty good. I usually fall for more of a sci-fi thriller type of movie.
It was about nine o' clock p.m. when the movie was finished. I went straight to sleep afterwards, so that not a though of Shannon leaving the following morning would work its way into my thoughts.
I dreampt about nothing. Absoloutly nothing. I was glad about that though. It made me feel happy. When I finally got out of bed, I heard Shannon moving her suitcases up the hall, to the elevator. I changed out of my pajamas, and into more suitable daytime clothes. I decided to make up for my actions and offer to help her with her bags. I opened the door to find her rushing back from the elevator. "Good morning, Miss Bart. Would you like some help with your bags?" She abruptly stopped her quick walk down the hall, and turned to face me. "Yes, I would, sir. Thank you for offering." I pulled my door closed behind me and walked into her apartment. It was in much better condition than mine. The walls were a light, baby blue. Her futon was black, and so was the rest of the furniture. She stood next to me, staring out of the window. "You can go grab the suitcases out of my room, she said, in a soft tone. "Just don't.--How do I say this nicely? Just don't...finagle with anything else. Okay?" I nodded sheepishly and walked back into her bedroom.
There were four, large, black suitcases sitting against the wall. I picked up one to see how heavy they were. They weren't too heavy. I could carry one in each hand. I carried two of the four suitcases out into the family room and asked what to do with them next. "You can start heading towards the elevator with them. I'll be there in a moment." I walked out into the hallway. Her shoes were clicking against the wood floor. Suddenly she appeared next to me with two cardboard boxes in her hand, and a duffle bag hanging from her arm. When we got into the elevator, I thought of the first time we were into the elevator together. " You know, Shannon. I can remember every detail of the first time we were in this elevator together."
"I'm sure you can, sir." I giggled a little. She turned to me and smiled. "What is so funny?"
"I'm not a state trooper. You don't need to keep calling me 'sir'. Just 'Eric', is okay with me." She laughed and nodded her head.
This is the first time she actually seemed comfortable around me. She was laughing and smiling. She seemed so happy. "So I hear you are going to Africa."
"Yes I am. Uganda, actually."
"Aren't you nervous, or scared? I would be."
"I was at first. But then, I thought of all the lives I would be improving. That is what makes it all worth while: seeing a child smiling because he go a cup of fresh clean water that day. And it came from a well that my fellow volunteers built, together."
The elevator doors opened and we stepped out. While walking towards the door, Shannon tripped and went tumbling towards the floor. I dropped the suitcases and caught her, before she hit the floor. Her boxes, however, were not so lucky. Hopefully, nothing fragile was in there. After she attuned herself, she picked up her boxes.
"Thank you, Eric."
"No problem. I'm sorry about your bags--"
"It's okay. It was just clothes. The boxes were full of books. No need to worry." When we started walking, again, I could see a moving truck waiting. I put down a suitcase to open the door.
When we finished loading the bags, and boxes, into the truck, we went back up to her apartment. The elevator ride up was quiet.
I grabbed the two suitcases, and Shannon carried two more boxes. Once in the elevator, the weight of the bags was getting to me, so I put them down. Shannon leaned against the wall of the elevator.
"How is your writing going?" I was startled because I didn't expect anything to come out of either of our mouths. "It is going good, I guess. I'm almost halfway done."
"Well I'm sure it will be a good one."
"Thanks for the motavation. I hope it will be a good one." When the doors opened I hesitated to pick up the suitcases. I was just daydreaming again. I do that a lot.
When I put the last suitcase into the back of the truck the, the truck driver pulled the door down and sealed it shut. Shannon turned to me, "Well I guess that's it."
"I guess so."
"Well. Goodbye." She turned away and walked towards her car. "Wait, Shannon," I yelled. I jogged up to her, "I just want to say: I am, very sorry if I have offened you, or scared you in the past. I didn't mean it. I'm...I'm sorry."
"Aw. There is no need to be sorry. Yes, you did scare me at first; but now I'm fine. Goodbye. I don't know if I'll ever see you again."
"Goodbyes aren't forever--just for the time being." She got into her car and drove off, following the moving van. I stood there on the sidewalk, staring into space. I can't believe she just left...for Africa. I don't know how long she will be gone. All I know is: I will miss her...
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