I find myself meeting my neighbors in the elevator. It used to be proper to stare silently ahead, the ride from the 5th floor to the basement sacred and anything but a social gathering. No longer do we stare forward, eyes glazed, but rather we converse and smile meeting each other eye to eye.
Sam works at the super market in produce. My grandfather did the same. Grandpa used to tell me that sometimes he was up to his elbows in muck. Cantaloupes and Honey Dews would rot and he would be responsible for cleaning out the crates. He said it was hard to know a banana, the banana’s life short lived. Their age spots in death are darker and more plentiful than the age spots forming on the top of my forearms. It bothers Sam, as it did my grandpa, that customers get friendly with fruit, squeezing apples shamelessly.
Deidre wears wigs. I’ve ridden on the elevator several times with her. At first, I didn’t recognize her when she went from a short blonde bob to a long haired, wavy red head. I favored her black wig with the bangs; it made me think of Cleopatra and transported me for a second to ancient Egypt. I told her that I wore a wig for awhile. I had shaved my head just because. People kept mistaking me for a guy, which I hated. So, I bought a wig. Long black hair smelling of toast. I learned later that when meeting people they thought I had cancer and felt so bad for me that they acted weird, acted with unwarranted reverence. They thought me frail. People were careful not to bump into me or embrace me in greeting.
Jimmy smelled like a terrible mix of Old Spice and cigarette smoke. He rode the elevator with a cigarette hanging from his lips. I imagined his lighter in his front pocket, easy to reach, ensuring he could light up the first second he stepped over the threshold.
Gary, Luther, Pamela, Stephanie, George, Dana, Louise–all regulars who I would also run into in the laundry room on the second floor.
I like the brief contact I have with my neighbors. Brief is just right; a small bit of socialization, leaving me free after five minutes of conversation to walk through my door from the hall, shutting it and then burying my face in the hair of my cats on my way to my desk where I’ll sit and daydream for hours.