A new friend
Did I remember everything? Bulghur, sardines, greens. I’ve got Boots’ prescription. Did Dr. Glickman charge me the right amount? What was it last time? Eighty-four. He’s getting a little grey around the temples. Oh, blast it. I forgot my naproxen. I can’t walk back in this wind. Never mind, I’ll get it tomorrow. I’m going to pay for it in the morning. Who else would treat Boots so well, remembering his meds over mine. Lucky scamp to have me for an owner. If I don’t get back now, I’ll miss Eugene again. I better get his name right. Eu— gene. Yes, it is Eugene. Oh, I’ll ask him. He certainly doesn’t know mine. Four o’clock. Might just catch him. I’ll weigh Boots when I get back. The scale is under the bathtub. If that scamp has tipped fifteen, I’m cutting back his portions, no matter how much a fuss he makes. Is that his bus? Oh, I’ve missed him… No, not stopping. Ni— Ni hao. Ni jiao shen… me ming zi— Me ming zi. Maybe he’ll think I’m silly. I could say— No, it’ll be fine. Young man is thousands of miles from home; probably doesn’t hear it spoken very much at all. Eight thousand kilometres, would it be? He won’t mind. At least to open the conversation. Ugh, and the cashews. Why am I too stubborn to make a list? This wind is picking up now. I need new gloves. Extra padding around the knuckles. Maybe I can have the naproxen delivered. Just this once. Spend a little extra for a comfortable morning. I’ll invite him for Sunday. He’s got studies. He won’t mind a break on the weekend. Sunday afternoon. Middle. What exactly is he studying here? Smile. Be hospitable. Where in China is he from? Maybe he’d like comfort food. Dumplings. Or just stick with the dip. Does he have no family here then? Wear the blue cardigan. Clean Boots’ litter before he comes. What if I were to go before poor old Boots? The Humane Society would pick him up, wouldn’t they? Wouldn’t hurt to put a call in. If he makes twice as big a racket after missing two meals as he does after missing one, it won’t take very long at all for the neighbours to catch on. I hope these sardines are fresh. I can practically smell them in this wind. Should have double-checked. If not, I can always give them to that old scamp. Wouldn’t be a bad idea to put a big note on the fridge, explaining his condition and where his food and meds are to the person who finds him. Maybe Eugene would take him in. He seems like a cat person. At least not opposed to it. Quiet. I hope he’s affectionate. Another bus. Stopping. This must be him. There he is. Get moving you flimsy sticks. I can catch him. Why don’t I do more brisk walking. This doesn’t hurt so much. Warmer, too.
The wind really carries off your voice. Just get inside. Have they come in to fix the other elevator? The extra wait would do me good for once. There, I’ve got him.
“Could you— Could you please hold the elevator?”
Glances back. He recognizes me. I think he recognizes me. The other elevator is still down. I better write another letter.
“Thank you— I’ve got bags.”
“Yes, please. Same as you.”
Girl slips in behind me. Never seen her. Presses five. Those two terriers barking so sharply in the mail room. Glad they didn’t make it on. Let these bags down. I need to catch my breath. I’ve managed to break a sweat. Yes, these sardines could be fresher. It’s not just me. I could apologize for them. Ding. Doors creak open. Girl gets off. Creak close. Breath.
“I do have your name correct, don’t I? Eugene.”
“Yes, my name is Eugene. I’m sorry, I don’t know your name.”
“That quite all right. It’s Gladys.”
“Hello, Gladys. I see you always in the building, but I never know you.”
“Yes. Well, it’s good that we get to know our neighbours. I should have introduced myself when you first moved in. You live all by yourself, don’t you?”
“Yes, that is correct.”
“I am going to university. I am studying business.”
Pick the bags. One more breath.
“Would you— why don’t you come over on Sunday for some snacks?”
Ding. Doors open at twelve. Shuffle out, and we start pacing over to our end. Simpler words.
“If you’re not too busy, you can come over on Sunday and take a break from your studies. I don’t have anything to do on weekends, and Boots and I could use some good company. Just a quick visit. Boots is my cat.”
“Yes. Sounds good. I really enjoy that.”
“Oh, that good news. Is two o’clock a good time for you?’
“Two o’clock. Yes, that’s good.”
“Great, okay. Don’t bring anything to eat. I’ll have snacks.”
“Okay. I will see you on Sunday then.”
“See you then, Eugene.”
To be continued.