by Izzie Crossen on April 5th, 2009
I’m wondering again what the hell has become of my life. Standing in front of my mailbox in the lobby of my apartment building, I stare at the scarred sticker that bears my name: Molly Welton. I’ve lived here for a couple of months now, but can’t for the life of me, remember why I moved here. I hate the city with all of its noises and bustle and crime. In fact, I’m not much of a fan of Cleveland itself. I hate being cold and that word, along with all of its synonyms, is the essence of our weather forecasts.
My home is an old stone-front building on East 105th Street that the city renovated into apartments a few years ago. In her youth, she was probably stunning with her sand-colored stone walls, high arched windows, and the iron lattice-work that adorns the front walk. The developers had hoped, I suppose, that yuppies and all of their money would move in, but when that didn’t happen, they lowered the rent and let in just about anyone who was willing to live here. And though recently painted, the lobby still emits a mixture of must and that antiseptic stench of a hospital. It’s depressing to live here, but I cling to that desperate feeling, hoping that it will make me a better writer.
“S’up,” the Head-nodder says to me as he brushes past.
I manage a slight smile in return, saying nothing. I’ve pieced together his whole life in my mind with all of his drug use and womanizing. I’ve never actually been introduced; never had a single conversation with him, but I’m certain that I know him. In fact, I’ve never talked to any of the people who live in this building, but I have their stories, too. I know their downfalls and worries; their backgrounds and occupations. I know their stories because I’ve written them in my head instead of writing something useful. At times, I wonder what they think of me, and always make it far better than what reality should allow; the tall blond, the girl in 3B with the wonderful life. I actually imagined them saying these nice things. But, as I move toward the front desk, I overhear Head-nodder talking with Grey, the building manager.
“Is Molly having a bad day? She looks a little worse for wear today.”
Immediately my cheeks are hot. Imagine these nobodies talking about me like that! Who the hell do they think they are? I spin on my heels and sprint for the stairs, anxious for the safety and solitude that only my apartment will provide.
Slamming the door to extinguish the sounds of my own heartbeat pounding in my ears, the tears come in gushes; the tears of self-pity that have become a part of my daily existence. I swipe at them angrily and cross the room intending to use this raw emotion to write. I begin to pound furiously at my keyboard, but midway through the first page, a knock interrupts my thoughts. The delete key removes all traces of the writing I have done, and I retrace my steps across the length of bland, worn carpet to answer the door, only to find Grey standing there looking apologetically into my eyes.
Jesus, I think he’s in love with me. He follows me around a lot, and always wants to know the details of my life. Grey is the closest thing I have to a friend these days. He lets me do most of the talking and doesn’t interrupt much, so I allow him into my life, and today, into my apartment.
“Listen, Molly,” Grey starts slowly, “I’m sorry about Dan’s comment downstairs. I hope it didn’t upset you too much.” He waits for my reaction, and I consider letting him wait a good long time. I take a moment to make a mental note: Head-nodder’s name is Dan. Returning my attention to him, I scowl at Grey’s face with his mocha skin and stubbled chin, but his kind dark eyes get the better of me and I forgive him again.
“I’m going to the store on the corner for a pack of smokes. If you intend to follow me again, you better get your jacket. It’s cold as shit out there today.” I move past him without meeting his eyes and grab my black wool coat. These endless February days are putting me in a foul mood.
At the front door, I step onto the sidewalk and notice that Grey had indeed put on his coat to join me for the walk as though that comment had been an actual invitation.
Puffing like a dragon in the cold air he says, “So, what were you like as a kid?”
I shake my head. “What is this? Some kind of game you want to play? It’s too cold to think about anything but freezing to death.” I realize that I’m purposely being difficult. I suppose that I do this to Grey because I know that he’ll let me get away with it.
“So then think about your favorite summertime thing. What’d you do?” Grey persists. He always persists.
To play along, I think back to my childhood summers and immediately my mind is in Sandbridge Beach, Virginia.