37 ironed envelopes, sealed with a spray of lavender, the names luscious and curvy, the satin hue of Bombay; to Mrs Xinhua, Norris and his frisky labrador, the girl who works in the library, the Mexican potter who no one sees on the top floor, the young lad who plays a maniacal trumpet way after 10 o'clock; all sailing up and down the bannisters in eternal giddiness, limbless dances in the space that buffers them from the world; only four couples, the rest without commitment, assuming no one's managed 100 percent discretion, fooling the spies behind silent cracks in old doorways.
pleasantly cut exotic flowers, punch and spirits to suit all religions, in front of photos of well-meaning but distant relatives; samosas and Turkish delight made to look more plentiful, fanned out across the crystal platters; drinks at number 17, she'd written, from 5:30 until late; a chance to humanise the building, get to know who might be around when someone else's world stops turning, forge a bond for when the heat wave comes, when the lights fail, if bombs ever start falling, God forbid, or if a heart suddenly decides it's had enough of its reliable, regular rhythm.
no replies in person, nor is a note left in her box, although there are more hellos and goodbyes on the stairs, an indication that something heavy may've shifted; already squeezed into her Christmas dress, bought in better times in Paris, waiting on the piano stool, divorced from its lover; sitting by the front door, practising the tone and assembly of her greetings, remembering to include a few words from other tongues for global reach, the names and peculiars of the least obvious, some delightful titbits from her single and married years to tease out plenty of smiles.
the slayer of time creeps around the clockface though, leaving 5:30 back in the distance, making the food look wasted and sad, her dress exagerated and loud, betrayed by the lavender, the cleverness of her pen; not even a scratch on the door, nor a guilty hesitation on the landing, just urgent descents, feet content to be escaping elsewhere, selfish lives not wanting to be bothered by the eccentric notions of her at number 17; another gin flushes memories through her veins, bitter about those around her, for deciding to be in the race but not really a part of it.
and then, just below, the splutters of a trumpet, the growl of the excited dog, the cluttered harmony of voices, meeting, exploring; two flights navigated in a hurry, stopping in front of the merry din, realising with a squeal that 17 must've been mistaken for 11; the owner probably just went with the flow, taken by the unexpected good intentions of his neighbours; her knocking is confident, throat cleared, eyes wiped, heart strenghtened, the pleasure of knowing she has an amusing tale to share with her community, who just may, this new night, become something very important.
© Copyright, 2006. Shameless Words.