Monday, March 2, 2009

A Woman Who Lives in the Same Building as the Loser

Her bicycle sits, locked to the railing outside the building she, the Complete and Total Loser, and four others inhabit. It has one speed, balloon tires, is heavy, low. When she went away for Christmas she left it in the basement, where the Loser stores his own bike at night. The tire went flat, a slow leak. He took it off, carried it upstairs and mended it. Some days after her return he mentioned it to her. She'd known of the leak and was baffled by its healing. She thanked him and left a card and a patch kit outside his door the next day.
bicycle after snowfallShe is small. When they chat on the stairs, a landing, she stands on a step above him and is still shorter than the Loser, but not much. (He, too, is short.) She is narrow, fine-boned, smart. She goes full time to a Seven-Sisters school and waitresses full time. The Loser has seen her boyfriend on the stairs, in the entryway. He says hello to him, the boyfriend grunts in return. Not unfriendly; he just doesn't know what to make of this older man, a loser, who lives in the same building as his girlfriend.
Most of the buildings in the neighborhood are for single families. Neighbors have asked the Loser if he would, perhaps, say something to the woman about her bike, which they'd rather not need to step around while walking past the building. He won't. She works so hard, she's so small, the bike's so heavy. She'll move before long. Up and out in a few years, if not sooner. He's going to print the photo of the bike and give it to her. She doesn't know this but one day, decades from now, she'll find it in a box or folder and remember the blue bicycle she had when she lived in that city where she went to that school and worked in that restaurant and had that boyfriend. She won't remember how she got the photograph and assume she'd taken it herself.

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