During the midwinter of 2015, I lived in my apartment with barely any furniture. It wasn’t a shabby way to live, but a pleasant change compared to the crowded dwelling I lived in before, located in a minute township.
I lived between two other units. Our building ran parallel to an identical one with a small yard in between and two notable trees on each end. One was some type of flowering tree with lovely burgundy leaves year round. The other one was a very tall Pine variety that littered the ground with cones now and then. Our landlord ran over the cones with his riding lawn mower, shooting some into the flowerbeds that flanked each door.
A retired lawyer lived next to me. He didn’t leave much, except to get his meals. Some mornings, he visited his uptown office space. He enjoyed it, even though he was retired. There weren’t many visitors at his residence, except for a young woman. She assisted him in his medical requirements. When she parked in my other neighbor’s spot, he left a nasty note on her vehicle’s windshield stating that she should never park there again, or suffer the consequences.
There were no drug dealers or fortunetellers in our proximity; however, I didn’t know many of my neighbors personally. I kept to myself, spending most of my free time, reading and writing. Occasionally, painting on a blank canvas. During warm seasons, I repotted plants on my back deck.
I never had a conversation with the man on my left side of the building because I couldn’t stand to make eye contact with him. However, I did talk to the retired lawyer as he passed me as I knelt, cleaning out my flowerbeds. His pipe always apparent as he walked to his rusted Buick that had streaks of gray primer coming through the faded paint job. He told me that he kept the car because he couldn’t get another car with a large ashtray. This ashtray was perfect for his pipe.
This senior next door on the right would wake me every morning early by coughing so forcefully, I thought he was losing a lung. This was the only sound that I heard over there besides the opening and closing of kitchen cabinets. Oh, and occasionally he had his television rather shrill.
As our summer got under way, I noted that I hadn’t seen the time worn man next door for quite a while. His coughing wasn’t waking me up anymore either. His rusted Buick stayed in its spot. It was never missing as I exited our apartment complex. When I returned, it was still parked in 221—backed in as usual.
One afternoon, I saw our Amish property owner unloading his mower from his trailer. I asked about the elderly man in the right unit. Number 221.
“He had a brain aneurysm at his office. It’ll be some time before he returns because he will have to learn to walk again.”