It takes about ten minutes to walk to the ocean. Some mornings it takes an equal length of time to reach the kitchen . . . each step precarious until the rhythmic motion of leg muscles coax bones back into place. I hold off until afternoon to take walks.
Today, steering briskly passed shops and businesses, I headed straight to the beach. The steel-colored water slapped whitecaps roughly against the shore. One ship traversed the horizon. A handful of beachcombers scavenged along the water’s edge. The wind bit at any visitors brave enough to sit under the pavilion.
Although the beach itself continues for miles, I knew I could linger only as long as the cold and the pain were endurable. Once the hood on my parka was pulled up snugly and my hands were pushed deeply down into coat pockets, I was warm, and blessedly, the soft sand felt like cushions after the unyielding sidewalks.
K. came by yesterday afternoon.
I opened the door to the hallway and she was standing there all smiles and hugs and weren’t-we-the-best-of-friends.
K. moved in several weeks after I did. At the time she was more or less 40 and I never asked her about her last name. When she talked it was loud and abrasive. When she watched TV the sound bounced off the walls over and over until everyone knew the plot line to her favorite shows.
K.’s chief contribution, however, was marijuana smoked far too often and too liberally. The basement people, the junkie roommates, and the normal roommate all hung out with her so that they could share her supply. Others in the building claimed she served prison time for bank robbery and that she actively worked as a prostitute. I don’t know if either accusation was true, but do know that she thought it ordinary to let in a stranger who was banging on the downstairs front door at 2 in the morning – I managed to jump out of bed and stop her just before she reached the top of the stairs. K. doted on the landlord’s affectionate but unruly pit-bull but refused to let my cat into her room so that he could sleep under her bed. She referred to him as “Fat Cat” until I objected. One Sunday I cooked dinner for everyone and asked them to pray before the meal — she was the only one who acquiesced. After a couple of months K. moved to a different city to live with her sister.
I don’t know who let her into the apartment building. Maybe the door was left open.