Since I started living in this flat, all Thursday to Sunday mornings from has been the same nag: I’m awakened by the acrid smell of cigarettes coming up from the neighbours’ apartment below, disrupting my thoughts and my life.
The other thing I also noticed, since the first days, was another of the inhabitants of the building. She, who lived two stories below, who appeared to me as beautiful as any woman I’ve ever met. Or at least I saw her like that when I met her, the day I moved here. Of course, she’s not perfect, but neither do I nor I would like her to be. I still think we would look really good together, walking down the street, alone or with the dog that none of us had yet, but would surely buy if we were a couple.
We even have some important things in common. Important to me, anyways. Both of us are, to a minimum common ground, interested in literature, even if she prefers to read London-based magazines and I’m more of a New Yorker guy. And perhaps most important, both of us were single when we met.
She once arrived as I was talking with the building’s doorman. Each of us had a brand new set of the week’s magazines waiting for us and the conversation started easy and flowed naturally. I realized that not only did she have exceptional good looks, but also a good taste for her reading, paired with a sound opinion, which, even if not identical to mine, was intelligent and full of respect. It would have been completely natural to invite her to my apartment, maybe drink some coffee or have dinner together and continue talking, but just thinking we had to walk up the stairs, with its awful cigarette smell, killed the idea which was starting to forge in my brain.
Later, when she got herself a boyfriend, our opportunities of seeing each other and start a relationship I dreamed of, diminished with each day that passed. The day she broke with him, I was arriving to our building, with great timing apparently for the first time in my life. She got out of his car, yelling at him. She blushed after seeing me there. When the car dashed quickly through the street, I approached her. It was a beautiful moment, so peaceful, even in the circumstances it happened. There were no words; I just held her in my arms until she wept. Then I guided her through the stairs until the second floor, where she lives. I expected to leave her there, but she pulled me in. I kept my arms around her, as she cuddled in my chest.
When I woke up the next day, still in the sofa of her living room, she was not there with me anymore. I could hear her singing and muttering to herself, with a sad happiness. We had breakfast together, and we talked a lot, about our readings, about the school days and about what we could be doing the following weekend.
It would have been perfectly natural to talk to her the following days, but I didn’t, and then a week passed, then a month, and there was no other magical moment where I found her weeping in the street, so we stopped seeing each other.
Of course, she still lived two floors below of mine, and every day I reminded myself that I should go look for her, invite her for lunch and talk, arrive to her house with a rose bouquet and tell her that I needed her, or that I longed for her, or that it would be nice to have more time together. Mainly that I was sorry for not calling her and not looking for her. Every day something else happened that made that impossible, and I could never do any of those plans.
Until now, that will, for the first time since I live here, actually impossible. She is moving overseas today. Yesterday, we met in the stairs and she smiled at me, her unique sad smile. Without words, she told me she had always liked me, and she would still like to try something. I know I should now jump up and run to her flat. I know I shall not be able to convince her not to move, but I would love to keep in touch with her, and, who knows, perhaps I can make the trip overseas in a year or two? I always have wanted to live there anyway. But now I know I won’t do anything, and all that just because the neighbours smoke a lot.
Words: Manuel Sandoval.