Evie hates it when I call her to complain about my loneliness. If you don’t want to be a homebody anymore, stop being a homebody, she always tells me. Easy for the extrovert to say…
I call her anyway.
“Today I stayed in bed until well past noon.”
“Wow, that’s a new record for you.”
If one could hear an eye roll…
“Is it possible to live on the top floor and still have to deal with leadfoot neighbors?”
“Sweetie, it’s probably just somebody walking up the stairs. Your apartment is right next to the staircase.”
“Yeah, that’s the problem. The sound travels. And it feels like they’re stomping on my brain.”
Like a caravan of people walking up and down the stairs in steel toe boots. My head could explode, splatter these walls, and I swear you’d find the tread marks on the scattered pieces of my brain.
“Isn’t that an Emily Dickinson poem?”
“That’s ‘I felt a funeral in my brain.'”
“Same difference. You should be careful, you know. You’re starting to become like her.”
“Is it so bad to relish in the comfort of your own home?”
“But you don’t relish.”
She’s right. I despise it. But it’s not the fact that I spend most of my days at home or that my interactions with other human beings usually involve a screen or me avoiding eye contact with the neighbor kids and dog moms during my weekly treks across the parking lot to the mailbox.
I work remotely, so I really have no reason to ever leave the house. I like not having to pay for gas every week. Granted I make up for that by ordering in most days, and if I don’t watch my weight, my wardrobe of sweatpants and t-shirts will soon dwindle.
But what I truly dislike about my life is the stigma. Everyone just assumes that I’m not happy, and therefore it makes me unhappy. Even my own sister thinks I’d be better off if I had a man in my life. But Mr. Right’s not just gonna break into your house, she’d say. Maybe he will. What does she know? It’s not like she was any luckier going out and finding one herself, with her three roughhousing boys and absentee husband who only seems to come around to get her pregnant. The only reason I don’t ask her to come over now is that she’s supposed to be on bedrest. God only knows what those destructive little monsters are doing to her house right now.
I will never have children. So unless this man who’s supposed to make me happier comes with condoms or a vasectomy, I’ll pass.
“You should probably take something for that headache.”
“I’m all out. I would cook something, but my fridge is as empty as my stomach, and I don’t really look presentable enough to go anywhere.”
“Of course you don’t.” Evie sighs. I hate it when she sighs. It’s as if she’s exhaling all those years of disappointment in her own life choices onto me. I don’t need them. Hold your breath, Evie. You’re my sister, not my mom. I don’t want your judgment.
“I don’t know what to tell you, hon.”
“Nevermind. Sorry I called.” I hang up before she can turn the conversation into a lecture about how a lot of people have problems. You have the power to fix yours. As if to diminish or discredit the things I think and feel. I know a lot of people have problems. I’m one of those people, and my main problem is with other people.
But I wouldn’t expect the problem to understand.
The neighbor starts up again. The rumbling and the marching reverberating against the walls and penetrating my skull. I can’t take it anymore. Without thinking, and with bedhead, no bra, and a t-shirt barely covering my pantieless ass, I swing the front door open.
“Do you mind!”
Of course it’s a man.
He’s wide-eyed at first. Then his lips curl into a grin that’s either mocking me or amused.
“Sorry about all the noise. I’m your new neighbor.” He points to the open door behind him across the breezeway from my apartment. There’s a stack of boxes just past the threshold, and behind them, a couch and a rolled up rug propped against it are all I can see as far as furniture. He holds what looks like a broken down lap under one armpit and an ironing board under the other.
“Thirty more minutes. I promise.”
“Just keep it down.”
He stares, and in the awkward air between us, I realize how much of a wild woman I must look to him right now. When he sniffs (probably because of allergies—from where I stand, I can see the yellow film on the tops steps of the staircase—it is still spring; the pollen still high), I instinctively pull down my t-shirt (I haven’t showered today either. Sue me), which makes my bra-less breasts more pronounced, and I’m sure he’s mistaking my nipple rings for arousal.
But he is kind of cute.
“I can make it up to you.” He washes me over with his eyes, as if I’m on display and he’s picking fruit. “Let me take you out to dinner. Or I can invite you over if you don’t mind the mess. And maybe you’ll let me put a smile on that—”
I slam the door in his face and twist the deadbolt.
I feel the urge to go masturbate.