I'm not quite sure when she first moved in. If I were the superstitious type, I'd almost say she, and all of her belongings, slipped into being one night when the moonbeams cut through the patio window just right. Nevertheless, there she was standing outside on her small four-foot by four-foot concrete patio that all ground level apartments have, staring up at the sky. She was wearing a straw bonnet which let a tuft of her gray hair show, reaching as if growing towards the sunlight. Her skin was like paper, too little stretched over too much. I could tell that she was beautiful once, if not still.
I had just grabbed some dinner, a hot deli sandwhich with a side of coleslaw and a pickle spear. It was a rare retreat from the frozen pizzas and cafeteria food of college life. Walking down the crooked cement stairs from the parking lot, I saw her; head tilted ever so slightly upward, arms dangling at her sides. As I approached, I saw her head come down to eye level and turn to look at me. There were a few moments, not even milliseconds, but just enough to notice, where I could tell she was still somewhere up in the sky.
"Oh hi," she said.
"Hey," I said with a smile and not breaking stride.
"It's a nice day out. Beautiful weather."
Walking slower, I nodded in agreement and said, "Yeah."
"My name is Rosa." She extended her hand with a smile.
I stopped. Visions of my cooling dinner growing soggy with steam passed through my head. "Nice to meet you, Rosa" I extended my hand in return and we shook.
"I'm from Georgia you know. My daughter just moved me here since my husband died last year."
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that," I said sincerely. She said nothing and simply let the silence hang between us as she looked towards the ground. "So how old is your daughter?" I asked. Anything to break the silence.
"Twenty nine. Her birthday's in June." I nodded. "She lives here you know. Not with me, but on the other side of the complex. She says she has noisy neighbors, but I haven't had any problems, have you?"
It was almost as if the bag of food that hung from my right hand was attempting to pull me towards down the sidewalk towards my unit. I hadn't had a thing to eat all day and my stomach growled loudly. "No, I haven't. I think we live in a pretty quiet area." I smiled and slowly turned, indicating my want to leave.
"Yeah I guess. I don't hear much from the neighbors."
"Yeah me either." As polite as I was trying to be, my stomach wouldn't allow much more and as diplomatically as possible I told her that my dinner was getting cold and that I had to go.
"Oh ok, well stop by any time! I live right here," she said half tripping as she pointed backwards and motioned towards her patio.
"Ok," I said, knowing full well I would never chime the doorbell of that apartment.
This was only the first of many meetings. She would stop me on my way to school. Invariably I would be running late, and she'd try and strike up some epic conversation about the weather. It got to the point where I would actually walk around my apartment complex to avoid conversation with her. It wasn't that I didn't like talking to her, it was the fact that every meeting had to turn into a fifteen minute one sided lecture on things as trivial as "what that noise was last night". I always felt bad about it, but never bad enough to talk to her.
Eventually she quit trying to approach me. She even started ducking inside her house when she saw me coming. I'd see her peering between the aluminum blinds on her patio window, bent from too much contortion. I see her every now and then, walking around the fountain in our complex, chattering at the ducks, and I see the loneliness in her persona. I always tell myself I'll spare an hour or two and bring her some tea, but it never happens. I'm a busy college student and can't be trifled with the troubles of a lonely old woman, or so I tell myself.
I can only hope that when I grow old, I never live next to an asshole like myself.