The Apartment Building
At the bottom of the stairs, just inside the front door, the ghost of an old woman sits with her grocery bags, weeping. She can’t find the energy to climb the stairs.
In apartment 103, on the west side of the building, a woman is making a bad date on Tinder. She will meet him at the bar down the block.
In apartment 215, on the east side of the building, a loving couple is taking turns choking each other during sex. After five years of dating, it’s what they want.
In apartment 301 (west side), a lonely man is cooking an elaborate dinner. The smells of sautéing vegetables, baking meringues, congealing gels, and rich gravies waft out of the crack under the door. It is only for him.
Apartments 003 and 005 are empty. No one wants to live on the floor with the ghost.
The ghost cries, just quiet tears, but they are louder than the couple who are choking, moaning, orgasming, lying next to each other with smiles.
The Tinder date never shows at the bar. 103 goes back to her apartment alone, cries with the ghost.
301 eats. He eats. He eats. His stomach stretches and he lies down, staring at the ceiling, waiting to feel empty again.
A new woman walks into the building. She hears so much noise, the brand-new guitar player in 212 that I haven’t even mentioned yet, playing scale after scale, the opera singer in 322, the couple who love movies in 101, and watch them so loud everyone can hear. The noises compete for space in the barren halls. The new woman sees an old woman at the bottom of the stairs.
“I used to have the strength to walk up the stairs,” the old woman says. Her plastic bags lay around her like dead birds, fluttering in a breeze that does not exist.
“Let me carry your bags,” says the new woman. She does not mind.
Alex DiFrancesco is a writer of fiction, creative nonfiction, and journalism. Their work has appeared in Brevity, The New Ohio Review, The Washington Post, Ploughshares onlines, and Tin House’s Open Bar. Their debut essay collection Psychopomps (Civil Coping Mechanisms Press) was published in February, and their novel All City (Seven Stories Press) is forthcoming in June.
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