After Glow

Everyday he walks past twice.  Earphones in, hands pushed down deep in pockets.  Walking in in the morning and out in the afternoon the same direction as the traffic.  Smart shoes, polished shoes, that probably make a sharp sound when they clip the pavement with each step.  Every morning as he walks past I watch, waiting for him to look up to the second story, second from the right window.  He smiles, nods his head, occasionally removes a hand from his pocket for a quick wave.  Then carries on walking.  In the afternoon it’s the same.  I watch, he scans.  I watch, he smiles, nods, sometimes waves and continues.

For the rest of the day there is nothing else much to do.  The cars and buses that have taken over the street outside puff out a steady stream of grey smoke, between engine rumbles and chokes.  It’s dirty to watch.  Bored people staring blankly out of grubby windows as they rush by.  Sometimes a car full of younger people goes past, windows down, music blaring and the occupants of the car singing at the top of their voices.  I smile when I hear their off key melodies waft out through the windows and in through mine.  It reminds me of a time when he used to come up the stairs to the second story and down the hall to the second door from the right.  He was younger then, with a mop of floppy hair, grass stained shorts and bare feet.  He would sing as he climbed the stairs.  Some rhyme made up in the playground that involved snot and boogers and worms.  It was sung to the beat of his bare feet thumping up each hardwood stair.  They weren’t carpeted back then, so the noise echoed up the stairwell to the second and third floors.  Henry from the third floor, second from the left would usually open his door and stick his head over the rail.  Good day for snot and worms young man, Henry would laugh.  Good day for snot, boogers and worms, he corrected, beaming a cheesy grin up the middle of the stairwell, before tearing down the hallway and bursting through my door.  A quick smile and wave are all he had time for on his way into the kitchen.  Still running and singing as he went to raid the biscuit jar.  It’s still there now.  Hiding up on the top shelf of the pantry.  Although never high enough that it can’t be reached without the aid of a chair pushed up to the open cupboard, or a few lower shelves climbed.  Biscuit jars were made for raiding and it was always full.  The kitchen always smelled of warm, fresh bread, biscuits and cakes.  Or strong flavoured stews.  It was his favourite place to sit, right by the window, breathing in the sugary smell of the newest batch of biscuits and idly chatting about the world outside the window.

Standing in the kitchen now, it smells of damp air and emptiness.  Covered in a layer of dust and grime from too many years of neglect.  The oven sits lopsidedly as one foot has rusted off and the pantry door hangs open loosely from it’s hinges.  I go to the window beside the laminate table and stare out again.  The sun is glowing burnt copper on the leaves of the Royal Poinciana trees across the street.  The orange flowers flaming in the afternoon light, it means he will walk past soon.

I sit and watch the buses and cars slowly trudge by, smoke billowing out into the golden afternoon.  The lights change red, traffic stops and a collection of people in suits, running shoes or with school bags cross the street.  They hurry off in either direction, rushing to get home.  As the group disperses, he appears, hands deep in pockets, earphones in and polished shoes taking long, slow strides.  He looks up to the second story, nodding to the second window from the right.  He removes a hand from the depths of his pocket and waves, smiling and then continues walking.

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