The lights are on, but...

Since I moved into my apartment not quite seven years ago, I have had a dizzying number of neighbors. The ones who had children moved to houses and the ones who didn't have children moved because of the ones who did.  A veritable whirlwind of change.

Of all these people, my favorites were Rose and Dave, who lived next door for two years and were my actual friends.  I made them a cake the day they moved in and handed it to Rose through her kitchen window, the old-timey neighborliness of which apparently changed her life. When she introduced me to people thereafter, I was always "Kari who handed us a cake through the window." When we hardly knew each other, I invited them to dinner and managed to pour boiling water on my foot while draining the pasta. When I swore floridly and dashed out of the room, ripping my sock off, they didn't retreat politely and subsequently avoid me in the hall. Instead, they went home to fetch some gauze and then finished assembling the meal while I stood helplessly by with my foot plunged in a wastepaper basket filled with cool water. When I used to be reduced to tears by the stereo-party madness of my previous upstairs neighbors, they administered hugs and alcohol.  Once, in the era when our front gate provided nothing more than a scene-shop illusion of security, there was a night where a drunk man seemed about to come in after me while his friends stood by mute.  When I retreated backward up the stairs with shaking hands and a pounding heart, Dave came to the rescue. They were those neighbors.

When I came home at night, I used to be able to tell if they were in because the narrow line of light would be visible under their door as I came up the stairs.  Checking for it became a habit. I liked knowing they were there. They had a baby and sadly for me, though happily for them, moved to Portland about six months ago. We agreed that we would not like our new neighbors as much as we liked each other.  That seemed the least we could do. Well, I did also get a huge jug of Tanqueray, some chocolate, and some ravioli out of it. My advice: offer help when people are doing last minute packing of their kitchens. In their panicky frame of mind, they unload all sorts of loot.

I have not checked to see if they are holding up their end of the bargain, but I certainly am.  In all fairness, it has been made very easy by the fact that I have no new neighbors.  For six months their apartment has stood empty. I've been grateful they weren't replaced by someone terrible, but I've also been lonely. I miss them. And not only because they never, ever slammed the gate.

Our building was recently sold (which may or may not be ominous) and, though there is still no indication that the apartment will be rented anytime soon, when I walked up the stairs tonight, that little line of light greeted me from under the door. I know this means nothing more than that a workman forgot to turn the lights off when he left, but it's a cruel trick.  In this terrifying moment, watching the vote tallies, and seeing that what began as satire may actually be the dark fate of of our country, I would like nothing more than to knock on my neighbors' door. I'd like to watch the rest of this unfold from the sanctuary of Rose and Dave's capacious sofa. I could do with the company. I'd bring the gin.