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Thursday, November 28, 2013

An Adjacent Room

 photo montage by aleXander hirka - click on image to enlarge

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An Adjacent Room ~ by T. Remington

      When Trixie rented 340-19 North End, she was just happy to get away from two pill head roommates and an unhousebroken French bulldog named Bijou. On the sunny, late autumn day that she looked it over, she convinced herself that this one room would work. Anything would.
      By February, with gray and wet and cold in every direction, she’s having her doubts. She can’t quite put her finger on it but there’s something a little off about this building. It’s hard to work here. Daydreaming, though, is easy.
      She pulls up another file, syncs it and gets back to it. Everyone thinks that working from home is such a picnic. Long after quitting time for “everyone”, Trixie is still grinding away. Her clients don’t care how long the work takes and her landlord doesn’t care that she’s developing repetitive motion injuries from hour after hour of mousing through documents. Her mother doesn’t care that Sunday is her only day to sleep late and read trash.
      Late one night in March, Trixie suddenly realizes that someone in the next apartment is scratching, tapping at the adjoining wall. She’s adjusting to life here and actually didn’t go to her mother’s twice this month. The client extended the project and has even paid her a bonus and a compliment. Idly, Trixie finds herself tapping back. No response and she goes back to work.
      Half an hour later there’s a single tap and silence. Trixie is about done for the night and waits, coiled and ready. Nothing. Sirens outside. She saves her work, closes the program and TAP. In unsuspected fury, she slams the side of her closed fist into the wall. She goes to bed with a small, mean sense of satisfaction.
      A month later spring has shoved the stubborn, dirty winter aside, Trixie is coming down the hallway, carrying groceries. A sudden spike of curiosity has her pause at the neighboring door. 340-17. Closed and common. She knocks. She has no idea what she’s going to say if anyone answers. Which they don’t. So she knocks harder.
      “What do you want with the cripple?” a door opens on the other side of the hallway and a voice without a visible owner barks at Trixie’s back.
      Trixie does not turn. She’s listening. Has she imagined that tapping? The helpful neighbor grunts and closes her door. How long is she going to stand here? A dark, stray impulse has her try the door and it’s not locked. She pushes the door open and walks in.
      Here’s where anything could happen; a pivot moment when what we agree is reality plays one of its little tricks. Wherever we live, we are surrounded by walls. And on either side of many of these walls there is a room. Two rooms, side by side. Here, in this particular building, there are two women, one in each room. One works. One listens. Now one is going off script and the other wonders what took her so long.
      The room is lighter than Trixie expected and the woman in the wheelchair over by their shared wall is smiling. There is a canary in a fancy little cage by the window. Books are everywhere. A worn oriental rug has oddly bright bits of crimson that leap out from the beiged out patterns. The room smells good and music, Chopin?, lilts quietly in the background.
      “You work a lot.” The woman wheels herself away from their wall, closing a book and setting it on a stack of others.
      Trixie walks into the room, leaving the door open and goes over to that wall. She scans it up and down, then puts her fingers on what she thinks is the spot and taps. The wall feels warm and seems to give a little. The warm spreads into Trixie’s fingers and goes up into her wrist. She frowns and taps harder. The warm goes hot and there’s a sense of approval coming from the woman in the wheelchair.
      She turns away from the wall and the two women face each other through the clear expanse of a different kind of wall. Suspicion faces serenity and suspicion walks away thinking it’s won.
      Back in her room, Trixie puts the groceries away and gets to work. She’s not thinking because there’s nothing to think about. Her wrist doesn’t hurt, but that’s nothing to think about either. The tapping never comes again. Once in awhile Trixie will put the flat of her hand on their wall, a wall that is never warm and never gives a little. Somewhere among the dead megabytes of data that she coordinates, living words sneak in. Late at night, she finds herself writing stories and occasionally touching the wall. For some reason she begins submitting her stories and is surprised when some get published.
      There is a wall. On each side of the wall there is a room. Each room has been occupied many times over by many people. A wall can be a barrier or a conduit. Once in awhile it’s possible for a gift to be offered through that conduit. Some ignore the gift, some squander it and some few submerge themselves deeply, bringing back to the surface gifts of their own to share. From either side of some very select walls a richer world rises on a new morning to bless the givers.