Thursday, February 28, 2008

I Want to Live Here 14

Still, he exuded death to me. Henry Lowe smelled of it and he looked it with his mottled white skin and trembling fingers. Then he did what no one else had done. He looked at me with concern, so much that I remembered why I deserved such a look. And he asked me how I was. “It’s a terrible thing you had to find that lady,” he said. “A terrible thing.”
I tried to shrug off his concern. Not because I didn’t appreciate it or feel it. But because I didn’t know what to do with his concern. To do so would mean feeling and feelings frighten me. They are like bullies or aggressive people who always get their own way.
Mr. Eberhard’s gift basket was better than Mr. Lowe’s words because I could tear into it and eat it and the sweet chocolate and the savory olives would take me away from the image of Abigail and her slightly dirty fingers gripping the telephone. I hadn’t told anyone, not one person what the woman at our answering service had told me when I finally checked in: Abigail had been calling the Arborgate office yesterday afternoon. She had been calling me. She had, said the service operator, called me five times. But I had been out on the complex for hours and when Mr. Eberhard and George Truesdale passed through on their business and Patty whatshername, who didn’t even fill out an application much less leave a deposit, had finally left, I locked up quick and went home, never checking the service until this morning.
So Richard Lowe’s condolences just made me uncomfortable. So what if I had found her. Someone had to. My secret was that I could have saved her but did not. I brushed off his words, but bits of them clung to me, like cobwebs. No, I said, I could not join him and Mrs. Mason for dinner later. I was busy. I had things to do.
Of course, I had very little that couldn’t wait. But I’d been looking forward to my lonely Christmas Eve. I was, despite my guilt, which could have been soothed by the elderly tenants, savoring the idea of myself as an eccentric and I was going to persist in it.

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