Let me describe the look and layout of Monnish Court. At a glance, two sorority houses appear to be facing off across a scratchy, keyhole-shaped lawn. These buildings have two stories in the center and are flanked by single, one-story units on either side. There are tile-floored verandahs fronting the main part of the building, each of which contains four, one-bedroom apartments. Each of these apartments has a small, screened back porch leading into the kitchen. I live on the first floor, right. These buildings are perpendicular to the street. A third building, consisting of a string of one-story apartments, faces the street, which is shady with well-grown oaks. The complex sits well back from the sidewalk and although completely visible and entirely accessible (a decorative red brick wall and wrought-iron fence serves as its entrance), there is a weave of invisibility about it that may be the result of its age or its resemblance to some kind of institution. Certainly, there are never any “For Rent” signs in evidence or the usual litter of college housing.
Throughout the afternoon I was aware of a man and woman in their early thirties trotting back and forth from the parking lot to the ground floor apartment that abutted our main building. I’d been vaguely aware of them pulling up in their rental truck and of friends carting in boxes and lopsided lamps. One man carried a television with the cord dangling dangerously near his feet. He could so easily trip. I called out to warn him, but he survived the two steps up and disappeared within.
I was smoothing the earth when one of them walked toward me extending his hand. Still kneeling, I clasped it and he pulled me up. He had snappy brown eyes and soft hair I wanted to smooth. Unlike the other man, this one did not wear a wedding ring.
“Dig anything up?” he asked. His nose was delicate and his flexible mouth worth memorizing.
“Yes,” I said, pointing to the edge of the veranda where I’d laid the blue bead, the nails and the bracelet.
“Veronica said you needed some help.”
“I’m fine,” I said, wondering how on earth she’d ---
“She called me at Alan’s,” he explained. “She’s my aunt.”
The loan of a man. She’d remembered!
“I’m prepping for tomorrow.” I said, indicating the waiting assortment of herbs and plants.
“I’m Peter,” he said.
“We’re setting up for croquet this evening,” he said. “We’ve decided it’s warm enough for gin and tonic.”
“Yes, it is.”
“Come on out, okay?”
Wow. Thanks Veronica. I owe you one.