Not home alone this time

 

I walk home this way everyday, although mother warns me white women shouldnít in neighborhoods like this.

I tell her I never have trouble.

Usually, I have things to look forward to when I get him, such as the roast I took out this morning to defrost.

I keep my eyes focused as I walk the four blocks down, two blocks over and five blocks down again to the tenement in which I live

My mother doesnít approve of the buildings either.

But I love the rustic landscape, dusty brick front and rusting fire escapes.

I even like the walk when it rains like it is doing today.

I just pull up my hood and huddle close to the umbrellaís center post and pray the wind doesnít turn the umbrella inside out.

The puddles bother me, of course. So do the arrogant drivers who race too close to the curb and splash everyone on the sidewalk. Iím more fearful of accidentals than I am of muggers, and keep thinking of Brenda Jackson who got run down by a truck two week ago.

Mother hates the way the buildings here are crowded together. She calls them donuts crushed into a box too small for them.

She wonders how anyone can survive living nose to nose with neighbors, needing to pull down shades to keep everybody from seeing everything that goes on in each otherís apartments Ė especially mine.

I tell her there is nothing going to see.

This only causes her to complain about my not being married and she not having any grandkids.

Can I help that fact that her son Ė my brother Ė decided to become a priest?

Yet, I do get lonely and wish sometimes I could share my small world with someone and that someone would meet me when I come home from work each day.

By this I mean more than the cockroaches that sneak up from the sloppy neighborís apartment downstairs.

My thoughts today remain on the roast as he study the sidewalk to avoid the worst puddles, in which fleets of fast food wrappers had set sail.

Sure, I envy the other girls at my mending table at work, when they gossip about their men.

More than once I imaged myself in their place, locked in a romantic embrace with those men talk make seem most attractive.

When my building appears, it looks like a sore thumb, sagging even more than those around it.

Mr. Connors promises me he will make repairs in summer when the weather permits, and each summer, he does. But only just enough repairs to keep the city inspectors from condemning the building.

I climb the stairs slowly, each step creaking despite my light weight.

Then, I put the key into the lock, and find the door isnít locked. No, the lock is broken.

A hand reaches out from inside and yanks me into my own apartment.

A manís hand followed by a manís face which presses closed to mine.

He tells me to be quiet if I donít want to get hurt.

I ask him what he wants.

He says shelter from the rain, though I see him glance at my window at the short space between my fire escape and the roof of the neighborhood bank.

He assures me he wonít need my place long, and tells me to make him some food while we wait.

I hate the idea of sharing my roast with him.

Still I shove the thawed meat into a pan, and then the pan into the oven.

He jumps at the ring of the phone and tells me not to answer it, then tells me to answer it, and to act natural.

My mother is on the other end asking if I am all right.

I tell him I am not along and that I canít talk.

I tell her I am with a man, then hang up.

I know my mother.

I know she will call the police.

I just hope she does before this man kills me.

 


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