I felt beads of sweat begin to form on my brow as I pressed myself against the wall of the narrow stairway in my Queens, New York apartment. Somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd landing of my 4 floor walk (climb) up, there was a standoff:
Me, hands filled with an overflowing book bag-turned-suitcase within the last 45 minutes of frantic packing, a second bag on my shoulders determined to shorten my spine by at least two inches, a wristlet dangling from one of my red and white clenched fingers, keys hanging from my beltloop, somewhere an addressed envelope balanced in the heap I carried, and a bagel that was recently delivered to my front door temped my tongue as it clung to my lips and lay in my tightly clenched jaw.
Her, one of the many neighbors in this building that always greets me with the blank stare of unfamiliarity, despite my off-and-on two and a half years in this building, orange-“tanned” skin, bleach “blonde” hair, covered in large, brightly colored “jewelry” and carrying… someone’s… baby in a car seat. The parents hardly make the climb to the door anymore, so she’ll meet them on the sidewalk. One of the many perks of her “business”. 3 had already arrived this morning, and it wasn’t quite 8am. I had the pleasure of waking to the sweet melody of screaming infants in the hallway. The high, soprano shrilly out of their tiny shaking bodies echoing and rising until they erupted from the rooftops of this 4 floor walk up.
I nearly slammed into her and innocent life as I rounded the corner of the banister, throwing my weight back and balancing myself out with the weight of the bags to keep myself from toppling over.
She was completely unaware of the fact that I had just saved her life and that of the future generation. She slowly met my panic-stricken eyes with a smile, her razor sharp voice pierced the echoing cave of a stairway,
“Guh moarn’n” she coughed in a thick Long-Geye-Lind dialect. I watched a large, wet, black mass exit the gap where her right canine used to be and land unforgivingly on my cheek. I felt it splatter upon impact. I didn’t dare wipe it away or bring attention to her bio-attack, from both a southern sensibility of wanting to be polite and comfortable, and being completely incapacitated by unnecessarily full bags. Still, I gave a very welcoming nod and “Hi, how are you?”; a question we both knew was redundant and disingenuous. That, and, with the bagel still clenched in my jaw, it came out more, “Mrph, ‘Ow rawer ooo?”
After our pleasantries, we stood, staring. A stalemate. Neither one of us could move forward, without the other party moving back, dangerously, and risking dropping our respective precious cargos.
And that is when, dear (patient) reader, I found myself pushed between a concrete wall, and the aggressive bosoom of my AARP card-holding neighbor. I felt my neck resist as my face was pressed harder and harder against the wall with each 1/2 inch shuffle her delapidated flip flops progressed.Decades old paint chips flaked onto my sweater, as I choked back the aroma of lady speed stick and menthol cigarettes. I defiantly angled my head straight up, as if singing with Charlie Brown and his friends, to save my breakfast. We were both in complete denial that this was going to be a success.
…to be continued…