There is a husband across the hall who looks at me. Two doors down, to the
left, opposite side, near the emergency exit, with a wife I never see, yet I
know she exists because there have been periodic sightings over the years,
like the sightings of a rare, delicate, beautifully named bird.

I'm pretty sure he looks at me. After all, I am younger than the wife.
Thinner, prettier. I'm not much, but she is less. When I look back he looks
away. He walks away. The husband walks away.

I wonder if he dreams of me. Of me being there instead of the wife, what my
body would be like, feel like, instead of hers.  Husbands dream, don't they?
I wouldn't know.

He looks at me when I'm getting the mail. He looks at me when we are in the
elevator. He looks at me through the peephole of his door as I walk by to
dump the trash in the garbage chute. Months of this. Years.

Once I saw him drop a sack of groceries, the food and packages spilling out
like bad thoughts.

Three building managers come and go. Each time the couple above me moves out
another couple moves in. They are always louder than the previous couple,
who was louder than the couple before them.

The husband stays. The husband looks at me.

"How is your wife?" I will ask one day when he looks. And this will surprise
him. All the silence erased in an instant.

"Who?" he will say.

"Your wife," I'll repeat.

He will look at his ringless ring finger and smile. Then something will

Andrew Roe's fiction has appeared in Tin House, One Story, Glimmer Train, Juked, Failbetter, Night Train, The Cincinnati Review and other publications. A two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, he lives in Oceanside, California. More can be found at:

I've always found it fascinating - living in a large city, in a large apartment building, being so physically close to so many people, and yet not knowing them. Seeing the same faces, day in, day out. Feeling lonely in that distinctly urban way while surrounded by masses of people, souls close yet far away. The imagination begins...



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