Ethan Bennet moved into his apartment complex in Broadley, PA about a year ago, and for most people that would have been enough time to get to know a good number of people living in the same complex as yourself, but Ethan barely knew anyone, not even the girl who lived right next door from him.
Socializing wasn’t exactly one of his strengths; sure he’d attended plenty of parties and gatherings, and talking became easy enough once he got into the flow of thing, but at the end of the day, he valued his alone time more than anything, and his family and friends (at least the few that he had) knew this for a fact. He was shy around the opposite sex, and tried his best to never show it openly, opting to stay silent unless someone spoke to him first.
Ethan kept to himself most days. He went to his nine-to-five job (or he used to when he still had a job before the stay-inside order was given because of the pandemic), went to the gym about three times a week after his shift was over, and then went home to shower and relax. That had been his daily routine for going on two years now, not counting socializing, trips to the market and going out drinking with the guys.
Then the Coronavirus happened, and just like that, the routine he’d built much of his time around was shattered to bits; the first week stuck inside had been pretty chill. He found plenty of things to do around the house that he’d never thought to finish. However, by the time week three came around, the itch he felt for enjoying the outside world became very noticable. He actually wanted to go out drinking with his friends for once, instead of being forced to only talk over the phone or on Discord. Even his trips to the supermarket hardly scratched the itch. He missed the gym. God, he even missed going to work, as drab as his job was.
And so, here Ethan found himself, bored out of his mind, trying to drink away his boredom. He was leaning against his balcony reeling, taking in the Spring breeze and watching the empty streets of his neighborhood from his fifth floor perch. Only six cars had driven by in the past hour, two of those being police vehicles.
He sighed as he sipped at his drink, a simple mix of Jamaican rum and ginger ale (being more ginger ale than rum). The apartment next to his was playing old fifties doo wop songs; it wasn’t bad in his oppinion. Not exactly his cup of tea genre wise, but he could appreciate a good song when he heard one.
Ethan was feeling slightly buzzed, and began contemplating if he should add a little bit more rum to his drink when the sound of the balcony door the next apartment over caught his attention.
He glanced over as a dark skinned woman around his age stepped out onto the balcony; her black hair was done in long braids, and she was dressed in black leggings and a pink sports bra, wiping her face off with a towel as she leaned against the reeling. Ethan had seen her more than a few times, but the two had never talked much beyond a simple greeting and exchanging names, and at the moment her name was lost to him.
What was her name? I can’t just talk to her without remembering her name. Ethan thought. He took a quick sip of his drink. He racked his brain for a few moments, before frowning. Screw it, it’ll come up as we talk. “Hello, neighbor.” He said, and instantly began regretting it when she looked over at him with a look that said. Hello neighbor? Seriously?
“Wow. I had no idea I lived next to Mr. Rogers.”
Ethan chucked to cover up a cringe. “Just don’t ask me to sing the song for you, my voice isn’t exactly good.”
“Pretty sure you’re preaching to the choir here,” she said, smiling. “Seriously though, how’ve you been. I haven’t seen you in, what, a week? Thought you might have caught Kung-Flu or something.”
Ethan sputtered out a laugh at that. “Kung-Flu?”
“Eh, either that or the Cough Of Death. Take your pick,” she said, shrugging. “All I know is that being out of the gym sucks. I’ve gained six pounds in the last week and let me tell you, working out at home isn’t much fun.”
"It can be. But, I agree, there's something different about going to the gym instead of staying home. A buddy of mine owns a home gym, and he still goes to an outside gym," Ethan said. "It could be your music choice."
She clicked her teeth. "Maybe. But, I enjoy the older stuff. My grandmother always said I was an old soul."
“You can hype yourself up to work out with dop-wop music?” Ethan asked. The only music he usually heard people listening to while working out was rock, hip-hop, and dubstep, he himself had the entire Doom soundtrack on loop for the days he really wanted to make some gains. Nothing beat pumping iron to rip and tear.
“I listen to whatever I’m in the mood for,” she said. “It just so happens that tonight was a night for fifties classics.”
Ethan smiled and raised his glass. “To the classics, then.”
“Enough about me, how’ve you been doing in this crisis of ours?”
“Poorly,” Ethan said, bitterly. “I’m kind of a shut in and never took much time to socialize, but this stay inside thing is killing me. I miss drinking with the boys and working, and the gym is closed down for God knows how long, so all the gains I made this past year are just flying out the window. Wish the government would find a cure for this shit already.”
“I hear you,” his neighbor said. “I guess it’s true you never really want to do something until you literally can’t do it.”
“Yeah. Funny how our brains work like that.”
It got quiet between the two of them, with nothing but the distant sound of a barking dog and doo-wop tunes playing in the background. Ethan had been so nervous about talking to such a good looking girl, but the things he said in their exchange just flowed out of him. He barely thought about it. I guess James was right, it does get easier the longer you talk to someone. Ethan thought. James had been Ethan's closest friend for as long as he could remember, and he probably wouldn’t be as social now if James hadn’t dragged him out to the bar or wherever he felt like going at the time.
“Anyway, I’m gonna get out of your hair,” the dark skinned woman said.
“What’s the rush,” Ethan said. “I enjoy the company.”
“Yeah, well, I’m sweaty, and my shower has been running for the past five minutes,” she said. “Unless, of course, you’re offering to pay my water bill next month.”
Ethan laughed. “No thanks. My savings can barely cover my rent, I’ll leave that in your hands.” He took a sip from his drink, finding it close to being empty. “But, if you promise to come back, I don’t mind sharing a drink with you. Our balconies are closet enough.”
“Trying to bribe me with a drink and a good time, huh?”
“Yep. Is it working.”
“Maybe ...you got red wine?”
“Three whole bottles.”
The woman smiled, and gave him a wink. “Then you just might see me again, neighbor,” she said, before slipping back into her apartment and closing the glass sliding door.
Ethan gave a small smile and downed the last of his drink, before making his way back inside; as he closed the glass slider, it dawned on him that he had completely forgotten to ask for his neighbor’s name. “And to think, I was so stressed out over that,” he muttered, with a sigh. “I’ll just ask her again. No need to overthink something with such a simple solution.”
Suddenly, staying inside didn’t seem so bad.