The red ties of the trash bag dug into her index and pointer fingers as her pinky awkwardly wrapped around the metal ring of her keychain. Her right hand held open the trash chute and the keys came into contact with the metal slide resulting in a noisy clanging of metal on metal as she maneuvered the trash bag into place.
She used her thumb to guide the red ties down over her fingers and watched the bag slide down the chute into the darkness. Her keys were still resting against the metal slide and she thought, as she did every time she brought the trash to the little room right off the bank of elevators, that it would be so easy for her pinky to slip, freeing the keys from her grip to to follow the trash down the chute.
She had mentally run through the steps she would take if that scenario were to occur. She would run to the elevators and jab at the down button while cursing herself for being so careless to hold the keys in such a precarious position. Hopefully John or Matt would be at the front desk, they were good natured and would handle the situation well. She’d explain to them how she had dropped her keys down the chute, “...and then you know, they slipped and down they went!” she’d say, her cheeks blushing, shoulders shrugging up toward her ears.
They’d chuckle and wave her back behind the desk and walk her through the annals of the building till they reached the trash room. She’d be met with plastic soy sauce packets, tampon applicators, and coffee grounds, a glimpse into the lives of the people who inhabited 35 Perry Street. Scanning the room she’d search for the white bag and once her eyes landed on the red ties, she’d wade into the garbage to fish around for her keys.
The search wouldn’t take long since hardly any trash would have accumulated since the keys had traveled down the chute. Upon finding them, she would triumphantly lift them over her head and John, Matt, whoever it was, would cheer “All Right!”
Later, she would tell Sam the story, acting out wading through their neighbors used condoms and cat litter. He’d laugh and shake his head, it would become a story he’d tell when someone asked one of those questions people loved to ask couples, “which of you is messier?” or “what is it like living together?”
Sam would catch her eye and say, “well, let me tell you the story of the keys…” She’d roll her eyes and playfully bat his arm but secretly, she’d be pleased.
But tonight, the keys remained safely pressed against her left palm. She released the door of the trash chute and it closed with a noisy bang.
Back in the apartment, she was met with the delightful aroma of sauteed garlic emanating from the bolognese simmering on the stovetop. She pulled out a large stainless steel pot and switched on the brass pot filler, watching as water streamed into the pot.
She’d fallen in love with the apartment from the listing alone. Upon seeing the working fireplace, big marble island, and picturesque windows, she’d immediately pictured the fabulous dinner parties they would host. A group of their friends clustered around the kitchen island, while she, clad in a cashmere turtleneck, kept the wine and conversation flowing as Sam expertly laid logs in the fireplace.
It had been at the top end of their budget and Sam had preferred the cozier, less expensive apartment in downtown Brooklyn.
All her life she had talked herself into extensions, flight upgrades, comped drinks, the works. She prided herself on intuiting limits and had a habit of pushing them just as far as she could. This apartment would be no different. This was the place they were meant to be. She was sure of it. 4 weeks after she first saw the listing, they moved in.
Ten minutes minutes before he was due to arrive, she dimmed the lights and lit the pillar candles that sat inside the fireplace, stepping back to enjoy the flickering shadows they cast against the white brick. Her eyes were drawn to the bar cart where bottles of liquor were scattered, their labels facing every which way. She sucked in her cheeks biting down hard on the inside of her mouth with her back molars. She liked for the labels to all face the same direction, a preference she had shared with Sam many times before that continued to fall on deaf ears.
“See? It makes the whole house look more put together, right?” she asked him with an expectant look as she carefully lined up the bottles and wiped down the glass surface.
The pasta water had come to a rolling boil. In nine minutes, the noodles would be perfectly al dente and ready to be coated with the bolognese, rich and silky, having simmered for exactly three and a half hours.
It was 7:03. Sam was supposed to have been home by 7 so they could enjoy a cocktail as she put the finishing touches on dinner. She smoothed out the linen napkins she had laid out earlier and tinkered with the gold plated silverware she’d bought to match the gold fixtures in the kitchen.
At 7:16, she heard his key in the lock. She propped her elbows on the marble kitchen island and played with the gold bracelet he had given to her for Christmas that year.
“Hey babe, sorry I am late. It smells fantastic in here” he said, taking his shoes off and walking to greet her behind the kitchen island with a kiss.
She stiffened as his lips brushed against her cheek. “I thought we agreed on 7” she said, staring ahead. “I’ve been waiting for you,” she continued accusingly.
He met her eyes and shook his head slowly. “I can’t, I can’t do this anymore,” he said, removing his keys from his pocket and putting them down on the island before turning toward the door.
The marble was cold and unforgiving, her elbows ached as she listened to his footsteps disappear down the hall. As soon as she heard the ding of the elevator open and close, she left the apartment and walked to the trash chute.
In one deft motion she broke the bracelet off her wrist and opened the trash chute. She placed the keys and bracelet at the top of the slide and closed the chute before she could watch them disappear into the darkness.