On Mondays, Maureen drags herself to the mailbox. She peeks in with anticipation, then slits open the envelope right there in the lobby. Her face always falls as she tosses the envelope, folds up the pink paycheck and shuffles back to the elevator. She mutters to herself something about the price of dinner.
On Tuesdays, Kasha comes down the stairs with Milo, his schnauzer. He’s the only one who’s allowed a pet in this building, he’s been here that long. He’s generally cheerful, with something jovial to say to me in his still-thick Polish accent, but after he walks his dog, he holds the door as if he were letting someone in before him, then laughs and comes in. I suspect he is still holding the door open for his wife, who the doorman, Nick, says died several years before I arrived.
On Wednesdays, Imogene bakes. The whole building smells heavenly, of cinnamon and cloves, or lemon and lavender. Whatever it is she makes, she drops off one at my door, and I suspect, many others. I’ve never seen anything at her door.
On Fridays, Ibrahim and Sam go jogging together. She wears her tight magenta legging and headband, and he follows in his black shorts and purple hair. They go rain or shine, their faces glowing when they return. They never do anything more than wave bye and go back to their respective apartments.
On Saturdays, packages go out. Piles of returned deliveries, things for distant relatives, letters and even business packages pile up in the lobby. Nick counts them again and again, nervous to lose any. They topple over in the new pile, unbalanced, and he starts over.
On Sundays, Frank has his kids, Maria and Juan. They get up early and go out for some adventure or another in the city - feeding the sea lions, racing across the bridge, looking for hidden caches. They come back carrying Chinese takeout and arguing about what movie to see.
It’s Monday again, and I watch Maureen as I get my own mail. Nick says to me, “Hey, c’mere, I’ve got an idea for a great prank for April fools, whaddya think?” He wants to pretend like the door buzzer isn’t working, and let people sweat a little. I chuckle lightly, but it seems a bit unkind to me.
Kasha has a great April Fools Day joke he tells every year. “Who needs a day for the fools? I’m surrounded by them all year.” He grins, his fake teeth gleaming and stretching the wrinkles on his face. I smirk back - it’s old, and also a bit mean to me personally, but also has some truth to it.
Imogene is full of such good nature she wouldn’t pull a prank for the life of her. Instead, she tells each of us that there is a whole cherry, stem and all, in one of her cupcakes. “Which one of you will find it?” she challenges us.
As they stretch and warm up, Sam tells Ibrahim she’s going to tie his shoelaces together tomorrow, so he’d better watch out. He in turn tells her to sleep with one eye open. I wonder what he has planned.
I head back to my apartment. The news is full of topics like, “Great pranks to pull on your coworkers,” and “Ten of the best April Fools ideas.” I feel a bit nauseated by all this - the subtle meanness, the trickery, even the word “fool.” The more I think about it, the more humiliating it feels. It’s as if this day has become “April Cruel Day.”
Instead, I want April Fools to be April Cool. Why not turn cruelty into kindness? I start thinking about ways to help out my neighbors.
I check my bank account - that company bonus is pretty good this year. I write off a check for half of it, and Nick helps me with the mailbox key.
I write out four invites for dinner in my best handwriting, and order a range of favorites.
I head out next - to a few choice stores, picking up things like DVDs, carrying food and wine back, and making a couple of other purchases. I then hide in my apartment, using the oven for the first time in ages.
That evening it all falls into place.
In the morning, Maureen checks her mail. She gasps as she finds the check. It will last her a few months.
Kasha checks his mail on the way in with his dog, his eyebrows raised at me. I say nothing, but smile.
Sam and Ibrahim pick up theirs on their trip back from their jog, flushed and panting. They glance at the card, then at each other and blush.
Nick is the next recipient. He finds his boxes neatly stacked in a rolling carrier he can move around in the lobby as needed. He’s thrilled and moves them back and forth around the carpet just to try it out. He decides to skip the buzzing prank and instead holds the door open for everyone.
Frank, Maria, and Juan find a bag by their box - a choice selection of family-friendly DVDs, individual bags of candy, and a giant tub of popcorn to share. Maria squeals, and she and Juan race each other up to their apartment. Frank runs along behind, a spring in his step.
Imogene opens her door, holding a dozen coconut covered donuts. At her feet, she finds a lumpy frosted chocolate cake, still warm. It says “April Cool Day.” She smiles and steps back inside.
Sam and Ibrahim come down again, dressed this time for dinner. Their invitations lead them to dinner at one of the city’s most romantic restaurants. They come home late, their bodies warm from the wine, slightly tipsy, and disappear into Sam’s apartment.
I open the door to Kasha, and then Maureen. My table is set with Polish food, candles, and wine. Music is playing. They shyly greet each other, then sit and start to talk.
I slip out with Milo. We’ll go for a long, meandering walk, avoiding the pranksters. Instead, we’ll find something cool to do.