Understand your neighbors
Sometimes wind it's all we need if our intent is to understand better our neighbors. For instance, if they're intelligent people, they will take their clothes inside when the wind starts to blow stronger. That's not the case of the family staying at the 38B, 28th floor, apartment 21/K in Blood Street. The name was called like that after an interesting fact happened 12 years before. The famous case of the Zone H Hero.
I don't know why, but the heroes come always from the poorest neighborhoods. Interestingly, the mission of poor people seems to be to save some bureaucrat, a cat from a tree, or an old lady in a river. Certainly, you would tell me that is due to chance and doesn't matter from where you're from. But believe me, I'm right. The Zone H hero gave his blood to save three children from Zone B. And then he died.
Anyway, we were saying about the wind. As you probably guessed, the family at 21/K used to forgot the clothes hanging outside, even when the wind moved the cars in the streets. Nothing special, but the fact that Rose had to pass her free time collecting underwear, socks, and table covers from her balcony. Not to mention how much time she needed every time to wash again all the clothes she found, and then to dry and iron them!
Once or twice she started thinking that the family at 21/K started doing it in purpose. Some of the underwear had a yellowish and brownish spots, for instance. As they haven't been washed at all. Then, after she met the whole family, she decided it wasn't the case. Between the husband, the wife, the grandma, and their twelve children, Rose understood there was no one there able to make up such a plan.
The simply opened the door, with that dumb look and protruding teeth. They always apologize, hanging their head in shame, taking what Rose was giving them back. All perfectly ironed and folded.
<<Who knows how they will place everything inside the drawers!>>
That was what Rose thought every time she saw them going back inside. She had only a glimpse of the family's apartment, but she noted how everything was messy. You could see the children jumping on the couch, with the TV blasting, without no one really listening to it. In a corner, with a desperate face, there was the grandma.
Rose shook her head, watching all the clothes coming off the drying rack one after the other.
<<They'll never understand, never!>>
She said, closing the door of the balcony behind her and leaving a hiss of wind outside.
She never dreamed of living in the suburbs, it just happened. One day you see all clear, the job as a cashier is there just for pay for college. The next day already twenty years passed, you're still a cashier, you never studied and you just broke up with another colleague. The numbers on the calendar changed, but the story remained the same.
Today she had to go to a "customer management" course. One of those ways a company is still trying to reanimate a dead body. Every time she had to sit in a room with other ten-twelve unknown colleagues of the Labrador Supermarkets. And every time she had to listen to the same monologues:
<<You have to be more understanding, you have to put yourself in your clients' shoes. The management is doing 99% of the job, sending you the customers. The only thing you have to do is to sell.>>
And what they have to sell? A pack of chewing gum, or a box of chocolates. That was the maximum they could do. Since they started cutting the personnel, Rose started running from one side to the other of the supermarket.
She cuts a salami, then she has to replenish the racks, to run fast to the cashier, where an impatient customer was already snorting. Like that, sweaty and out of breath, she had to make some additional sell, as the trainer suggested. Everyone called it multi- competence, but it makes everyone more tired and less competent.
In this way, at the course, she managed to meet a new man every year. Each one of these men had something in common: they were all divorced and with children. In the space of a few months, she usually felt in love, then she started caring about the other person, and in the end she just felt comfortable in bed.
That was her love season. When the love affair finished, she waited for the new management course and the new divorced man to spend the next season with. At the end of the day, the company was big and the participants came from all over the country. That made it virtually impossible for her to meet anyone she had a story before.
Maybe she wasn't as beautiful and skinny as before, but she was still noticeable. For everyone, she was a modern, beautiful woman, secure of herself. Her aspect reflected that image: she had always perfectly combed hair, an ideal make- up and ironed skirt.
However, when she watched herself in the mirror, she saw something different: an OCD woman prone to psychosis, and with hunched shoulders. Every day the small wrinkles turned into crevasses, where she slowly felt into desperation.
Not today. Today was the course day.
She took her eyes off her reflection and pick an anti-wind jacket. She buttoned it up to the neck, and then she put the hood on. One thing she hated was to have messy hair. She opened the door, smelling what the neighbors were cooking and listening to their shouts. She watched around in disgust, then she closed the door and triple-locked it. When finally she was in front of the elevator, she felt a pit in the stomach. She closed the gas? She closed properly all the windows?
She turned quickly and went back to her apartment. She opened the door, triple-locked, and checked windows and gas. Then she closed the door behind, triple-locked the door again, and moved fast to the elevator. Someone already called it, the elevator button has the red light switched on.
That wasn't good at all, in a minute someone had the time to call the elevator. And that lift was so slow, it would take a lifetime for the next one to come. And another thousands of years to reach the 28th floor again.
She had never arrived late to an appointment, before. And certainly not at the course, where her new seasonal love was waiting for her.
She started to feel her hands sweaty.
What is that?
Then she heard it.
It was a voice.
It was a voice, calling her.
Well, it wasn't calling her. Mostly, it was calling for a celestial entity.
The voice was shouting:
<<Help, someone help me please! For Christ's sake!>>
The voice was difficult to be heard, amongst all the other noises in the hallway. She got closer to the elevator and she tried to listen. Yes, there was a voice.
<<There's no one there? Help me, please!>>
There was someone trapped inside the elevator, no doubt.
She watched around, thinking about calling for help. In the apartment 28/H lived a serious old man, one of those everyone call "professor" even though he was working in a bank. Then there was the apartment 28/K, where lived the family we already spoke about. The last one was the 28/L, but Rose didn't have any idea who was living there. Sometimes you could listen to strange sounds coming from that flat. Someone thought it was a priest, because of the big crucifix outside the door.
No, she was alone, and she had to solve that situation alone. Then she would have to take a taxi, and she would have arrived perfectly on time. There was no need for panic, there's always something unexpected. That's exactly why she always left one hour before, to arrive on time. She banged on the elevator's door.
<<I'm here at the 28th, sir. Do you hear me?>>
She saw her footprint slowly evaporating from the elevator. She always had cold and sweaty hands, that's why they called her "Rose the frog" for years.
<<Oh, there's someone there. Thank God! Let me out, I'm stuck at the 21st!>>
Rose swallowed. She was still in time for ignoring him, she could take the stairs to the 27th and there call for the service lift. Then she shook her head letting that thought disappear.
<<Right, I'm coming now!>>
She started going down the stairs, the heels making sounds like a giant metronome. Suddenly she felt the anti-wind jacket was suffocating her, and after a few floors, the make- up started dripping on her eyes. Well, she would be late at the course and she would be a disaster, with a smudged make- up. Who would look at her?
The man inside the elevator was still shouting on top of his lungs. How was it possible, in all that building she was the only one that could hear him? There was always a line for the elevator, and now she was alone.
<<I'm coming, I'm coming!>>
She broke one of the heels, and she lost the balance for a moment. She almost fell down the stairs, but then she grabbed the handrail. The jacket got torn on the right. Now she was sweaty, with no make- up, a broken heel, and a torn jacket. And late.
She started cursing the idiot that remained blocked inside the elevator. Yes, it could happen to everyone, but why it happened to him? He must have been an imbecile, one of those people that don't know how to behave in an elevator. The voice continued to call for help, while there was only a flight of stairs.
She finally arrived in front of the elevator. Now the voice seemed to be disappeared. Even the button wasn't illuminated in red anymore.
<<Sir, I'm here. What can I do for you?>>
Shouted Rose, banging on the door of the lift.
No one answered.
She tried to force the doors with her fingers, but she managed to open just a few millimeters. At that moment she noticed some blood dripping through her wrist. She broke a nail. Now she was tired, sweaty, without make- up, with a broken heel, a torn jacket, and a nail broken and full of blood.
She shouted again, and then she pressed the elevator button.
As if by magic, the elevator opened. It was empty.
Rose took a step back and watched herself in the mirror. She was a grotesque image.
After that, she dropped on a step of the stairs and started laughing. No, not a hysterical laugh, but the sweet free laugh of a baby coming to the world. She laughed when someone opened the door, she continued to laugh when someone took the elevator, she laughed until the throat started aching. And then she continued to laugh again.
She laughed because for the first time she felt free. Crazy, maybe, but free.
She laughed, happy to be late.