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Emptiness

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He always had something interesting to say, my neighbor. When I say interesting I mean it was something that never would have occured to me, but I found interesting nevertheless.  I don’t knew how the thread some of these conversations began and truly they were more like monologues that verged on haranguing, but I never cut him off. I would always stay on for the ride on every occasion though usually I was late leaving to get somewhere or arriving laden with groceries or worse dizzy having just made it in the door after a torturous journey to get home. And I never knew his name. We didn’t do that hey nice to meet ya neighbour thing. It could have been Ralph or it could have been William and I didn’t ask out of some overwrought sense of politesse. It seemed we’d hardly known each other for too long to begin making introductions to one another. 

My neighbour (let’s call him Mr. 102) lived below me on the ground floor. He never opened his curtains for the morning sun, nor did he open the sliding door for air and didn’t place even a lone chair on his patio. He had told me it would be an invitation to the raccoons and anyway the soil from the garden splashed up on his cement slab every time it rained. It created a mess and wasn’t all that inviting. There was no reason to acknowledge it existed much less make it homey. Still every time I arrived back home I would look to his suite in the hopes of seeing him out reading a book, or perhaps standing at the patio door looking out, as I often do at mine.

The last time I saw him i was aghast, it took my breath away. He was a mere shell of a person hardly resembling the hale man he had once been. It seemed as if he had shrunk in size perhaps because his body was stooped into itself. He took carefully minced steps with his eyes cast to the ground. On the rare occasion I passed him I found that if I tried to engage him he had nothing to say, and didn’t seem to want a conversation of any kind; no more long chats about any myriad of topic. My first reflex was an offer to help to him, so I did. I knew he seemed a proud man so I wasn’t surprised when he politely declined anything and he demurred even a mere dinner invitation. I saw him less and less until I didn’t see him at all.

Today the curtains were pulled fully back to reveal an emptiness that was once his home. Thirty-one years he lived in that small space. For some reason I first noted the awful shade of carpet. And then it hit me. I just knew but I had to confirm my suspicion. I walked down to my manager’s suite and knocked on the door. I felt it an awful imposition but I asked anyway and she answered affirming what I already knew. I won’t be seeing that neighbour ever again. He had just passed away. I’m almost sure I know when. An ambulance had quietly arrived and left the building 2 days ago. I went back to mine and cried for a man I scarcely knew.

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