CW: abuse mention (child)
A peach morning, shards of grass sneaking into the sidewalk, branches swaying dull and dead. I arrive at the building gate and I am shaking, shaking still; should have kept the winter coat. I call the number saved from the last round of search scrolls and feigned phone pep. The concierge answers: “I’ll be right there!”
I am courteous, perform norm, stand straight and feminine, chuckling at a stray comment on tattoos and irresponsibility; be in-group, be in-group, be in-group to get what you need.
In the elevator, unmoving, with steady smiles. My tired eyelids linger closer shut with each rumble conveying us up, up. I hear the crash and the sobbing; the anxious adrenaline snaps me to wake. Concierge and I meet glances and she, with a light nod, softens her smile. The elevator sounds at the 22nd. “It’s right over this way,” she says, pointing, as the door rolls slowly open.
The hall is well-lit but there are scuffs on the wall. From neighbours? Is the building not maintained? How much can I afford to care? How much does care cost? Concierge fidgets the key and jerks the door. A good lock. The apartment inside is fine. Nice view. Thick walls. Clean enough. Big enough. Enough is enough sometimes. Concierge points out the kitchenette, the fridge, the bathroom, the balcony. I remove my coat as we look around. I yawn and I hear a small sniffle as we head towards the bedroom.
The concierge gets a call. Issue on the 4th, will be right back.
I don’t expect the shaking and unsettled breathing to leave with her but I am still disappointed when it doesn’t. I open the room door, feel empty. I close my eyes, knowing exactly what will appear: a child with thick ringlets, crouched and sniffling in the corner of the open closet. This child lives in every empty room I visit. Ever since our first room was emptied. I know them well. Sometimes they tell me when I need to leave, sometimes they just need to be held. I am tired and this room is wide enough, sunny enough, so I tell them:
“She won’t find you here.”
“But what if she does?”
“There are locks on the door.”
“But you’ll still hear her.”
“We’ll drown her out.”
“Music. The Shower. However we can.”
“And what if we can’t?”
“I’m still scared.”
“I know. Me too.”
“What do we do?”
“What we can.”
“Will it be enough?”
“It has to be.”
When Concierge returns I ask to start the paperwork. Home is wherever I’m without you.