The morning light shines through the apartment complex. The illuminated dust, which remains the only source of movement in the restless environment, floats downward. She does not know why she remains tired after ten hours of sleep.
Listening for a knock on the door to wake her, she waits for Will, the single thirty-two year old who lives down the hall. They met by passing, engaging in small talk until one of them mentioned D.H. Lawrence. Separating during the day, they exchange books at night, drink tea and wonder how passionate of a kisser the other one is.
But lying in bed, it's hard for her to keep the window open and eavesdrop on the movement below. The cab-calls, the fall wind, and the café conversation whistle a tune with no concrete rhythm. She promises herself that she believes in life, listening to the noise and wondering why it sings. She's not afraid of Will, she says to herself. She is just aware of his obligations.
She'll pass Will in the hallway and appear to have appointments to go to. A chronic flaw, she must be chased. Fortunately, he always stops to talk, and she focuses on reducing her natural tendency to small talk. She asks, “How are you?” and “Where are you going?” He asks, “How is the collection of short stories you started?” and “When did you chip your tooth?” and “Can I come in for some tea?”
Over tea one day, her mom calls her. Will sits across from her as she apologizes for taking the call. Her mother asks about the new studio apartment and the promotion while complaining about her younger brother who still lives at home. At first glance, she holds an intelligent conversation with her mom. In reality, she tunes it out instinctively, conversing with Will's eyes for the remainder of the telephone call. He blinks with a feint smile. She wonders if things have begun.
When together, they talk of childhood and science and socialism. It's the kind of conversation that exists when people get to know one another: full of both substance and ambiguity. They talk over the neighbor's creaking bed, and it forces them not to whisper.
“Best break up?” he asks.
“There's such a thing?”
“Senior year of high school,” she snaps back, “We were friends the day after.”
“First year out of college – I cried for six months.”
She notices how the monotony of his motions contrasts with his spontaneous speech. He combs his fingers through his facial hair, holding the mug with both hands.
Everyday he leaves, she speculates when he will knock again. She lingers around the apartment like a dog waiting for interaction at the welcome mat. She notices how she does not know exactly what she has reduced herself to, whether desperation, anticipation, or expectation. The relationship they have created is as healthy as sixth grade relationships when one would daydream about a passionate, physical encounter but was well satisfied with a kiss on the cheek.
Reminiscing on the grad student she slowly stopped seeing a month ago, she realizes that she held onto the relationship for the promise of routine sex. She can't recall their first encounter or their first date because she never knows how things begin, whether it is relationships or wars or short stories.
The grad student, Daniel, called at the same time everyday. While the ringing phone annoyed her with its consistency, the silence peeved her just as well. They fumbled with conversation on the phone, both talking at once. It wasn't right but it was no one's fault. Her work dulled her, and he kissed aggressively.
A single date with Daniel sticks out. They went out for ice cream after a night together when spring was just starting to bloom. Too cold for ice cream, they sat inside, and she learned about his old family road trips.
“We went to Dairy Queens in every state. I remember the one in Florida and Delaware and middle of nowhere Indiana.”
“What did you get?”
“Dipped cones. Everytime.”
He liked dipped cones. She remembers this vividly. His dark features and little formation of a belly were lost on her, but she remembers he liked dipped cones and wadded in Lake Michigan for twenty minutes before diving in.
She treks home from the bars earlier then usual now, subconsciously wanting to be home and risk an encounter with Will. On Saturday, he is hand in hand with a petite blonde who wears all black. They smile politely. Although happy with the girl he is with, she still catches him glancing at herself with genuine appreciation in his eyes and nothing hurts, not even the erratic sound of water dripping from her leaking sink.