My apartment is now a home. My new checks arrived, so that’s one thing. And I’ve just thrown out the last of my emptied boxes. Three months. I’m home.
I’m in my back room (foyer? utility room? it’s home, but I have not assigned this room a function) with my box cutter. A coin falls out of one box as I flatten it, a penny, dark brown with age. That’s an old wheat penny, I think. Sure enough: 1952, wheat. It’s good luck. A wheat penny I didn’t know I had has followed me to my new place. I’m home.
I carry my folded boxes down the back stairs. Behind my building is a small parking area, then the alley, then the backs of the row houses on the next street. I drop the boxes by the trashcans with satisfaction.
Mreow. This from a deck across the alley, loud, repeated. I mreow back and see a cat who normally ignores me. I sit on the concrete by the stairs and extend a hand. This always used to work. The cat and I mreow back and forth until it slowly climbs down and crosses toward me, not with normal catly nonchalance, but as though I may have food. It draws close and I pet its dirty fur. It’s plump, it has a collar. Hello, neighbor.
Then Nina pedals up, and the cat goes aloof again. Nina is the name on her kiddie plate. Her bike is pink with white tires and elaborate pink decorations. Too small for Nina, but she rides it well. “Do you know whose cat that is?” she asks.
“No. We were just talking.”
“Oh wait, I know. Caitlin.”
I hope that Caitlin is the owner and not the cat. It is an awful name.
Nina chases the cat away. Cat’s don’t get bicycles. “Hills are fun to ride down,” she says.
“Oh, I know.” And I do agree. To hell with up.
“How old are you?”
Great. “Thirty-one.” Speaking of downhill.
Step off, you little brat. “Yeah.” Punk. “How ‘bout you?”
“In two weeks I’ll be eight. Do you know Caitlin?”
The owner. “Nope.”
A woman calls from down the alley: “Where are you?”
“Too close to the corner, get back here!”
Nina smirks. “Awww, man.” Pedals off.
“Nice talking with you.” And sure it was. I’m not an old curmudgeon. Not old, not grumpy (not always). I like kids. I don’t have any, but I welcome their conversation. Sure, Nina had brought up a difficult subject, but she knew exactly what hills are for. That’s wisdom that growing up can’t improve. She has years to learn about thirty-one.
I put the wheat penny over the door.