On Sunday just before two I turn into the courtyard. A black Mercedes sedan is idling, then rolls lazily past the side gate. The details are all achingly familiar to me - each bench, each dappled path, where to throw out garbage. I feel nothing for this place, no sentimentality, no nostalgia, not even anger or disgust. It is simply where we lived seven years ago, and where E spends some of her Saturday nights.
It is empty. A blank piece of paper nothing will be written on.
I look up at the balcony but E is not there. Sometimes she waits for me, hand ready to wave when I emerge from the parked cars. She must be packing up her computer, and those new headphones.
I stand at the outside door, about to buzz and a hand sweeps in front of me. The arm is long and skinny, hairy. It is one of the neighbors. He has a habit of being dramatic like this. He stands in the street in nothing but a bathrobe, the fuzzy belt hanging lose, barely keeping it closed, no shirt underneath. I remember the first time I shared an elevator ride with him, his oily black hair, his giant brown eyes bloodshot and yellowing, his pointy slippers, the way he waited for me to have some eye contact and how he enjoyed that.
Today he is in rare form, a carton of milk in one hand and a bag of eggs dangling below it. In Russia, egg cartons are some kind of luxury, only for buying eggs in the supermarket. If you buy them close to home, they simply put them in a thin plastic bag. He smiles, half of his giant gold teeth flashing in the hallway. His hips sway. The bathrobe is getting old, and looks like he washed it with the wrong things too many times, mousy now. I wonder if he is stoned.
And then I understand, he does not remember me. This is the show for first encounters.
I jab at the button in the elevator for the second floor and get out. I don't need to relive anything else so I take the stairs.