There is a young woman, sobbing into a polished wooden floor. The floor is of a kitchen, warped and worn with burn-marks and signs that other people lived and cooked and spilled here long ago. The trappings of past-tenants lives give little comfort to the crying woman. She, having dropped to her hands and knees alongside the skinflint-thin plastic bag of groceries, splays her hands in front of her, hoping her narrow fingers will bear her weight.
They don’t and her next sobs are muffled, her cheek pressed against wood, howls of loneliness and loss to the quiet buzz of the electric light and the purr of the warming kettle. She lies where she falls, lips salt-slick and breath ragged. She lies and she sobs, embarrassing sobs, big, thick, wide wailing sounds. Inelegant sobs.
She thinks her neighbours must be able to hear her. She hears them, their feet on the stairwell, the clink of glass on brick as they lean the recycling bag against the wall, before locking up as the walk it down to the bins. She can hear their laughter, from the next-door kitchen. Small sounds of cooking, spatula against pan, taps, some heavy liquid in a deep pot on a slow boil. She can smell their food through the cracked glass of her kitchen window, and the walls and the pipes. So surely they must hear her crying? The sobbing woman wheezes herself to stillness, wondering if they will come to her, knocking concern, with their smiles and their happy kitchen smells.
There is a young woman on the stairs talking shop with the lady from number 16. The young woman has known number 16 since she plucked the courage strings banded tight across the pit of her stomach hard enough to ask about number 16’s beautiful orchids. You can see the orchids from the road, if you’re looking. The young woman is someone who likes to look. Right now she is noting down number 16’s secret family recipe for organic aphid spray. She is trying to grow strawberries, in a pot hung from the western facing balcony. The young woman is, not number 16. Number 16 only grows pedigree show-orchids. She is trying to grow strawberries, but the aphids keep getting them. Aphids, in an apartment planter garden.
They chat and greet and reassure each other after a robbery across the road, and caution each other against walking too late alone in the future, and before they leave, each one says the other’s name at least once.
Moral: Even a strong community has to be built, and even when it is, it can only go half way.