The Knight moved into a new apartment a few weeks ago.It's on the second floor of an old, red-brick courtyard building on a quiet street, its name just as quaint as the street where I live, with a heavy wrought-iron gate that opens only part way before a tall, yucca-like plant threatens to put out the eye of any unsuspecting visitor. And it's just a few blocks from me. Last night, he met me downtown — before my long-awaited girl date at Rick Bayless' new restaurant, Xoco — and handed me a split ring with four shiny new keys on it. He'd made me copies, partly for security and partly for convenience — and partly as a show of devotion and trust, I guess. I've only stolen a few books from him so far, and he knows about those — the trust is earned. After a quick kiss goodbye, he ran off to teach, and I hatched a plan over a prosciutto torta and a freshly fried churro to surprise him when he got home from class.
On bicycle, it takes about 45 seconds to get from door to door — provided there are no adorable dogs or babies to distract me along the sidewalk that winds through the park separating us, and no cars speeding down Montrose at perilous, breakneck speeds. There's a stoplight that always seems to be green when I need it to be, and an alley that leads right the the back door, an even heavier wrought-iron gate that makes up for its heft with its lack of a spiny succulent sentinel. I parked my bike in the stairwell, in the middle of a pile of cleaning supplies, and climbed the rickety wooden stairs up to the second floor. The apartment was stuffy and dim when I walked in, lit only by a bare bulb in the closet and orange fluorescent light spilling through half-closed cheap mini-blinds, and I could still smell a faint hint of lavender and cedarwood from the candle I'd brought over the week before. The Knight's brand new bed sat unmade, barely broken-in maroon sheets creased from his warm body against the almost-too-firm mattress.
In giving me those keys, he gave me an open invitation to come over. But there's something about walking into someone else's empty apartment that feels furtive. Intrusive. I set my shoes and purse inside the closet, running my hands over the piles of folded T-shirts on the tall silver shelf where I hung my soft navy hoodie. Traced the spines of books, picture frames and other little trinkets lining one of the many bookcases around the little studio. Everything's too new for the dust to have settled, and nothing's quite settled enough to feel permanent yet. I set my little pot of Rosebud Salve inside the single drawer of the little bedside table, the floor model of a children's side table we bought at Target together. It's missing one of its slider feet, so it wobbles at the slightest touch.
We go to Target sometimes. And the grocery store. We buy toilet paper and glass cleaner and bananas and box graters and new pillows for our beds; we never make lists and always have to go back eventually. We play house. It's my favorite game, especially when I realize, without fear, that I'm kind of playing for keeps.
Exhausted from a long day of work, friends, food and drink, I settled into the unfamiliar bed, in an unfamiliar quiet punctuated by unfamiliar neighbors' voices down the hall, to read a few chapters in Bird by Bird by the light of an unfamiliar lamp as I waited for my one familiarity to return. Footsteps on the creaky carpeted stairs; a jingling of keys just outside the lightweight, hollow door. I sat up and said hello as the door opened. He just smiled. Beamed, even. No words, just a grin that spread slowly across his face and gave away his relief. Books and T-shirts out of boxes, pictures on the wall, Van Morrison on the stereo? That's a homey house. But there are few things that really seal it, make it a home. He was surprised to see me, but not really. It was time.
The original entry, "Unlocked," is here, if you're wondering why that pretentious "redux" is stuck on there. Have a read. I can't believe I wrote that in July.