She’s nestling into her bed with her duvet wrapped tightly around her by the time she hears three loud pounds, in quick succession, on the
front door. Snapped from the throes of rest, Elizabeth snaps up quickly,
cursing underneath her breath as she knocks her books down to the
Feet touching the carpet, she bites her lips, draws
breath, and weighs her options. She was strategic with this apartment,
located in a solidly charming solid-middle class neighborhood filled
with start up couples and the older couples slowing down in life. She
was acquainted with most of the tenants on her floor, Mrs. Hilde- a
retired teacher, Matt- the piano instructor, Sara and Ezra-the graduate
students, engaged and so-so-so in love, who study at her university.
she can figure out whether or not to ignore the noises, she hears flesh
pound against the wooden door, louder, and more urgent this time. All
she hears anymore is her heart bleeding through her ears as she springs
to her feet and runs to the small kitchen alcove to retrieve a paring
knife- just in case. She laments not taking Mrs. Hilde’s advise and
stashing a small canister of mace in her nightstand drawer.
on her feet, she paces towards the door and peers through the peephole.
She recognizes the man, tall, with broad shoulders slumped who wasn’t
looking at anything really, slightly slumped against the door frame.
She’s run into him at the mailboxes, on the stairway, in the parking lot
before. He was always congenial and would nod or tilt his hat to her as
an exchange of pleasantries-and rarely spoke. She noticed that he never
looked at her, wide-eyed, almost a little too long like the other men
stared at her, at her eyes, at her lips. He barely looked, always in a
rush coming and going, and always so preoccupied with something.
A loud thump again, and before really
thinking, Elizabeth pulls back on the doorknob and sees the man pause,
dumbfounded, before her with his fist still dumbfounded in air.
“Ohh…” Uneasy on his feet, his grey (blue? green?) eyes are wide and confused, “Shit.” He loses the fight with balance and stumbles forward, and Elizabeth dives to catch him.
smells like whiskey, aged and expensive, and behind it he smells
faintly of sandalwood and sweat and he feels like lead against her frame
as his stubble brushes against her collarbone-and the first and only
significant thought she has about him is how he is overwhelming in every
She manages to sit him down on the couch, and
slips the knife on top of the side table. He’s rubbing his face in his
hands, rugged, with scars on one that she can’t quite make out in the
“Look….uh…miss?” She places a glass of cold water in his palms.
Elizabeth.” He stares and considers her for a moment. “I thought this
was my apartment…appears I was mistaken” He gulps down the water and
lets a thick groan leave his lips while shuffling through his pant
pockets, “Jesus, I can’t seem to find my keys either.”
voice is resigned and sounds like gravel and smoke. “And didn’t your
father tell you never to let strange men into your house in the middle
of the night?”
Her lips turn downwards and she laughs, “My father has never taught me anything.” He seems to have sobered up some, and is staring at her, he’s picked up at the bitterness in her voice.
I concede, this wasn’t the smartest thing to do, was it? But I know
you, you live upstairs.” She swears that he has feline like eyes, and
that she’s seen them before, in her thoughts, dreams, these strange
mirages that flutter by
behind her eyes.
He hums, and rolls the small empty glass between his palms. “Still though, it’s not right, I could be dangerous.”
Elizabeth reaches forwards and takes the glass from his hands and sets it on the coffee table.
I mean, Mister uhh?” He sighs, and his shoulders seem to deflate some
as he leans back into the couch. His eyes are still stormy, and there’s
that slight haze of alcohol covering them. “Right, uh, my name’s Booker,
“Mr. DeWitt” She says is slowly, listening to
her own voice in her ear, and she’s taken by how easy it is to say it,
how familiar the syllables feel on her tongue.
Booker pats down
his pockets again, impatiently this time. “I’ve lost my cigarettes too.”
He rises to his feet unsteadily, using the sofa’s armrest as a brace.
look at me nearly bursting down a strangers door in the middle of the
night.” She moves closer to him and reaches out to hold his arm, he’s
still unsteady. “I need to be going.” He says, and his voice is soft,
and tired, and hooded.
“Let me help you, I doubt you can
walk.” She hears him laugh for the first time, and it’s light and more
airy than she expected. “Damn, you don’t know how to leave things alone,
do you?” Beyond that, he doesn’t seem to resist.
against her, this warm and solid mass, that she swears she’s acquainted
with from somewhere, sometime she can’t quite place. She knows how he
displaces his weight, she finds that she’s familiar with his stumbles,
and that if she circles her arm behind his waist-she can guide him
easily up the stairs.
“Turn left, it’s the third down on the right in the hall. I keep a spare key underneath the doormat.”
hums in acknowledgement. “Now Mr. Dewitt, it isn’t exactly safe to be
revealing your secrets to a stranger.” He lets out a grunt, and
Elizabeth leans him against the wall as she reaches down to look under
the mat for the key. With it in her fingers, she stands and unlocks the
door only to find him staring intently at her, she’s intrigued at the
intensity of it.
Reaching forward, she pulls him inside and
spots the bedroom through the living room and once inside Booker sprawls
onto his bed. She watches him stare at the ceiling fan, and wonders how
inebriated he must have been at the start of this encounter. She sighs,
and moves towards the foot of the bed to untie the laces on his shoes.
She slips them both off and lets them fall unceremoniously to the floor,
and perches at the edge of his bed beside him.
Her fingers go
the Windsor knot of his tie, and pulls down to loosen it. “You’re good
at this, you know?” He says, voice heavy with sleep. “You take care of a
lot of drunk men?”
She slips the black silk over his neck and
lets it fall to the floor. “My father was an alcoholic, he would preach
at day and drink cheap whiskey at his desk at night.” Her fingers make
deft work of the small, white buttons on his shirt.
his hand trail up her arm, and for some reason despite being a smart
girl, she doesn’t pull away. She simply waits, while his fingers travel
over her collarbone, up her neck, and rest to cup her jaw. She closes
her eyes, there’s this nagging at the base of her heart telling her that
there’s something wrong, something slightly misplaced, that his hands
should be rougher than they are now. She’s still not quite sure why she
doesn’t pull away.
“You need to be more careful you know…there
aren’t many good men left in this world.“ He murmurs. She wraps a hand
around his and brings it back down on the bed. She watches his chest
fall and rise, and soon enough she hears a slight, quiet snore escape
him. “Good night, Mr. DeWitt.”
She rises and departs quietly,
his apartment has no pictures on the walls, no frames with family faces
in it, and is as forthcoming as the nods he tends to give when the
cross paths are. She replaces the key under the mat, and walks
downstairs to curl back into her bed.
night she dreams of a small row boat treading choppy water, she sees
herself chopping of her hair with bloody scissors, a man with calloused
hands and an even more rough voice, cities burning and cities were you
can walk through the clouds.
She wakes with her heart loud, and
stomach aching and runs out the door in the morning realizing she’s late
for her graduate class.
she returns home, she stops in front of the door in the hallway,
there’s a small brown package sitting idly before her feet, her name
scratched on the surface with ballpoint neatly.
She sets her belongings down at coffee table and unwraps the brown parchment paper, there’s a small note inside.
you for last night, it was rather unbecoming of me. I’ve gotten you
something in case any more drunk, strange men pass by your door in the
middle of the night. I’ve also left my number, so please, call me if it
does happen. You never know when your altruism can be misplaced.
Also, call me Booker, not Mr. DeWitt.
Also, call me for anything really.
opens the box, and inside is a small canister of mace and a small
pocket knife. She can’t help but laugh warmly at the gesture, while
rummaging through her purse for her phone.