She arrives silently without the standard accoutrements. No boxes, no overbearing parents, no man with a van.
Is she an exhibitionist or simply careless? She strolls from the bedroom to the kitchen and his eyes follow the movement from one set of bay windows to the next. If she glanced outside would she give a horrified little gasp or a slow, appreciative smile?
Her nudity is frequent, reliable. Like dawn and dusk it comes and goes, ebbs and flows. A day or two might yawn and stretch by but then she reappears, taking delicate bites out of an apple, perched on one foot like a bird, the other resting against a creamy, slender calf.
She’s at ease with her flesh in a way he hasn’t seen before, except in the movies. It’s not even a great body, he reasons. Her shoulders slope forward a little. Her stomach lacks definition. And yet.
The previous tenant resembled Santa Claus. An infirm, depressed, fully clothed Santa, whose days of joviality and sliding-down-the-chimney-chute were long gone.
After he died the apartment was empty for five months. Adam’s not sure why. Brooklyn housing doesn’t work that way.
“Win the lottery?”
Gloria’s an aggressive conversationalist.
“Win the lottery?” she repeats, louder this time with a hint of impatience.
She talks too much. She remembers birthdays though, which makes her a popular colleague. Always looking for her next slice of cake, Adam thinks cynically.
People tiptoe around the matter of her weight. They comment on her size in other ways: Oh Gloria? She’s got a huge heart! She’s got a big personality! She’s larger than life!
“You seem perkier,” Gloria says in a suspicious tone as she files her nails. “There’s a glint in your eye, a spring in your step.”
I have a muse, he wants to blurt out.
The rising sun filters through her curtain-less windows, setting the minimalist apartment ablaze. She’s eating string cheese on an airbed. The airbed, like her, like her apartment, remains unclothed.
Cheese could indicate a bucolic youth in Vermont. Maybe she was raised on milk and cream and sonnets and wholesome family fun? He writes a poem about her frolicking in a rolling meadow next to a water mill. For some reason she’s wearing one of those long nineteenth century frocks. Annoyingly nothing seems to rhyme with the line he’s proudest of: the wisp of pubic hair that escapeth not my slumbers.
“Oh god,” his wife gasps.
He knows what’s coming.
“There’s a new neighbor across the street and look! She’s naked!”
He lowers the paper, preparing to look shocked.
It doesn’t occur to him that she’s a squatter. Not until after they meet. It unfurls rapidly, diabolically; the eviction notices, the cop visits, the landlord screaming up to a faceless window.
He’s hungover when they meet. The previous night he drank heavily with a friend who told him, five beers deep, that Adam’s poetry sucks, like really sucks, and he should stick to accountancy.
His dog’s urinating. She walks past and says she loves Jack Russells. His breath quickens as though meeting a famous person. She didn’t grow up in Vermont. This is his first thought.
They always say that celebrities are shorter in real life. Her features are tighter than he imagined, harder somehow. Her eyes are bloodshot. He can see all the way into her mouth as she talks, the way a dentist might. Some teeth are missing. The rest are yellow, the color of yolks dancing in a bowl. She smells of damp and neglect.
It never occurred to him that fully clothed she’d be more exposed than ever. The dog continues to piss on the street. Some of it trickles beneath his left shoe.