April 29, 2002

Silence

The buzzer in my building works by radio signal. When someone pushes the button, it sends a signal to the receiver in my apartment, which produces a buzzing sound. Unfortunately the people in the next building have the same system, so whenever someone buzzes their door, it rings in my apartment as well. Since I receive so few visitors, I usually assume the buzzer is for them and ignore it.

The only exceptions are when I’m expecting a delivery or when, in the past, I expected a visit from my now ex-girlfriend. When it was her, she would let herself in with the key she still has and I would go out in the hall and wait for her at the top of the stairs.

I liked doing that. I could hear her steps as she approached. When she made the turn one floor below, I would lean over the rail and say, “Hi, sweetie,” and then she would pause and look up and say, “Hi, sweetie” back.

When the buzzer buzzed just now, I imagined it was her and that she somehow knew that I had cried in the shower and that I’d written a haiku for her (for the first five months of our relationship, I wrote a haiku for her each day), and so I hurried into the hall and stood at the top of the stairs and listened for her footsteps.

The stairs were filled with silence. I waited a long time, telling myself that perhaps she standing on the first stair, paralyzed with fear. It was so quiet that I imagined that I would be able to hear her breathing, assuming she was down there. But she wasn’t. I know this for certain because I finally went down and looked. She wasn’t there. I knew this before I went, but I went anyway.

When I returned to my apartment, I disconnected the buzzer.