It was so faint, I was sure I must have imagined then knock — on a neighbor's door? — so I didn't bother putting pants on, but just in case, I crossed the apartment to answer it, in my writing uniform, comfy boxer briefs, black gym socks and crocs. He was there.
It was a timid neighbor, new to the building, at his wit's end with the century-old plumbing, ready to smash his radiator or pay someone to do it and buy some upgrade. He had seen a radiator on the staircase, a strange sight, mismatched it to my place and came seeking advice.
(It only occurred to me later that that was a week ago — had he been summoning the nerve to tap so lightly all this time? (Or maybe he had just missed me, as I tend to be home only 22 hours a day.)
He was taken aback by my outfit, and I apologized, but plunged ahead--he was a guy, and he'd seen it, and big deal, I thought it would pass, but it got worse. I suggested he call the rental office and they'd send a plumber to drain it, but he insisted they never answered. Odd. They took my calls.
I ran to fetch my phone to check the number, invited him in over my shoulder, returning moments later expecting him in my living room, found him still in the hall, almost defiantly now, or perhaps just at the ready, the 9-1 already punched out, thumb hovering over the final 1. That radiator must really been driving him batty to stand up to his fears.
I don't expect to see him here much longer. Pre-war buildings might be too much for him, or maybe Hell's Kitchen, maybe New York. It's not for everyone. I'm not for everyone.