We moved into our apartment on a cold, windy April day. April Fool’s Day, actually. Susan and I didn’t know many people in town and we were looking forward to making new friends. As the movers struggled to get the bed and sofa up the narrow stairs, I looked out the tiny window in our kitchen. The view was of a small parking area surrounded by shrubs and bamboo. Across the driveway was another apartment building. Someone had a covered patio on the second floor that had a table and chairs and several large flower boxes along the edge that faced the driveway. I could see small plants sticking out of the boxes. “Hey, do you have enough money to tip these guys?” Susan asked.
It takes a while to settle into a new place when you move. The way you think furniture is going to work within a space isn’t usually how it ends up, so we spent a lot of time rearranging. We finally decided we were happy (for now) on where everything was and we would just live with it (for now).
I was meeting people at work, but it was on a professional basis and Susan was writing again, which means she spent a great deal of time by herself. We would cook dinner, have some wine and talk about what we did that day. Susan told me of the progress on her book and how she hoped to wrap it up by the end of the year. I told her stories about my boss and colleagues at the investment firm. We are settling in, we would say, finding our place here.
Warmer weather and longer days had come as we approached Memorial Day. Every morning when I got up, I would look out the kitchen window at the flower boxes. By now, the plants had grown and I could see buds appearing. The promise of summertime flowers.
One day, Susan called me into the kitchen as soon as I got home. “Hey, look at this,” she said. Across the driveway, a woman was weeding and watering the flowers in the flower boxes. She had on a light colored, flowing dress and her long hair would spill over as she tended to her plants. Behind her, I could see two place settings on the table with candles and a small bouquet of flowers. A date?
As we were cooking our dinner, a car we hadn’t seen before, a grey BMW, slowly pulled down the driveway and parked awkwardly on one side of the parking area.
As Susan finished sautéing the salmon, a man with a bottle of wine in his hand carefully made his way toward the balcony, unsure of where to go. Our neighbor appeared, greeted him and asked him in.
We ate our dinner and after the last sips of wine, decided to take a walk through town. It was still warm out with almost no breeze. A perfect evening. As we made our way back up to our place, we heard talking and laughing. We went into our kitchen and took a peek out the window. The date was going well. The candles were flickering, the wine was flowing. But before we went to bed, the BMW started, and the man was gone.»
For the next few Saturday nights, this pattern continued. Spring had given way to summer and the flowers in the boxes were now in full bloom. The colors were spectacular and our neighbor made sure her plants were well cared for. Then I woke up early one Sunday morning in July. I thought I heard a noise outside and took a look out of the kitchen. A dog was digging around in the bamboo. After giving up chasing whatever he was chasing, the dog lifted his leg on the tire of the not-so-awkwardly parked grey BMW.
Later that morning, I told Susan that BMW guy had spent the night. “Good for her”, Susan said. “Good for him”, I said. We decided that we would get to know our neighbor a little. I am constantly amazed at how much information Susan can come back with after what always seems to me to be the most idle of chats. Later that week came the report: her name is Pamela, she is about our age, she works at the jewelry store in town, she likes classical music, she moved here 12 years ago and is, or maybe was, single.
August was hot. Early, before the heat of the day would melt everything and everyone, I would go for a run on the beach. On my way out, I would admire the flowers in the boxes, standing bright and colorful, hopeful before another day of baking in the sun.
Cool evenings became the norm as fall pushed summer into the past. The days got shorter. Susan’s book was almost on schedule and the editors at the publishing company were pleased with the progress. For me, it was business as usual. Markets go up and markets go down. There is opportunity in both.
Pamela and BMW guy were together every weekend. While Susan and I cooked and ate in our apartment, they would sit out on the patio, even when it got chilly, late into the night, talking and sipping wine. Good for them.
Then, for several weekends, there were no late evening conversations, no sipping of wine on the patio. Maybe BMW guy was away on business. Then, he was back for a weekend.
We were expected to get a cold snap in the last week of October. Pamela had, in the past covered her plants with a plastic cover to protect them from the cold. I was surprised at how well it worked. The flowers were still beautiful. Then, one weekend, we had a storm. The temperature dropped to freezing and the wind blew 40 miles per hour. The plastic got blown off of the flower boxes. The next day, the sun came out, but the temperature struggled to get into the 30’s.
After a couple of days, it was obvious that the flowers had died from exposure to the wind and cold. We never saw the grey BMW again.