In general, stairwells tend to be the black sheep of a building, especially in a condominium. A meticulous amount of detail is dedicated to many interior portions of a building: the lobby, the elevator, the hallways, the apartments themselves. When a real estate agent guides a young couple through a building, the agent is more than happy to show them each of the previously mentioned areas…but rarely will an agent take these hopeful purchasers through the stairwell. Typically built with lesser materials, the stairwell is a neglected branch in terms of basic maintenance and care, much like a derelict grandfather that’s been stuffed into a backroom amid soiled diapers and unwashed dentures. Its dingy floors and poor illumination invite the visits of those who seek the comfort of shadows, like lazy addicts who seek quick relief from a smoke. Even though our condo building had hatched only a few months ago, our stairwell was already beginning to emerge from its pupation stage, with faint nicotine stains on the wall and dehydrated stains of unrecognizable goop on the steps. It certainly wasn’t the kind of environment that would entice anyone to strip down and physically bond with it …which made it all the more confusing why a young woman would decide to strip naked and place her ass on what could only be described as a petri dish.
Yet there she was on the stairwell perpendicular to me, with legs bunched tight and crossed arms. Even though a part of her face was shadowed by her disheveled blonde hair, I thought that I could make out a mark on her cheek. With her visage now turned towards me, she gave me a truly malevolent glance, blue eyes piercing through running mascara; it didn’t help that the pervasive fluorescent lighting gave her white skin a ghastly sheen. In that moment, I never felt more that I should have a nazar on my person, as protection from her potentially arcane scorn. In fact, based on her scrutiny, you would have thought that I had done something truly egregious by walking into the stairwell; it seemed like the kind of expression that a woman would reserve for a pervert caught in her bedroom, donning her panties on his head. In an state of shock, I reached up to touch my crown. Nope…not guilty.
Squinting with hatred, she repeated her last statement in a slur of increased exacerbation, adding a snarl for emphasis. “What do you want? Can’t you see that I’m busy? Well…what are you waiting for?!? Get the fuck out of here!”
My mind, under more normal circumstances, would have been able to process such events with a bit more alacrity. However, given the hour and my frazzled mood due to our leaking windows, being ridiculed by a nude angry woman tipped the scales of my fragile state; consequently, my usual articulate self evaporated as my brain blew a fuse. Instead of inquiring any further, I simply whispered a meager sorry, accepted my banishment with my tail between my legs, and closed the door to the stairwell with all the poise of a gloved museum curator. Only after taking a few steps back from the door did my psyche eventually regain some sense of itself. Wait a minute…you can’t just leave her in there. What if she’s a rape victim? What if she needs help? What if she’s delusional from intoxication and despair? Coming to grips with the situation, I decided that I might need a little help with this one, and I hurriedly walked back into my apartment nearby. As I entered my abode once more, Rhonda was busily placing the needed towels along the window sill and along the floor. Hearing the door open, she turned towards me with a questioning look, furrowing her brow at the garbage bag still in my hand.
“What’s happened?” she asked, studying my face.
“I just ran,” I began, “into a naked chick sitting in the stairwell.”
Rhonda stared back at me with skeptical incredulity. “You know, if you don’t really want to take the trash down, just say so…”
“I’m serious! She’s just sitting there, with running mascara! I think that she might be some sort of rape victim! Go grab a Bible and I’ll swear on it!”
“But we’re atheists,” Rhonda reminded, “And we don’t have any Bibles lying around.”
Exasperated, I tossed the garbage bag to the side as my hands tried to do the talking for me. “Okay, go get your Kindle, and I’ll download it. Or download something that you care about, like Twilight…”
“I don’t think that it counts on the electronic version of a book…” Rhonda commented.
I didn’t pay any attention to her interruption. “…and I’ll swear on that! Just come with me and see! I’m not fucking around!”
At this point, I could tell that she was starting to reluctantly take my word for the truth, despite the compulsion to dismiss me. She turned away from the window in order to face me. “You’re not joking? There’s a naked woman in the stairwell who’s crying?”
“Yes! That’s what I’m saying. I think that she has a black eye. I’d go to her, but if she’s been assaulted or raped, she probably doesn’t want to talk to a dude. She certainly didn’t want to talk to me! So, please, come out there with me.”
With a heavy sigh, Rhonda capitulated with only an indication of shrugged shoulders. “Okay, I’ll come…but you better not be fucking with me! And if that chick is actually out there, she’s probably some dumb slut who picked up the wrong dude at a bar…and even though I’ll help her, I’m going to give her such shit…”
“Okay, whatever,” I replied, “Let’s just help out. Come on!”
After quickly throwing on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, Rhonda joined me at the front door, and together, we creeped down the hallway towards the stairwell. Hmmm…maybe I should have also put on some real clothes instead of these pajamas, I thought to myself. After all, I wouldn’t want to disappoint all of my fans. I momentarily chuckled at the thought as we reached the stairwell’s heavy door. Rhonda looked back at me for verification, motioning towards it with one hand. I nodded, and with a loud thud from the door handle’s torque, she yanked it open.
Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.