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Habit



By: Amy Li


The couple upstairs goes to the balcony, to water their only plant, a near dying rose bush. The type of shriveling up plant that was even more pathetic looking than simply an empty pot.


The dog from the apartment right across starts barking loudly, breaking the peaceful chattering of voices and trickling water from above. The owner is sitting on the couch, with a bedhead and a mind too oblivious to attend to the clamor. The family next door to the dog complains about the noise, between cries of children (and pacifiers spat out quickly after being shoved in).


The Old Lady with the hearing aid, from downstairs, starts playing a very out-of-tune Claire de lune.


The college student living to the right opened her computer, and closed the window to isolate herself from the pleasant morning air.


Nobody lived in the apartment in the middle, though. If there was, the people thought, we would have at least seen them once a day.


And the neighbors did not care. And so they continued with their days, eating lunch at 12:00, dinner at 7:30, and then lights go out at exactly 9:00. There it was — perfectly normal. A schedule that occupied them enough to not go check on the dusty, faded blue door, with cracks running down the frame and creaky, rusty hinges.


Then one morning, like any other morning, when the dog right across was barking again, the owner saw something unusual. There it was, right across from the balcony window, the other apartment had its long drawn-shut curtains flung wide-open, and in the corner peeked a bright blue suitcase.


The occupant that filled up the vacant house had arrived, and the neighbors were not happy with her. She was bright, too bright, and too unpredictable. It is an outrage, they exclaimed, that the girl would be singing one afternoon, and be found strolling in the park the next. The neighbors also made it clear they wanted nothing to do with the girl with the light blue suitcase.


She, however, take it upon herself to mingle with the neighbors. She gifted the couple upstairs with new rose bushes. She gave the dog toys, to distract him from barking, and the babies next door quieted down. She taught the old lady downstairs Moonlight Sonata. Under her encouragement, the college student reluctantly started to play tennis, and quickly grew to like it.


Another day, the owner of the dog found something unusual. The clean balcony from across was clear of all fanciful bird cages. The blinds were drawn shut.


The old lady from downstairs, who was bringing fruit cake over to the young couple, noticed that the blue door next to her destination was once again dusty, and no welcome mat decorated the front. Out of curiosity, she peaked through the little cracks in the door. It was bare, as though the girl was never there.



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