In Restless Walks
He knew even before the key reached the lock that she was inside, some premonitory hum in the air, and though he was usually quick to dismiss such notions, her presence as a fact settled easily among the others and he felt no surprise. He probably knew as soon as he stepped off of the elevator, without knowing it, and she seeped beneath the door and filled the hallway, and his blood hummed with each step until he reached for the knob and knew somehow exactly what he would see when the hinges creaked and the slab of steel swung open and into the kitchen, the counter usually destitute but now covered in life, and there she had laid herself beyond all she brought with her, nestled on the couch that served as his bed and completely at peace in sleep.
Because he had known she would be there, he took vain precaution to keep the rusty hinges silent when he pushed his way inside, and stepped gingerly across the landing to slip out of his boots and shed the soaking skin of his coat. And because he had no idea she would be there, he hadn’t stocked the cabinets or gotten extra wood, or washed the sheets or towels or organized the papers that were normally strewn about the single room. And yet he returned that night to a studio so very much alive, with market bags near the sink, all knickknacks stacked neatly and a full fire in the woodstove keeping at bay any sign of winter. He came in from the cold and yet he emerged, into a home that was more hers than it could have ever been his own.
He felt no surprise because she was always anywhere that she chose, and he knew that she knew that brief respite could always be found in this square cavern of an apartment, and that she was always welcome, though welcome was never something with which she needed to be concerned, and the doors along her life’s avenues never turned her away. He wouldn’t question from where she had come, or for how long she would stay, or from where she had stolen such time and energy to turn the pallor of what was to him a simple shield against the elements into a cozy recess of herself. There would be no good answer, were he to ask. He had begun to suspect over time that each instance of her appearance carried with it no premeditation, that her worn soles did not bring her past the bodega on the corner where the whole neighborhood bought food and fuel, that she spent no precious minutes tidying the mess that was his work, and that the slender strength of her matchstick fingers never stacked a single cord. He never imagined her travel at all, and could tell that it was more like a will that she exerted upon her own physical form, her inhabiting one space or another, and that when she desired his company it all just was, her head upon clean pillows, the room exactly as she wished.
The scrawled list of things he needed to do that week still lay upon the counter where he had left it that morning, and he folded it neatly in half and tucked it quietly into his pocket, where it would stay for however long it needed to. It had nothing that important to say, nothing that couldn’t wait. She was home again, of her own volition, and he felt happy, and accepting, and if her various and random arrivals incited in him any displeasure it was only the passing wonder of how at home she could ever really be, anywhere. If she would ever truly feel rooted the way he never had, the way that some part of both of them ached for but could not seem to discover. Maybe not, but she felt comfortable here, and safe, and if that was all he could offer her then she would have it.