michael h. stewart | Stories

Like Dancing

I do not let even my imaginings move too far from possibility. So, I imagine her as flat-faced with calloused heels and the too sharp smell of cheap perfumes.

When she showers it is like the shifting of too many pebbles. Her feet pooling in that sound.

Her breakfast is odorless, but occasionally the heavy smell of her dinner makes its way down.

Sometimes in the street I pick out some woman and tell myself, This is her. And I repeat that and build up the certainty until my eyes water.

She does not have visitors. Or, if she does, she must make them walk barefooted, they must come through the window or I would hear them winding up the stairs. She must walk them on a perfect path which misses every bend in her floor, because I never hear a creaking that goes unaccounted.

I go to absurd lengths. I make no sound greater than the harsh clicking of the lamp. I avoid food in wrappers—I eat mostly pale foods: bread, yogurt and sometimes oranges.

In the morning there is the sharp morse code of her heels. Which is why I first noticed her. The sound makes exact paths along my ceiling. My furniture—what little of it there is—is arranged just for this, so that no path is blocked. And I walk under her, following her line to the kitchen, her movement to the closet. In time with her, but separated by ten tall feet.