Whitley and I are living part time in California while we help produce the motion picture of his book The Grays. We’re renting an apartment in a nice old building owned by a nice old couple who bought it half a century ago. It’s a small building with only 10 apartments, so I’ve gotten to know everyone in it, at least to say “hi” to. I also regularly greet the people living in the building across from us. Los Angeles is a much friendlier place than it’s given credit for being.
This building is like a small town. The last time I lived in a situation like this was when we owned an apartment in a small building in New York City–but this was a nasty, gossipy place, where everyone was always sniping at one another. I remember one time when I accepted a UPS package for a neighbor, then left a note on her door. When she came home, she thanked me for the favor, then asked, “What I can do for you in exchange?”
The atmosphere in the building had gotten so bad that I blurted out, “Please tell the other people in the building that I?m a NICE person!” The words were out of my mouth before I realized what I’d said, and I could tell she was surprised, since she had expected me to ask her to water our plants or something like that, but she agreed to do it and things were a little better afterwards.
The other day, we had a plumbing problem in our California apartment that was causing problems for the people below us, so the landlord came up and stayed while the plumber tried to figure out what was going on. We had a nice chat and I used the opportunity to find out about some of the other tenants in the building.
I learned that a very friendly retired military man who lives on the first floor moved in when he took a job caring for an old and infirm old lady who lived there, then kept the apartment after she died. The landlord told me that he now lives alone.
This surprised me, because between Whitley and myself, we have seen two other people living there. I think I have seen the past and that Whitley has seen a ghost.
When we first moved in, Whitley remarked to me that he had seen an elderly lady in a wheelchair sitting in the open doorway of that apartment. But the landlord told me that the old lady who had lived there died many years ago. Since Whitley often sees the dead, this shouldn’t surprise me.
This man gets a reduced rent from having been in the military and he voluntarily does chores around the building, such as sweeping the public areas and watering plants, probably to make up for this. I often hear his broom whisking along the sidewalk when I make breakfast in the morning.
Twice I’ve seen a young man leaving the apartment. I’ve even spoken to him. He resembles the military man, so I assumed it was his son who was visiting him. But now I’ve discovered that the man doesn’t HAVE a son. And I’ve never seen the two of them together.
Is this my friend as a young man? When I see the younger version of him, have I gone back in time, or has he–or have we both? The building is old enough so that IT wouldn’t look any different.
I have a feeling I’ll never know the answer to this question, unless I can work up the nerve to ask the “young” version some rather stupid-sounding questions, the next time I see him. Or maybe I should just tell the older version that he was very handsome when he was young. I know that will please him.
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