11,041 vagabonds plus:
The writer down the hall is dead. He died peacefully in his sleep. I don't believe he would've written his obit as tame. It's buried among his papers, he kept everything, and tonight I'll jimmy the crumbling deadbolt and search with a flashlight. I know he wrote his own death notice because as I sipped coffee one evening in his apartment kidding him to teach me everything about writing I laughingly asked him to write mine. He rolled in a clean sheet and stone-faced typed one line, folded it quickly and shoved it over in a locked tray of his splintered roll top desk.
I thought he had died another day. Normally there was the clockwork sound of the typewriter pounding, floating easily through the cardboard plaster walls sporadically in the night, and if I slept on my left side facing the window that beautiful typing calmed my heart before dawn as rhythmic as a twittering Carolina Wren.
One morning was silent except for clock-less garbage men and I tossed restlessly, then sat disheveled on the edge of the bed with bowed head, reading the upside down Hanes on my briefs, hearing only my heart beat. I pulled on my jeans, combed my hair with clumsy fingers and went three doors down, listening first, then knocking lightly.
A graveled but cheerful voice bellowed his signature 'Enter!'. There was a box and bubble-wrap strewn and a shiny new laptop upon his small round cherry table. He followed my eyes, smiled and nodded. 'Mr. Underwood is no more, my friend, buried in the backyard'.
'I'll never sleep again,' I replied after some time.
'Then I'll warble sea shanty lullabies occasionally'.
And he unsuccessfully cleared his throat, began to hum instead(my cue to leave him the hell alone), turned his back bowing to the flat keyboard, writing about love for the loveless or perhaps a vignette of a babe with a babe of her own.
Wide awake at three A.M., I donned a black knit cap like a thief from every thieving movie ever made, opened the unlocked door finding a hollow shell. Either slobbering relatives or publishing vulture vandals took orange crates of archival loose leaf, the round table, the roll top desk, leaving only the bubble wrap. In the weak beam of my torch it looked like foam bubbling along the edge of the water, walking distance to a silent spot where magpies traverse in the shade of overhanging willows where The Writer looks over my shoulder humming as I write pencil to yellow paper about babes with babes of their own until reflected white clouds on the water disappear.
House At Dusk (1935)
~ Edward Hopper
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