Past This Point
I started at Kirk’s apartment since it was across the hall from mine. In spite of the proximity of our apartments, I rarely saw Kirk. He was a quiet man who usually just nodded to me and only became garrulous when talking about renovations to his apartment. I pulled the collar of my sweatshirt up over my face and knocked softly. After a few seconds, I knocked again, louder. I pressed my ear to the door, but all I heard was a vehicle racing down our street.
I walked down one flight and knocked on the door of apartment four, which was directly beneath mine. I often speculated about the resident, middle-aged Tom, who had an impressive handlebar mustache, and his mysterious movements. I only saw him once every other month or so, and a few times, he had been with younger women. He always wore a suit, so I imagined he was a traveling salesman. But I also thought he could be married and using the small apartment as his love nest. I knocked and listened. No answer. I wondered if he was away on a sales trip and had managed to avoid the whole debacle.
I walked the few feet to apartment five, where a gay couple lived. Out of everyone, I’d chatted with Terrence and Eric the most over the years, but I hadn’t seen either of them in at least a month because they had a condo in Florida where they spent most of the winter months. I knocked four separate times, waiting for an answer and hoping I wasn’t completely alone. But my knocks went unanswered.
I ran down to the second floor and knocked at apartment two, where a single woman named Barb lived. When there was no answer, I put my ear against the door. The low sounds of a TV resonated through the door. Barb coughed, and I jumped back quickly, my back hitting the door of apartment three. My heart was beating as quickly as a bird caged in my chest. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. Turning around, I knocked loudly on Kelly’s door, not expecting an answer. After my expectations proved correct, I went down to the solitary first-floor apartment, which belonged to Mr. Tablock. He was over eighty years old and had lived in the building for forty years. I’d seen his live-in Haitian nurse, Regine, in the hallway from time to time, taking out the trash. I used to ask her how he was doing, but her response was always the same: “He’s getting old, but he’s got spunk.” I stopped asking and just said hello. I pounded on the door, praying Regine and Mr. Tablock were still there and not sick. But all was quiet. Besides infected Barb, I was alone.