Last night, the woman who lives
upstairs, and who I love, interrupted my painting. When I heard her
knocking, I set my palette on the chair, Just a minute, I exclaimed, just a
She was in her robe and
looked very tired as she stood at my door.
Can we have a word, she said.
Certainly, I mean, yes.
She must have known how nervous I was,
because I did not open the door very far.
She kept leaning to one side, peering in to
my small room.
It smells like soot upstairs, she said.
I donít smell it, I said.
I talked to the landlord and he said this
is a non-smoking building.
Oh, yes, I said, but smoking is such a
Iím not asking you to quit smoking.
Thanks goodness, that would be such a
difficult thing, I said.
Did you know I am pregnant?
No, I didnít.
Well I am, and itís not easy being pregnant
Look, I said, I keep the windows open all
night. I have two and they are fully open.
Your smoke must be traveling through your
ceiling and my floor and Iím pregnant and itís making me sick to my stomach
and I canít keep up with the ash. Itís everywhere.
I donít think my smoke could travel through
the ceiling, and the floor is not that flimsy. This is a very high ceiling,
and the spiders donít mind it. They even have a fair chance with all the
smoking I do in here.
You must have something wrong with your
mind, she said. The ceiling is very flimsy and low.
Itís not that flimsy, I said, and it is
Flimsy and low, she said. Low, because I
And it is high because I say so.
It is low, she said.
It is high, I said.
Brian, upstairs, smokes too, and this is a
She craned her neck to see what it was that
I was doing in my room. Then I watched her turn and slowly ascend the
The landlord, I piped, told me he would not
enforce such a rule.
Did he say that? She asked, glancing down.
I closed my door and stuffed a towel in the
jam where a little smoke may have escaped. Then I picked up my palette and
looked up at the ceiling Ė the underside of her dining room table, the nylon
buttons of chair legs, and her tough little corns. I scratched my head and
thought about how we never talk anymore. How we never talk. With my brush I
began to tickle her feet.