She was unloading the groceries from the car when she saw him come out of his apartment. Her husband was at work, and it was a sunny winter day. He came out with a big blue hamper full of clothes, locked his door and came down the stairs. He didn’t say anything to her or look at her.

There was snow all over the parking lot like ice cream. It had snowed a lot the previous day. You couldn’t see more than ten feet in front of you. She’d driven home from her parents’ house and what normally took an hour took almost two.

She kept unloading the groceries, bag after bag hung on her arm — she could get all of them in one trip, she was sure of it — as he went to his car, which was parked next to hers.

— — — — — — — — — — — —

He was taking the laundry out when he saw her. She didn’t look at him and seemed nervous that he was there. He did his best to not look at her, to show her that he wasn’t interested, that he wasn’t going to hurt her. People were so jittery and untrusting of each other these days.

He juggled the full laundry hamper with a jug of detergent on top, struggling to get his keys out of his jacket pocket. He didn’t want any of his clothes to fall in the snow. He finally did it by balancing the hamper against the car and clicking the key fab with his free hand.

His shoes sank in the four inches of snow. The parking lot was all melting patches of thick snow like ice cream. He’d driven home from a recording session the day before and what normally had taken forty minutes took an hour and a half. He’d taken all night to go to sleep, tossing and turning.

He got the laundry basket in the back seat, got in and pulled away.

— — — — — — — — — -

She went inside and put the groceries away. She was texting her husband when she noticed her sunglasses were gone.

She checked all over their apartment before going back outside and retracing her steps. There they were, on the sidewalk. She went outside and got the sunglasses off the sidewalk. Just as her fingers touched the sunglasses, she heard a car pull around the corner and into a parking spot right in front of her. She looked up, and it was the upstairs guy.

— — — — — — — — — —

He had put his laundry in the washer at the laudnromat and was pulling into a parking spot when he saw the young women come back out and grab some sunglasses off the sidewalk.

“Goddamn it,” he thought. “Now I have to act unthreatening again.”

He’d seen the young couple many times, even spoken to them once when his internet went out and he went downstairs and knocked on their door to see if theirs was out, too. (It wasn’t) But he’d seen them since then and neither of them had said hi or interacted with him and they’d even seemed rather scared of him — he was a big, average-looking guy who didn’t smile much. So he could understand why people would be intimidated or averse to his presence. He did his best to stay out of people’s way.

He put the car in park and waited for the woman to go inside.

— — — — — — — — — -

Her sunglasses retrieved, she was about to go back inside. The guy was waiting in his car behind her. She could see him on his phone.

The sidewalk was icy. There was a bucket of salt on the stairs left by maintenance. There was a silver scoop in the bucket and she took it out and started salting the sidewalk.

She’d never talked to him at all. He’d come downstairs once and talked to her husband about the Internet, but that was it. He never said hi, never said anything, just kind of had this vaguely angry looking on his face. None of the other neighbors said they’d talked to him much either.

“He keeps to himself,” they all said.

— — — — — — — — — —

The woman was salting the sidewalk with the scoop from the blue bucket at the bottom of the stairs.

“Fuck it,” he thought. “I’ll just walk right past her. She won’t mind.”

The guy got out of his car and walked up the sidewalk. She didn’t look at him. He did his best to make himself small and unthreatening, again. He looked at the ground and kept his hands at his sides.

— — — — — — — — -

The guy got out his car and walked toward her as she scooped another handful of salt from the bucket and spread it on the ice. He was looking at the ground and not saying anything.

She decided to say hi to him.

“Hi,” she said in a small voice as he got close.

— — — — — — — — — — — — —

“Excuse me,” he said without looking at her. As he passed, he thought she might’ve said, “Hi” in a quiet, small voice but he said “Excuse me.” at the same time so he couldn’t be sure.

Too late now anyway. The moment had passed.

He tromped up the stairs and into his apartment, took off his shoes and hat and sat on the couch on Reddit, waiting for his laundry to be done.

— — — — — — —

He’d grunted, “Excuse me”, as he walked past her. He smelled like the laundromat. Had he heard her say “Hi”? Maybe. But if he had, he hadn’t responded or even looked at her. It was like he didn’t want her there.

She sighed and put the scoop back in the bucket and went back into her apartment. Her husband would be home at any minute.