Fiction: Totally Plausible Ways I Could Talk To The Girl Who Lives In My Building

I present the latest in my irregular series “Rejected by McSweeney’s.” A work of fiction.

Totally Plausible Ways I Could Talk To The Girl Who Lives In My Building

1. She is coming in from walking her dog, the leash in one hand and a bag of groceries in the other. I hold the door open for her. She says “thanks.” A conversation starts, perhaps about the dog, perhaps about the groceries (“just out buying dog food?”, etc).

2. The water is off in the building while some sort of repair is being done. While in the courtyard tending to my herb garden, through her apartment’s open window I hear her mutter to herself that she is thirsty. I stand up so that she notices me through the window, then jokingly hold up my watering can and indicate that I have water left in there, if she really wants some. I indicate that this is a joke, but add that I have bottles of water in my apartment.

3. I am checking my car’s oil in the parking garage. She sees me under the hood and, figuring me for the mechanical type, asks a question about a “kind of intermittent rattle or squeak” emanating from near the front left wheel of her 1997 Honda Prelude. I have noticed this squeak before, so I have previously consulted Wikipedia and several auto forums, and can confidently recommend that she get her control arm bushings checked out, or it could be a wheel bearing.

4. I see her at the farmers’ market. She makes eye contact without recognizing who I am, so I freeze and say nothing. She buys some rhubarb and chard, and I buy the same without knowing what either tastes like or what I would use it for. I casually mention to the seller how convenient the market is, considering that I live just down the street in the white building. At this, the girl turns and recognizes me. I pretend to recognize her for the first time as well, and we both laugh.

5. Across the street, a car catches fire. Neighbors gather on the sidewalk to watch the fire trucks arrive. She comes out onto her patio, asks what happened, and I explain. I then ask if she would like to review video of the fire that I captured on my phone, and walk over to her patio. Once there, I comment on her barbecue grill. I mention that I have an extra propane tank that I will never get around to using, and ask if she wants it. From here we discuss the merits of propane vs. charcoal grilling. She doesn’t seem too interested, but I have read about it on Wikipedia beforehand so I have lots of factoids that keep the conversation moving.

6. A drive-by shooting occurs in our neighborhood. I see her walking down the sidewalk with her dog, see the gangbangers’ car approaching with its headlights off, see their intended target, do mental geometry, and realize that she is likely to be struck by stray shots. I vault over my patio railing and knock her to the ground, just as bullets rip through the air where she just was. She drops the dog’s leash, but I quickly snag it with my free hand to prevent the dog from running into traffic. She is scared and thankful, but I am simply grateful that she is all right. The gangbangers speed off, so unnerved by my sudden action that they also missed their intended target.

7. The national economy collapses, and riots break out nationwide. I have stockpiled weapons and provisions in my apartment. I invite her to stay with me until it all calms down. Faced with the prospect of otherwise having to eat her dog, she moves in and I teach her how to shoot a Sig Sauer P226.

8. She becomes President of the United States. Reporters eager to dig up dirt on her past knock on my door. I lie to get onto television, but once the cameras roll I say only nice things. Impressed with my bold stand, she appoints me her Chief of Staff, and from then on we speak practically daily.

9. I get into a revert war with another Wikipedian regarding the prose style of the article on Railway Stations of New Jersey. During heated discussion on the talk page, the other editor uses the term “cockadilly nonsense,” which I have only ever heard before with my ear pressed against my apartment wall, attempting to overhear her telephone conversations. I immediately rush outside, knock on her door, and when she answers, dressed like me in animal-spangled pajama pants, I whisper “This is a stupid thing to fight about.” After we make love, she concedes that I was correct that the article suffered from a critical lack of encyclopedic tone.