The buzzer at two:thirty in the morning, a brief sound, then a longer, more insistent beep, as grating to the ear as that alarm clock you meant to turn off, but didn’t. There is a wind storm outside, huge, tossing, beyond chilly. November brought snow once already. I decide to ignore the buzzer. It is likely, as it often is this time of night, for one of my more illicit neighbors. A junkie hitting the wrong button, someone drunk maybe, wanting to get in from the cold. I decide to leave it, but then it comes again, irritating. Deliberate. A voice calls from outside, but the weather tears it away. Defeated, I put on my permanently borrowed hoodie, draw up the zipper, and step out to the hallway in my stocking feet to go downstairs, too tired to puzzle out who it might be, too awake to simply let the stranger in.
It isn’t a stranger, but it is, in a way. Someone who used to be a friend, though not anymore. Hasn’t been for years. “Hey Jhayne!” He’s almost shouting through the glass, over the wind, weirdly cheerful. He must be freezing. “Do you recognize me?” He takes off his ball-cap and runs a hand through newly cut hair. “Hello, K-. Yes. It’s quite late. What’s up?” The last time I saw him it was difficult to get him out of the apartment. It was exceedingly uncomfortable. I had to involve a knife. He talks through the glass door, motioning for me to open it, but I shake my head no. That seems like it would be a stupid decision. He’s bigger than me, I’m tired, and he has a bicycle. As if to prove my point, he launches immediately into a well known scam, twenty dollars for gas for some guy he met down the street, sketchy details and a giant smile, as if it isn’t the middle of the night, as if the storm were instead a sunny, summer afternoon, as casual as butter. I gesture, dismissing the patter, “I’m going back to bed K-.” His grin becomes manic as he sees me begin to step away. He talks faster and faster. “But, do you have twenty dollars?” “No, I don’t. We barely have bus-fare. You still owe me rent. This isn’t a place for you to ask for help anymore.”
For a very brief moment he almost looks like he used to, before the drugs ate him up from the inside out, cracked the inside of his mind, and I raise my hand against the glass, like visiting a zoo exhibit, a glimpse into the past, and he puts his fingers against mine. Maybe one day he’ll be better, a father to his daughter, a friend again. But no, he doesn’t stop talking even as I try to say goodbye, too locked in his message, his bright, strange smile, his uncomfortable face. Finally I just walk away, his words, muffled by the glass, smearing into background noise as I slowly go back up the stairs and to my apartment, where I make very certain to lock the door.