Once my sandwich and Nora's fries were finished well enough, I suggested that we head next door. Nora was delighted to not have to go outside to get to my apartment, but try as I might, she wouldn’t let me carry her things. When she laughed yet again and told me I would muss up my suit if I tried to carry anything up stairs, I gave up trying.

“Well, here we are,” I muttered as I opened my apartment door and turned to hold it open for her. I flipped on the string lights first. The moment she set foot across the threshold, I realized that the place was a wreck.

“Here, let me just…” I said quickly, running about and attacking the worst looking piles of disorder; books were scattered by the couch, the film cans from the movie were open in the middle of the room, old coffee cups were on everything, and my sleeping clothes were in a bunch by the bathroom door. I turned on the few desk lamps I had along the way, but I wasn’t sure if it made the place look better or worse.

“Wow,” Nora toned behind me as I fussed about. I glanced back to see her eyes sweeping wide with wonder at my little place. She put her bags down by the door and hurried to look over the balcony; her knees on my chair, her elbows on the bar, as she leaned out. “This place is great!” she said, her happy voice echoing in the darkness below. I tossed the last of my mess into the shadows between the couch and wall, and then moved to meet her.

“The view’s better when the lights are on,” I said, standing beside her.

“No, I like it like this,” she said, grinning up at me from under her hat. “Anything could be down there in the shadows,” she said ghoulishly. I felt a smile burn onto my lips, my face otherwise at a loss of what to do.

“Hat? Coat?” I offered, holding a hand out to her.

“Oh, thanks,” she said, sitting up on her knees to pull her coat off her shoulders. Handing me her top hat as well, she turned right back to the darkened view. I placed her hat and her soft, warm, coat on my rack by the door. There was a lingering scent on her fabric, something exotic, light and sweet.

“Do you want some coffee or something?” I asked as I placed my own coat and hat on the rack beside hers.

“Nah, I’m wired enough …” her voice trailed off and then let out a gasp. “Oh, I love this movie!” I turned instantly to see her staring up in wonder at my vintage poster of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis from 1920.

“Have you ever seen that version they made when they found some of the extra footage?” she asked as I stepped closer to look at the poster too. “You know, the one with Pat Benatar and Queen?”

“Who?” I asked.

Her face somehow took on a confused frown without losing the smile. “You know, Pat Benatar. The patron saint of all rocker chicks. Or Queen? We will rock you? You know, musicians. From the 80s,” she kept trying.

“Oh, I don’t know much about modern music,” I admitted just to get her to stop. “What version did you mean?” I asked, trying to get back to something I might understand.

“Well, they took Metropolis, added in some new stuff they’d found that had been cut out, and then put color over all the black and white film,” she explained. “So every scene was all red, or all green, and it looked great. Then, instead of the awful old organ music, they used modern music from the 80s for the sound track.” It sounded dreadful to me, but I kept nodding. “Oh, it was great!” she said brightly. “It really brought the thing to life.”

“Sounds interesting,” I muttered, wondering what Fritz would have thought of it.

“Oh, and you’ve got the Maltese Falcon poster too!” she said, moving off across the room. She stopped before it to smile up at Boggy. “What a guy…”

I watched, smiling at her as she flitted around the room. She didn’t recognize everything, but I was surprised by how many faces and movie titles she picked out to admire. I was used to talking to Beth, and finding that she’d never seen a single good movie in her life. It seemed inconceivable that a girl with black lipstick would know any of my favorites.

“Hey, wait,” she said, suddenly. “is this a studio?” she asked me.

“Huh?” I asked dumbly.

“I see the bathroom, but you don’t have a bedroom?” she asked to clarify.

“Oh, no,” I said, shrugging. “That couch is a lot more comfortable than it looks.”

She looked at it, then back at me. “So, where are you sleeping?” she asked.

“Oh, I’ll be fine,” I said, smiling to her. “People sleep in the audience all the time,” I said, nodding my head at the balcony. “It can’t be that hard.”

“I can figure something else out,” she said, a sheepish look on her face. “I mean, it’s already about three anyway. It’s practically tomorrow. You don’t have to…”

“No, really, it’s fine,” I said, shocked at how much I wanted her to stay. I slipped by her in the small space to snatch up my extra winter blanket from the edge of the couch, and one of the throw pillows. “It’s no trouble, I assure you.”

“Are you sure?” she asked when I turned back to face her. She was closer than I’d thought she was. Up close I was sure of it; she would be pretty if it wasn’t for all the makeup. Out of her hat and coat, she looked small, fragile, and young.

“I’m completely sure,” I said, forcing a warm smile. “I’ll be down there, so just yell over the balcony if you need anything,” I said, making my way to the door.

“Steve,” she said, halting my steps.

“Yes?” I asked, turning.

She only looked at me for a moment, thinking. “Good night,” she said finally.

“Sleep tight,” I said before I finally made it out the door.

I picked a seat near the back of the theater, and did my best to make it comfortable. In the darkness, the theater was cold and empty. I felt the shadows staring at me like I didn’t belong. I looked up to the soft glow of my little place. Her shadow moved across the ceiling as she passed the lights, and I heard distant sounds as she puttered about in my room.

I realized, of course, that this was a totally bizarre thing for me to do. I hardly knew this girl, and she was not the kind of person I understood. She was new, modern, fearless and strong. I didn’t have a clue how to deal with her. And yet … I had to admit that there was something about that song she’d played. Now that my mind was free to wander, I heard the melody waft through my memory like smoke. I couldn’t remember exactly what she had done to my favorite song, but I could remember the way it had made me feel; unsure and foreign, drowned in a deep soothing darkness of the sweetest melancholy.

As I shifted in my seat, still in my clothes from the day and struggling to get the blanket to cooperate, I tried to focus on that song in my memory. Just as I was about to concede that it was impossible for me to fall asleep like this, I think I did.


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