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Mrs. Morrison used to scold me for picking at the peeling paint of our apartment hallways. She used to stick her gaunt face out of the door to holler up that we we’re running up the stairs to loudly. She would come over eight times in one night and ask where she placed the phone book. Or she’d yell on the telephone, so loudly that it echoed in the hallway, cursing at the salesperson on the other end. No, she was not interested in this or, or No, she wasn’t going to donate to that. And you better stop calling.

Occasionally she would shuffle out of her apartment to get the mail, always wearing her pajamas. White with pink and red kiss marks. My sister and I would peer out from the window and stifle laughs from behind our hands. She’d sometimes venture out of the building, like a bear coming out of hibernation, to pick up some groceries or go check on her car, that never moved, and afterwards she’d cry on the stoop when she couldn’t find her keys.

She once came out to talk to me while I was sitting on the hallway steps, curiously asking if I lived here, and I explained that I had for six months now. She delightedly told me she had a daughter named Sally, whom she didn’t remember too much and she thought she’d disowned. Her white hair stuck up on all sides, and her face drooped with wrinkles. Underneath her glasses, grey eyes were watery.
One afternoon she invited me into her apartment, first floor, apartment A. I followed her in and was swallowed the second I crossed the threshold. Newspapers stacked up waist high, open envelopes, empty match boxes, and balled up tissues littered the floor. In the middle of the room was a ratty, threadbare green armchair and small, glowing Television, which I had the feeling never turned off.

The kitchen, however, was spotless. I doubt she ever went in there. When she offered me something to drink, I politely explained I wasn’t thirsty, but I was really afraid of what the expiration dates might be on what was in the refrigerator. She asked me if I’d like to see some pictures and I followed her down the hall.

Her room was filled with photographs. They lined the wall and all along the tops of her dresser. Ones of small children smiled at me, kids posing for family reunions, a golden dog lounging on a grassy lawn. Large portraits of her and her husband, who I didn’t dare ask about, were trapped beneath the glass.

Medicine bottles scattered across the bedside table. The bed was unmade and the wastebasket overflowing. The room smelled stale, and the wallpaper was faded. I could see tears in Mrs. Morrison’s helpless eyes, as she tried to remember why these photographs were so dear to her.





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