I’m going to change her name and call her Meg in this story. I don’t think she knows I’m a writer, but better safe than sorry. Meg lives in my apartment building here in Covington, and she’s a nice, older lady who is always friendly to me, and I’m always friendly right back. Sometimes I think — actually I kind of know — she would like more from me, but thankfully I don’t see her all that often. That changed for about 20 minutes a month ago. She was in the apartment building lobby and I was coming in from the Dollar Tree store. We said hello and exchanged pleasantries for about a minute. I then headed for the elevators and Meg headed toward her mailbox. How she found out my apartment number I have no idea, but as I was putting away the few items I got at the Dollar Tree store, I heard a knock on my door. I looked through my peephole, and there was Meg standing outside my door. “Can I come in for a little bit to sit down?” she asked. “I’m diabetic and I can feel my blood sugar dropping.” Why she couldn’t just go on up to her own apartment to sit down, I didn’t know, but I didn’t ask any questions. I showed her to a chair next to my window. “I have some apple juice,” I said. “Would you like some?” “Oh no,” she said. “That’s too sweet. Do you have any Diet Coke?” “Well, yes, but that won’t get your blood sugar—” “I’ll take some Diet Coke with plenty of ice,” Meg said. “OK,” I said as I went into the kitchen. I found a clean glass, got some ice out of my freezer and started pouring the Diet Coke. As I poured, I realized I was experiencing a “pop in,” an unsolicited visit from someone I hardly knew. I started to suspect Meg wasn’t having a low-blood-sugar attack at all. I started to suspect she was being a nosey neighbor. When I walked back into the living room, Meg was on her feet looking at a picture I have hanging on my wall. “Why in the world would you have a picture of a cow hanging up?” she asked me, taking the glass out of my hand. “I grew up on a farm, so I’ve known—” “That’s such an odd thing to hang up on a wall,” she said as she sat back down. I almost replied that what she just said was an odd thing to say to someone she really doesn’t know, but I kept my mouth shut. Meg looked down at the mandolin I had leaning up against the wall next to the chair she was sitting in. “Is that a mandolin?” she asked. “Yes,” I replied. “So you’re musical!” “Oh, I’ve been playing now maybe—” “Can you play me a song or two?” “That won’t be happening,” I replied, starting to feel pissed that she wouldn’t even let me complete a damn sentence. My mind started to race to try and come up with an exit strategy for her pop-in visit. “I see you got a green thumb too!” Meg said, getting out of her chair and walking all over my apartment to look at my houseplants. “I see your low blood sugar is better,” I said. “That Diet Coke works every time.” Meg looked a little sheepish as she headed back to the chair, and at that point, I simply let Meg talk. She talked about her daughter who lives in Arizona and she hasn’t seen in years. She talked about how so many of her friends have passed away and how she misses them. She talked about the job she used to have at Cincinnati Bell and how she wished she was still working. The more Meg talked, the more I came to realize that she probably wasn’t all that nosey. She was just a lonely older woman who needed someone to talk to. While I let Meg talk, a lot of the time, I was only half listening. While I started to realize she was basically harmless, I still needed an exit strategy. If I couldn’t come up with one, this pop-in visit could last for hours. About 15 minutes into the visit, I remembered something that was actually the truth. “Meg, my son’s coming over,” I said. “I should get ready for his visit.” “Oh, I’m sorry!” she said as she started to get up from her chair.
“It’s not for a while yet,” I replied. “You can stay for a few more minutes.”
And she did. Meg probably stayed for another five minutes, then she handed me her now-empty glass and thanked me for the Diet Coke. She made her way to my door, and as she left, I told her I’d be seeing her soon. The one thing I didn’t tell Meg was that get-together with my son wouldn’t be until that evening. I had about six hours to kill. As I said earlier, this pop-in visit with Meg happened about a month ago. I haven’t seen her since. Maybe she’s gotten me out of her system, maybe she’s latched on to somebody else, maybe this, maybe that — I don’t know. If and when she knocks on my door again, I don’t have to answer it. Oh, but of course, I will. I’ll have plenty of Diet Coke on hand, just in case she does.
Larry Gross’ latest book, MISHMASH: STORIES, ESSAYS, RIDICULOUS RAMBLINGS AND/OR ASTUTE OBSERVATIONS, can be ordered at Amazon.com or bookstores everywhere.