Guy from that Band

She couldn’t sleep. It’d been a rough night and that six page paper was due at 11:00 a.m. She’d written more than enough tonight. She decided she’d wake up early enough tomorrow and finish it off. Right now she needed something else. It was a quiet and still night, and the sidewalk was even quieter. Everything was dripping with the silver glow of the full moon. The buildings and the street looked oddly lit, but she didn’t care. Her paper was almost done, and that was all that mattered. The fresh air helped. She breathed it in slowly, forcing the air through her nostrils and feeling it fill her lungs. It cleared the clouds that hung in her mind. It’s amazing how fresh the city air can be at night.

Her mother would snap if she knew she was wondering the streets at night. But moms don’t know everything. The sidewalks are relatively safe. It was the street you had to be careful of. The chances of being killed in a car wreck are a lot better than being shot or raped while you wonder the sidewalk. And Melissa liked the odds.

She glanced at her watch and decided it was time. If she was going to make it to class to hand the paper in she’d need some sleep. With that she sauntered across the street–jaywalking, another of her mother’s mortal sins. She pulled open the green door and headed towards the staircase. She didn’t trust the elevator. Once she took the elevator. It made odd clanging noises as it came down and stopped with a relieved thud at the ground floor. When it took five full seconds for the doors to open, Melissa decided she’d take the stairs. She lived on the sixth floor, and exercise is good for you.

She rounded the corner and started up the stairs. There was something about this staircase that she loved and hated. It was a tight, concrete staircase that turned over on itself in a space not much larger than the elevator shaft. Every other landing–the ones on the north side of the building–were round, as if the architect forgot to put stairs in and did it at the last minute, squeezing it between two air ducts. It had a stale smell, like the architect also neglected to ventilate the staircase. The rough walls were painted the taxi-cab yellow with green trim. It was something you’d expect to see in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The best part was the security system. Every floor had a little button labeled “Emergency.” It was mounted the same way a light switch is, as if you could flip an emergency on and off. Above every button was a security camera mounted in a plexi-glass box. That way they could catch the punk kids who pushed the emergency button, or watch while some poor soul was raped, robbed, or murdered. By the time the cops got there the poor sucker would be another victim–but the criminal would be on candid camera, so there is an upside.

With a sigh Melissa rounded the corner at the fourth floor and looked up to the next landing. Spencer was standing there. A ratty t-shirt with no sleeves hung from his slender frame. His pants were so baggy the crotch was halfway to his knees. His hair was a mess, like he didn’t comb it that morning, and he probably didn’t. He probably hadn’t combed his hair in three months. He wore thick black glasses with even thicker lenses. He was one of those people who couldn’t wear contacts because it’d be like putting half a super ball in your eye. He was extremely farsighted and smiled weakly when he saw Melissa.

Melissa paused for a moment when she saw him. The site of him startled her, but she tried not to let it show. She smiled weakly back at him and whispered a hello. She didn’t really know Spencer, but she did know who he was. He played bass for a band she’d seen play a few times. They were pretty good and she even contemplated buying their CD. She’d always seen him from afar, across the way in some hole in the wall joint or another. It was a Christian band and Melissa respected that. They were filled with typical teen angst, but were slowly getting past that now. Melissa didn’t care much for the teen angst, but did see the glimmer of potential. She always thought they’d do a lot better if they wrote more about their faith.

Spencer had eyed Melissa as she came up the stairs, but then he returned his gaze to the security camera and took another drag on his cigarette. He held the smoke until Melissa squeezed by on the narrow staircase, and slowly breathed it out, watching the smoke drift up the stairwell.

Melissa’s eyes stuck to the floor. Was that really Spencer, the guy from that band? She turned back to make sure, and yeah, it was him. And that was a cigarette in his mouth. Her eyebrows crumpled and she pursed her lips. Pushing the yellow door to the sixth floor open, she left the stairwell behind, but the stale smoke clung to her. She shook her head as she strode towards her apartment. She thought Spencer was a Christian. Melissa fumbled for her keys and decided, apparently not.

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