The AC in the building was out again, so I fled to the fire escape for some relief. That’s how I saw him.

Across the street, a knife of yellow light cut through the evening’s darkness, and he appeared at its edge. He looked left, then right. He looked uncertainly over his shoulder into the light. Then the door closed. The kid was alone in the sweltering darkness.

I don’t know why I thought of him as a kid. I couldn’t see his features. Perhaps it was his shuffling steps as he descended the stoop or the way he paused to stare up at the one lit window on the third floor of the building he had just left. He never once looked in my direction, just hung his head and walked away.

I descended the fire escape all the way to the street, and crossed to the stoop where I had first seen him appear. There was a panel of buzzers, handwritten names of strangers next to little silver buttons. I pushed one at random and to my surprise, I heard the door buzz and unlock. Not knowing why, I pulled open the door.

That’s how I found her.

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox