Isabel stared slightly upwards, toward the window, her head still bent down on the page. If she would have moved her head all the way up she would have lost the battle. The objective for the afternoon was to write, write, write. Instead, the words blocked in the folds of her brain, the synapses clicking away, but not to produce a movement towards completing a sentence. Nope, her brain cells were otherwise occupied, nay, enthralled by the waving of the leaves on the tree that stood outside. The wind was picking up and what had been a slow dance to and fro became a veritable jig.
I could be writing about the tree, that might help. She uttered the words, as if hearing them would spurn her into action. She moved her head away from the page and having given herself permission to look up, she focused in on the tree. It was a large cedar, unusual as the majority of the trees that lined the streets in Brooklyn were oak or gingko. Ugh, gingko trees, they were pretty enough and their leaves with their soft, round curves lent a gentleness, but their smell. Thankfully, there weren’t any on her block.
She lived on the third floor of a four floor walk-up, between Crooke Avenue and St. Paul’s place. The house had belonged to her great, great, great grandparents and she had been the only member of the family who had found it and bought it at a time when no one, no one, wanted to live in that part of Brooklyn. She had painstakingly restored it, converting each floor to a one bedroom apartment, but had kept the third floor for herself. She had handpicked her tenants; the first floor was being rented by Sidney, he had been her first tenant, had moved in a week after her. Sidney was a mild mannered, southern-type gentleman. It was hard to tell his age, but by the stories he told, he must be nearing 70. He was currently single, had had scores of young boys in his youth and, by his own description, “avoided the plague,” AIDS. He had had one great love of whom he spoke little of.
On the second floor lived Rohini and Arturo. Arturo was a jazz musician turned financial genius. He had long dreadlocks, tan skin and green eyes. The kind of green you see in brochures inviting you to visit the Caribbean. He worked on Wall Street for a small, hip investment firm and played the bass whenever he and his trio got gigs. Rohini, everybody called her Ro, was a teacher at the neighborhood middle school and Isabel wondered how she could possibly fare with the local kids as Rohini seemed very quiet, reserved. She wondered if Ro was all calm before the storm. They were friendly, but Isabel had a tendency to get along better with men, so they hadn’t had many opportunities to get to know one another. Clementine hadn’t really tried and it seemed as if Rohini hadn’t either. They nodded their hellos and occasionally, exchanged the usual pleasantries by the mailboxes.
The fourth floor was currently empty, but Isabel was in no rush to rent it. She had plenty of income as she had been fortunate enough to have the property next her walkup included in the inheritance. There had been a bodega that had paid rent consistently and two year’s prior had been converted to a coffee house. It had been so successful that Isabel had been able to keep the fourth floor tenant-free for quite some time.
She was still staring at the tree while her mind wandered. She had turned off the WiFi on her laptop and had unplugged anything else that might beep, clang or buzz.
Bzz bzz. Bzz bzz.
She had forgotten about her cell phone.
Bzz bzz. Bzz bzz.
She tried to ignore it, but hearing the buzzing and not seeing her phone made her look for it. And by the sound of the buzzing, it wasn’t a text message it was a phone call.
Bzz bzz. Bzz bzz.
She finally located it, it was between pages of a book, as if a bookmark. She stared at the name that appeared on the screen, her heart doing jumping jacks, she let the call going to voicemail.