The New Couple in 5A

By Rebecca McClanahan

Every afternoon at 4:00, while Donald was still at work, I’d give up on my writing, walk to the living room, and wait for the music. Soon, behind the wall that divided our apartment from Apartment 5B, it began. First the click of his front door lock. Then the heavy door creaking open and quietly closing; he was not a slammer like most of our neighbors. Next, the rattle and ching of keys landing in a bowl. A silver bowl, I imagined, given his classical music training. Two soft thumps (his shoes dropped on the rug?) and the pad of feet across the floor. Eight steps, nine. I’d place my ear against the wall: the squeak of a hinge as the piano cover opened, a brief hesitation, a few tentative plinks on the keyboard, and then his voice. No lyrics yet. For now only the vowels, the deepest oh’s and ah’s as he ascended the scale, descended, ascended, closing the space between us.

"Turbulent Times," painting by Karen Friedland

“Turbulent Times,” painting by Karen Eve Friedland

The first time I heard the singing, I’d not yet seen the neighbor in 5B. The owner of the voice, I imagined, was a massive creature, bearded and hulking, with one of those huge, inflatable chests opera stars possess. Perhaps even more impressive than Pavarotti’s, for this was no tenor whose bright notes soared to the highest register, this was a bass-baritone with a capital B, his lungs loaded with tones so resonant that their power must have vibrated the floorboards beneath his feet.

A few days later, as I was returning from an appointment shortly after 4:00, I saw a young man walking toward 5B. A slight, compact Asian man carrying a grocery bag from D’Agostinos. A delivery for the singer, I assumed. The man reached into his pocket and pulled out a key, expertly fitting it into the lock. Click. The heavy door opened, then quietly closed. The keys landed in the bowl. By the time I’d entered our apartment and hung up my coat, the music behind the walls had begun.

Thus began my education in the school of New York apartment dwelling: The first introduction to your closest neighbors will probably not be a face-to-face meeting but rather a series of sensory clues. And though aromatic hints play a part — the scent of fresh-baked bread from 5D, for instance, or the pungent sting of curry and turmeric from 5F — auditory clues are often stronger. Unlike the town Donald and I had left in North Carolina, where the first glimpse of a neighbor is exactly that — a glimpse, in the form of a wave from a front porch or a chance encounter as you sweep the sidewalk outside your garden gate — in New York you can live for days, even months or years, without connecting the bodies you pass in the lobby to the sounds you hear through shared walls. Or through the prewar, plaster ceiling, a bedroom ceiling whose light fixture, every few nights at about 2:00 a.m., might begin to shimmy slightly side to side, then pick up speed, perhaps loosening flakes of plaster that drift down onto the bed you share with your husband, who can sleep through anything, as all people must learn to do if they are to live sanely in New York.

I heard Tom’s sigh, the intake of breath before he spoke. “It won’t be like Seinfeld, you know.”

But when we were new to the city, I had not yet acquired this ability. So every few nights I watched the light fixture dance side to side, faster now, faster, its rhythm so predictable that after a few weeks I could count down — from twenty, as I recall — until the fixture began to slow, slow, and finally settle. The first night the ceiling dance began, I waited for the sounds typical of such encounters. The squeak of bed springs. The labored huffs as the twin engine of breaths gained momentum. The climactic sighs or cries, followed by post-coital giggles, perhaps, or the sleepy murmurings of long-bedded partners. Instead, there was only the tidal rhythm of, what? Water? A waterbed? Do they allow waterbeds in Manhattan apartments? A waterbed, above our heads?

Well, if there is indeed a waterbed in the apartment above ours, I finally decided, so be it. I confess that this phrase — so be it — is one I’ve never actually said aloud, but that first year in the city I practiced thinking it, in hopes of entering a state of acceptance about the daily and nightly occurrences that were out of my control. Which is to say, nearly everything. And if I’d not yet entered Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind,” I had at least become accustomed to the rhythmic slosh of the couple in 6A as well as the other cuts on their soundtrack: the stomp of boots across the hardwood floor, a muffled tap-tapping I’d yet to identify, the flush of the ancient toilet two or three times a night, and the roar of water that accompanied, I surmised, his morning showers and her evening baths.

Not that I could yet say for certain that there was a he and she in Apartment 6A, or even that the two comprised a couple. Maybe I just wanted to believe this. Maybe I conjured their lives in my mind, the way, based solely on the cigarette smoke that seeped up through the cracked floor molding beside my desk, I conjured a lean, leather-jacketed painter in 4A, working round the clock on a huge abstract canvas splattered with violent, primary colors. Since I’d not met the neighbors in 4A and 6A, I was free to imagine.

So, I imagined: that the painter would soon finish the canvas and invite Donald and me to his next gallery reception, where we would mingle with other art lovers. That the couple in 6A was a fiftyish couple, like us. Heterosexual. Monogamous. Wedded amicably and affectionately — thus the dancing light fixture. That like us they had cocktails each evening at 5:30, then proceeded to their small kitchen to begin preparations for dinner. That, once seated at their dining table, they toasted with a decent red wine their good fortune. Then one of them (the wife, I imagined) wondered aloud about the couple below in 5A, suggesting that it was time to invite us for dinner. After all, she would say, they are our neighbors. Neighbors that could become friends.

When I’d first phoned my older brother in California to confirm that, yes, the family rumors were true, that Donald and I had indeed sold our house in North Carolina to move to a furnished sublet in midtown Manhattan, Tom was quiet for a moment. I could guess what was coming. Like almost everyone else — our friends, neighbors, family members — he was going to tell us we were making a mistake. A big mistake. To move to the city at our ages? Without jobs lined up? I had my stock answer ready: “It’s an adventure. We’ve saved enough to last two years. If we don’t find work by then, we’ll move back.”

I heard Tom’s sigh, the intake of breath before he spoke. “It won’t be like Seinfeld, you know.”

“Seinfeld?” I tried to sound surprised, as if I had no idea what he was suggesting.

What he meant, of course, was that our new life would not be a sit-com. Friends and neighbors wouldn’t be dropping in, flopping down on the sofa, warming the cold rooms with their witticisms and eccentric charm.

“Time will tell,” I answered briskly. It wasn’t like we didn’t have friends in the city. Well, maybe not in the city, but close. A couple in Connecticut, another couple in Queens — part-time in Queens, anyway, when they weren’t in Florida. My hopes, though, were on Rob and Amy. Surely, I thought, they’ll soon tire of L.A. or Amy will get an offer she can’t refuse and they’ll move back to the city. They’re young, flexible. And no kids yet, so they can easily pull up stakes.

“I just don’t want you to be disappointed,” Tom said. “Hey, it’s your big brother talking here.”

“I know,” I said. “But I’ve got to get back to my packing.”

After I hung up the phone, I finished taping up the few boxes we would be taking with us. To Apartment 5A. Yes, Tom, 5A. The same apartment number as Jerry Seinfeld’s. So there.

I’ve always hated signing guest books — at art openings, weddings, B&B’s — especially those that require a comment. Even worse are the books people plant on their entry hall tables or in the guest room, beside the bed they so generously provided for you. You can’t simply sign your name; that would signal ingratitude. You’re expected to say something nice. The pressure is on.

So, given my distaste for such traditions, why did I keep a guest book all those years in North Carolina, and then pack it up to take to New York? Maybe because the book had been a housewarming gift from my mother. As guest books go, it’s a beautiful one, filled with line drawings of mansions and cottages and literary quotations from Shakespeare, Byron, Charlotte Bronte, and others. We chose the Jane Austen page for our first New York guests to sign, with its quotation from Persuasion: “…they all went in-doors with their new friends, and found rooms so small as none but those who invite from the heart could think capable of accommodating so many.” Yes, I decided as I placed the book on the landlord’s coffee table, my mind glittering with domestic scenarios. Yes, I will invite from the heart. Blessings on all who enter here. May these rooms overflow with new friends.

The rooms did indeed overflow. Within a month of our move, all five of my siblings and a niece had visited, filling the foldout sofa and futon and floor pallets; soon, two more nieces came. Friends from North Carolina arrived too, along with editors passing through, my out-of-state agent, two more nieces and three nephews. We even hosted a few New York writers who promised in their guest book comments that we’d get together again soon, that this was the start of a beautiful friendship, that “We can hang out like Lucy & Ethel & Ricky & Fred — Babaloo!” Weeks went by, months. Donald said these things take time, be patient. But he isn’t a military brat like me, for whom each childhood move was harder than the one before and every new friendship took longer to forge.

Each month, the guest book filled with signatures from out-of-town visitors, alongside clever comments (“We came, we ate, we drank, we blistered”) while Donald and I poured drinks, cooked dinners, made beds, and showed our guests around our new city. Then they left. That’s what visitors do. And when they left, I was lonelier than ever. Where were my Kramers and Georges and Elaines and Jerrys? Casual, collegial New York friends who would drop by unannounced, walk with Donald and me in the park, invite us from the heart into their small rooms?

The aria our 5B neighbor sang that first day sounded familiar. From Don Giovanni, I believe, though my opera knowledge is so rusty that I can’t be sure. Throughout the summer, he rehearsed other arias I couldn’t name, in German and Italian. Then one afternoon in early September, he segued into Handel — “Behold, I tell you a mystery…” — and with the first few measures I was on home turf again, my memory opening wide enough to mute the piano plunking out notes and to imagine the orchestral bridge between recitative and aria until, here it comes, the trumpet, and I closed my eyes as his voice broke through — “The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible.”

That does it, I thought. I have to thank him. Yes, of course, and then invite him for dinner! I waited until he finished the session and the piano cover closed. Hurry before you lose your nerve, I thought, but Jesus I look terrible, I’m in my writing clothes, the raggedy sweats, and what kind of first impression would that make? So I rushed into jeans, chose a green sweater I hoped will accent my eyes, swiped some lip gloss across my chapped lips, and hurried out into the hall, just as he was locking his door. “Excuse me,” I said.

He jerked — I’d startled him — and turned from the door. He was wearing a flat cap with a small bill, the kind of cap Donald wears. His eyes were dark and kind. I introduced myself. He smiled and nodded politely. “Pleased to meet you.” His speaking voice was deep and sonorous, as I’d imagined it would be.

“I just have to tell you how much I love your singing.”

His eyes narrowed, his brow furrowed. “You can hear me? I tried to choose a time when no one was at home.” His voice tightened with each word.

“You don’t understand,” I said. “I love hearing it. It makes my day.”

“I’m so sorry. How awful. To bother a neighbor. That’s the worst thing. I’ll try to keep it down. “

“Please don’t,” I said. “Really. It’s the highlight of my day.” My first face-to-face encounter with a neighbor, and I was blowing it royally.

His lips lifted into something approximating a smile. He was probably thinking Poor woman, if this is the highlight of her day. “Okay,” he said. “Okay, then.” He walked toward the elevator and punched the button. “I’m late for rehearsal. Nice to meet you.”

Thus continued my education in New York apartment dwelling: Never let your neighbors know that you can hear them through the walls. Apparently this qualifies as invasion of privacy. But wait, I thought, what about cookies? Chocolate chip, who could resist? I decided on the traditional Toll House, doubling the recipe for good luck — I could feed the whole fifth floor! — and after arranging several cookies on a plate, I stepped out into the warm, cookie-scented hallway. The singer wasn’t home yet, so I knocked on 5D, the apartment that sometimes smelled like baking bread, which always made me think of Rob, the best baker I’d ever met in real life. I knocked, waited. Heard footsteps approaching, stopping. Surely they could see me through the peephole. I knocked again, waited. Heard footsteps retreating.

Moved on to 5F, the curry-turmeric neighbor. A television was blaring in the background, some kind of shoot-em-up. Knock, knock. Footsteps approaching, stopping. A lock clicking, another lock, another. The door opened a few inches, the security chain still latched. “What is it?” a gruff voice growled. “What’s the problem?”

“No problem. Just cookies. From your neighbor in 5A.”

“Thanks but no thanks.” Door closed.

The cookies were cooling by the minute. I thought of the painter in 4A, but I didn’t want to disturb him if he was working. And the couple in 6A? I hadn’t heard their toilet flushing for days now, they must be traveling. If only it were meter-reading day, I knew the Con-Ed guy would take a handful. I stood in the hallway a long time, looking down at the cookies on the white plate, one of the plates the landlords had left for us. Jesus, I thought, I don’t even have my own plates. They’re in North Carolina, too. Along with my family, our friends, our house — no, not our house, it belongs to someone else now. Our cat too. How could we have given up our cat?

The cookies were cooling, my tears were coming hard. This is it, I thought. This is my life. And I am so lonely.

The morning after the cookie incident, I phoned two writer acquaintances, native New Yorkers, to explain what had happened.

“Oh no,” said the first one. “Never do that. A Manhattan apartment is a sacred space. A sanctuary.”

“You don’t just drop by,” said the second. “Always phone ahead. Make arrangements.”

“Like a play date?” I asked. “But that seems silly. I mean, everyone’s so close.” “Exactly,” she said. “And that door is all that keeps you from the chaos outside.”

It would be years from this moment before I understood that veteran New Yorkers have a different relationship with doors, and with “the chaos outside,” than newcomers do. Having built a personal history in the city, they are so firmly ensconced in their neighborhoods and apartment buildings, their lives so rich in social connection, that they need to keep the chaos out. Because it’s always trying to get in.

But in that moment, as I thanked my informants and hung up the phone, all I could think was Chaos? What are you talking about? No chaos is knocking at our door.

Unless you count the Con-Ed guy, who arrived the first week of each month to read our meter. His song (“Gas Man! Gas Man!”) began as he stepped out of the elevator and continued into the hall. On his first visit, I waited for a knock at our door, but after a few months, as soon as I heard “Gas Man!” I’d hurry to greet him, motioning him inside before he could even knock. He was a tall, fleshy black man who wore his weight well; my grandmother would have called him “portly.” His short-trimmed hair was salt-and-pepper, like his beard, but it was his broad smile that defined him, and his eyes, crinkling at the edges.

“Are you always this cheerful?” I asked the first morning, after I’d led him into the kitchen, where the meter is housed.

“Mostly, yes,” he said. “I go to bed that way and wake up that way, and if I ever start feeling otherwise, the noise in the hallway clears it all out.”

“It’s not noise,” I said. “It’s music.”

He nodded appreciatively. “Well, I asked the doctor and he said, ‘That’s just fine, just keep making that noise.’ “

After that first meeting, I always tried to keep something sweet in one of the tins our landlord had left — brownies, fig bars, cookies. Sometimes he’d take two or three; oatmeal was his favorite. I thought of asking him to sign the guest book, but I didn’t want written evidence against him in case Con-Ed has rules against employee-resident relationships. Though I hoped I was more than a resident to him by then. On his third or fourth visit, when he noticed the scoreboard on our fridge (Mice vs. Humans) and saw by the tally that the mice were winning the latest round, he nodded sympathetically. “I plan to get a cat,” I said, then went on to explain my recent trips to the animal shelter and several pet stores. “But the one I really want is in North Carolina.” His eyebrows raised in interest, all the invitation I needed, and after five minutes, I’d told him the whole story — selling the house, giving away our cat, leaving our friends and family. I offered him a brownie, and as he headed out the door, he suggested stuffing steel wool in the baseboard cracks. His advice turned out to be sound. After a few weeks, humans had taken the lead.

We’d been in our apartment about a year when someone moved in with the baritone in 5B. The day of the move, his door was propped open, and when I heard voices — a man’s and a woman’s — and then heard them enter the elevator, a signal that the coast was clear, I stepped out into the hallway to investigate the boxes in the hall. One box was marked “clothes” and another “shoes”; a third, open box was filled with vinyl LPs. I’d known that 5B was a small studio, but I had no idea just how small until I peeked in the door. A baby grand piano nearly filled the long, narrow space. The only interior door, which had to be the door to the bathroom, was closed, clearing my visual field so that I could see all the way to the window, the only window, under which a narrow bed was placed. She must be small, I figured, smaller even than the baritone; otherwise, the shared bed would be a very tight fit.

As it turned out, the young woman was a soprano. She always practiced in the morning, which opened my day to joy — there’s nothing like music to distract you from writing. Even through the walls, the timbre of her voice was warm and bright, surprisingly velvety on the legato as she worked and reworked the opening phrases of “Come unto him, all ye who labor.” She sounded younger than the baritone, probably in her late twenties, I guessed, about the age of my eldest niece. Sometimes I’d hear her moving around in the apartment after the baritone had left. One day I heard what sounded like crying — soft, muffled sobs — coming from behind the wall. Maybe she’s far from home, I figured, missing her sisters, her nieces, her friends. Maybe she likes cookies.

As for the other neighbors, things weren’t looking too hopeful for me. Smoke no longer filtered up from 4A, so I figured the painter had moved out — so much for the gallery opening. And though I still hadn’t glimpsed the male counterpart in 6A, I believed I’d correctly identified the mystery woman. Because of a moderate case of claustrophobia, I rarely use elevators, but one morning my rolling cart was too filled with groceries for me to handle the stairs. A woman in the lobby held the elevator door for me. A short, buxom, coffee-with-cream-complexioned woman about my age, she was a stylish dresser, if I could judge from the luxurious red cape. Even her cane was stylish. Of course, I thought. The cane. That accounts for the rhythmic tap-tapping I heard throughout the day. But of course I would never mention the tapping; I’d learned my lesson.

Once we were both inside the elevator, she pushed the button for floor six. I pushed button five, turning to give her a smile. “We’re 5A,” I said, hoping she’d reply in kind. “You’re welcome to stop by for a drink anytime.” She nodded but did not speak. “5A. Easy to remember,” I added. “Seinfeld’s apartment, you know.” The elevator stopped at the fifth floor and the door opened. “Well then, this is me, my floor,” I said, maneuvering my loaded cart out into the hallway.

Once back inside the apartment, I unloaded the groceries. Besides our regular weekly stash, I’d bought a pork loin, new potatoes, young carrots, a few sprigs of rosemary, fixings for a blueberry bundt cake, whole bean vanilla ice cream, and a dozen yellow roses from the green grocer on the corner. All that was missing was fresh bread, which I figured Rob will bring. That’s Rob, as in Rob, husband of Amy. They’d phoned a few days before saying they’d moved back to New York, not far from us, and would we like to get together?

If I were clairvoyant, I could have seen past the moment of expectation — unloading groceries onto the counter — and into the night’s reunion, playing out like a movie. First scene: a fiftyish man opening the door to a thirtyish couple. A woman emerging from the tiny kitchen wearing an apron stained with balsamic vinegar. Kisses all around. Easy laughter. The young, slender wife handing the older wife a fresh baguette wrapped in a tea towel. Then, over the next several hours, scene by scene, an evening of nothing remarkable, because everything is. Remarkably ordinary. So simple and natural that if the movie were playing in a theater, audience members would have left by now. “Nothing’s happening!” they’d say on their way out.

If they had stayed for the whole movie, they might have noticed the camera closing in on the young woman’s white blouse, revealing a barely perceptible tummy bulge that strains a few buttons, a detail the older wife notices but doesn’t comment on until, four hours later and long past their bedtime, the couple climbs into bed. “She’s pregnant,” the wife says, estimating the months in her mind and arriving at April. “A spring baby.” But the husband is already asleep, so the wife lies there with a goofy smile of hopefulness on her face — she can’t help it — and looks up at the ceiling, waiting for the light fixture to begin its dance.

I couldn’t have known any of this yet, of course, standing in the kitchen unloading the groceries. I couldn’t guess how the evening would unfold, and all the years that would follow, nearly a decade of ordinary days and nights with our oldest new friends: surprise knocks at our door, bread still warm from Rob’s oven; Thanksgivings; car trips to a Massachusetts tree farm with all of us crammed into our red Corolla; air mattress sleepovers for their daughters; christenings and cancer surgery and 9-11 sadness and afternoons in the children’s zoo, everything mixed up together because that’s how real life happens. But I am not clairvoyant. I could not see past that moment, as I arranged yellow roses in a vase and listened for the soprano next door to begin warming up for Handel.

As it turned out, her voice continued to fill my mornings and the baritone’s voice filled my afternoons. In the elevator one day, I introduced myself to her, but I didn’t mention the singing because I didn’t want it to stop. Months grew into years, through three seasons of rehearsals of Messiah and two spring concerts. The couple in 5B never entered our apartment; we never entered theirs. Then early one morning, returning from a walk in the park, I saw two boxes outside their door — “clothes” and “shoes” — and later that morning, as I waited for her music to begin, I heard the crying. But this time it was not muffled and it did not stop, this well was deep, fathomless — how far down can it go, I wondered as the muffled sobs morphed into an anguished howl like the howl of an animal caught in a trap.

Then, suddenly, the howling stopped. I heard footsteps moving quietly across their floor, then the click of a lock, the front door opening, and the thump of something heavy landing in the hallway between our doors: her box of LPs, I thought. The door closed again and the crying began anew, but softer now, softer still, diminishing to a whimper. I went to the kitchen and reached for the cookie tin — I’d baked an extra batch for the Con-Ed guy to share with his grandkids. But that was okay, I figured. He’d understand. I arranged five or six cookies on the landlord’s white plate, walked into the hallway, and knocked.

Behind the wall, footsteps were moving toward me. A lock was clicking, the door opening. The young woman stood in the doorway, wearing a wrinkled blue kimono sashed loosely at the waist. Her dark hair was mussed. Her feet were bare. She looked down at the packing boxes and the box of LPs, as if seeing them for the first time. I nodded, shrugged. Her eyes, heavily lashed and smeared with mascara, looked directly into mine. I held out the plate and she reached to take it.

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About Rebecca McClanahan

Rebecca McClanahan’s ten published books include The Tribal Knot, Word Painting, and The Riddle Song and Other Rememberings, winner of the Glasgow Award in nonfiction. Her work has appeared in Boulevard, The Sun, The Kenyon Review, The Gettysburg Review, The Southern Review, Best American Essays, Best American Poetry, the Pushcart Prize series, and numerous journals and anthologies published by Bedford/St. Martin, Simon & Schuster, Norton, and Beacon Press.

15 Comments

  1. Posted December 2017 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    Rebecca, I’m so glad we both have memoir pieces in Literal Latte and was so glad to discover your work for the first time. “The New Couple in 5A” pulled me in and kept my interest throughout. I loved your writing and how you expressed your emotions as a new New Yorker. Very touching essay and so true to life in the big city.

  2. Morgan Baker
    Posted January 2018 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Love this piece. So New York. You really gave us a great peak into apartment living. Thanks.

  3. Posted January 2018 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Really enjoyed this glimpse of life in NY, and wow, the powerful ending! Just loved it.

  4. Eunice Tiptree
    Posted January 2018 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    At first, as I read, I thought, “what a wonderful soundscape” of apartment living, as well as a guidebook to New York living. And the essay became so much more, an expression of the human ache for connection, woven with lightness and humor, so well crafted, it flowed seamlessly. And then the ending — those damn cookies, just when I thought they were relegated to the Con-Ed man, came back . . . and I’ll swear I heard a knock on my door.
    I could write more — but I’m going back and read the essay again.
    Thank you so much, Rebecca!

    • Posted January 2018 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

      Yes, the ache for connection–does it ever leave us? And I love the word “soundscape.” Will have to remember that. Maybe you’d better go check your door–could be a neighbor bringing something, who knows?

  5. V. Hansmann
    Posted January 2018 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Oh, Rebecca –
    I’ve lived in 5A for 25 years now. The noises and smells surrounding me have changed over time. My touchiness has not diminished. At present, 5B and 6A are owned by lead-footed toddlers. The baby-elephant flutter across the ceiling and through the wall is a mild distraction compared to what sounds like some game that involves the hurling of small appliances. The loneliness I felt as a new New Yorker is long gone, but the interactions between neighbors are brief and maybe superficial, yet memorable. Thanks for shining your light on circumstances I understand only too well.

    • Posted January 2018 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      Thank you, V. I love your description of New York interactions being “brief . . . yet memorable.” But, my goodness, it sounds like a movie soundtrack is being taped inside your apartment walls and in the ceiling above your head. You may have to write an essay about it!

  6. Posted January 2018 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    I warmed to this evocative portrait of New York living. The good heart and subtle wit of the author shine in each section–beautifully written.

  7. Posted January 2018 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Rifka, for this warm, kind response.

  8. Diana Pinckney
    Posted January 2018 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    I’ve read this many times and each reading exposes a new gem in the story, the humor and the wonderful portraits of the neighbors, but most of all, the all too human yearning of the writer, the cookie lady.
    My NYC friend, Sallie, was charmed by it and especially loved the ending, which she described as “very strong.”
    Cheers, Diana

  9. Tish Romer
    Posted January 2018 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Rebecca, It is so good to read one of your essays again-especially “The New Couple in 5A.” Your ability to make the ordinary universally compelling moves me, always. I am comforted to find a friend in the periods of deep isolation we surely all suffer, even when surrounded by multitudes of interesting neighbors and friends. Having lived in suburban NYC so many years before moving to Santa Fe, I also appreciate the detailed eye into NYC apartment living this piece affords. Who knew? Best, Tish

  10. Posted January 2018 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Rebecca, I posted a comment before but want you to know now that this essay inspired me to write my own piece on apartment living in the Bronx when I was a newlywed eons ago. The sounds of the faceless woman and her child directly above came down to me from a riser steam pipe. Your memories, so poignantly written, brought back my own. Thank you!

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