Sunday, March 24, 2013


Once, when I lived on the top story of a brownstone in Manhattan, there was a vent in my apartment through which all of the smells from my neighbor’s apartment would travel. Even in what appeared to be her seventies, she was a plump, rosy-cheeked woman who always had a smile for everyone. Typical of New Yorkers, we tenants only saw each other in passing, while rushing out to our various destinations and again when rushing back to our homes. Seldom did we have time to stop and chat, and I’d never had the chance to do so with my cheerful neighbor. In October, I was treated to the aroma of a baking pumpkin pie, at Thanksgiving I was visited by the smells of roasting turkey, sage and thyme infused stuffing, and apple pie. Around Christmas time, in came the mouth-watering fragrances of baked ham, gingerbread and apple cider. My neighbor must have been as diligent about cleaning up after meals as she was about preparing them, for like good houseguests, the smells never overstayed their welcome, but lingered just long enough to enjoy a pleasant visit before taking their leave. One day it occurred to me that I hadn’t encountered my neighbor in passing for a number of days; I hadn’t heard her moving around next door nor had I smelled any of her cooking. Assuming she had taken a vacation, I smiled at the thought of her on a seniors cruise in the Caribbean, her plump cheeks basking in the tropical sun and her ever-present smile warming the hearts of her travel companions. And then one morning I awakened to the smell emanating from my vent, and knew in an instant that I wouldn’t be seeing my neighbor anymore.
D.E. Sievers

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