She got up each day and ate her breakfast and drank a cup of coffee. She dressed for work and walked out the door of her apartment. She walked to work each day. It wasn’t far and she had no car. She walked the same streets each day stepping over the same cracked sidewalks and seeing the same rundown buildings. She went to her job where she sat in her cubicle and did her mindless tasks. She could do most of her job in her sleep without thinking. She didn’t socialize much with her fellow workers. They said “Good morning” or “Good evening” to her. She heard them talking among themselves about their lives but they never asked about hers. They would discuss where they would go to eat lunch but never invited her to join them. Her days were all the same and she walked home over the same streets across the same cracked and broken sidewalks. She passed the same rundown buildings to get to her apartment. She never called it her home, just her apartment.
He saw when she walked by returning from where ever she had been. He always paused to watch her. She was the only indicator of the passage of time and he often made up stories about what her life might be like. He thought about things he pictured her doing or places she might live. Maybe she had a family or a lover or children. After she passed he went back to writing his stories and if he received a check he would put it in a drawer with the others.
She knew he would be looking out the window when she went by. He was always there. She didn’t look at him but she knew he was there. She wondered if he was an invalid who couldn’t move. Was he just watching the neighborhood or just her? She had seen his face and it was a pleasant face. She thought he might be someone who might be interesting to know but she didn’t look up and she went from work to her apartment and from her apartment to work.
He watched as she went her way wondering about her life. He reflected on his own. His first wife who took what was his and hid it from him. She drove him into debt while he served his country. When he returned he worked at a thankless job to earn what she gave away to her worthless family without his knowledge. She denied him the respect and loyalty that were supposed to come with a marriage. So he moved on. Later his second wife that he gave his life to showed him he was always second to her goals. She let him believe he was never right and his decisions were never honored. She emasculated him and showed him he had less worth than the bottle she had turned to. He became a non-person and felt himself fade away. So he moved on. Now he put pieces of his soul on paper and sent them to his publisher for pieces of paper that he put in a drawer. He wished that he had just one person that cared for him. One person he could depend on that would depend on him.
She walked through the city remembering her past as if it were a cruel punishment. Her loves had traded her for others who were prettier or richer or more interesting. She had been used to cook and clean or to work while he played. No children to get in the way. There had been a few who promised her happiness but it was always their happiness and none for her. Her dreams or desires were never important, never a priority. So she drifted through a lonesome existence wishing for just one person to care if she lived or died; one person who wanted her just for herself. Just one would be enough to give her purpose, to make her feel wanted, to make her feel anything.
He sent off his latest tome to be read by people he would never know. He left his apartment with a stack of envelopes that needed to be taken to the bank, most unopened. They came with the circulars and occupant mail that found their way to his mail box. He had never thought about money. He had enough for his rent and utilities; enough for his food. He took the unopened checks to be deposited to his account when the pile in the drawer got too large. He never paid much attention to the things beyond his immediate needs. His simple aimless life drifted by like time. This day he was stopped by an officer of the bank and drawn into his office. He left with a piece of paper in his hand and a blank look on his face. He rode the bus to his block and sat on the bench across the street from his apartment. He looked down at the paper for the hundredth time and counted the numbers on the line that showed his current balance. 8… There were 8 digits in the number. How had this happened? How had he not known there were 8 digits in the number on the line that said current balance? He counted again as he sat and looked up at the window of his apartment where he sat each day.
She walked the same streets as she returned from her thankless job. She stepped over the same broken sidewalks past the same deteriorating buildings she saw each day. She glanced up at his window. It was empty. He wasn’t there. She stopped dead in her tracks, frozen in confusion. He was always there. He had to be there! He was one thing she had always depended on in her day. Where was he? What happened? Her life turned on its head and tears rolled down her face. She stood there on the sidewalk staring at his window and cried out, “Where are you? Why did you leave? You can’t leave me; not alone again.”
He rose from the bench and looked at her as she broke down in helpless tears as her life seemed to crumble around her. He hurried across the street with tears of his own and laid his hand on her shoulder.
“I’m here. I’ve always been here and I always will be.” He wrapped his arms around her as she turned to him. He held her as he finally knew she was the one he needed; the one she needed.
That was all it took to save two lives. Just one person who cared.
The one thing we all need.