by Pamela Ridley
Mr. Williams liked music popular in the fifties. From the rampant gossip in their senior citizen building, Darlene had also learned that her divorced neighbor lived alone and worked part-time from home.
With Darlene’s apartment silent, his melodies embraced her like a score from a long forgotten romantic movie, or, more realistically, his music made her heart remember feelings she might never experience again. She listened with slight melancholy as the words, “With a song in my heart, I behold your adorable face,” gently surrounded her.
One afternoon she sat at her keyboard typing a note to her daughter-in-law when the absence of the soft soundtrack to her days brought her up short. She frowned. Her neighbor’s music had become her constant companion and she missed it.
She’d downloaded a couple of songs Mr. Williams might enjoy, but, unlike his, her music tastes were eclectic and spanned more than one era. She pulled up her iTunes library and double clicked on a favorite. Soon Dinah Washington sang, “Lately I find, you’re on my mind more than you know.” Darlene bobbed her head in rhythm to the tooting trumpets.
"Who is it?" she asked, approaching her front door. There he was, elongated that funny way through the glass in the peep hole. He looked down, the top of his bald head shiny.
“It’s your neighbor,” he answered looking up, voice rich in timbre. He made up for the hair he lacked on top with a well-kept beard and mustache.
A quick glance in the hall mirror assured her that her salt and pepper curls were in place. Darlene opened the door suddenly feeling breathless.
“Hello.” He gazed at her with surprise. His brown face held the wrinkles of life, but his dark eyes were luminous with delight. “But you’re so young.”
“I am?” Darlene smiled as she estimated their ten-year age difference. Flattery wouldn’t get him everywhere, but it was a start.
“Forgive me. I should introduce myself. I’m Peter Williams and I live next door.”
“Yes, I know who you are. Sorry for not welcoming you to the building sooner.” She extended her hand. “I’m Darlene Bishop. Please come in.”
“Thank you. I won’t stay long. Just on my way out as a matter of fact, but then I heard your music. You’d be surprised how few people nowadays still listen to the classics. Those were the days when music was music.”
“I can tell that’s a passion of yours and you’re right. There was a certain something they had back then that’s gone by the wayside. Do you have time for coffee, Mr. Williams?”
“Coffee sounds good but, another time? I have an appointment. Do you own that album we’re listening to?”
“Album? No, not that one. I still have a few, but most of my music is on CD’s or I download it from the Internet.”
“Really?” He nodded, as if impressed. “Technology has passed me by, I’m afraid. I’m sixty-eight years old.”
“Sixty-eight’s not old. Maybe I can help you with computers or technology in general, if you’re interested. Or, I can help you find a class.”
He brought his hand to his chin in thought, brows furrowed. “No. I don’t know. Maybe.”
“Let me know and in the meantime, keep playing your albums. I enjoy them.”
“Not too loud then? Tell me if it’s ever too loud.”
“I will, but it’s been fine.”
He seemed relieved and then unsure what to do with his hands.
“Well, then. I’ll be going. Is it Missus Bishop?”
“Yes, but I’m a widow.”
“Good. No, I don’t mean good that you’re a widow,” he said, flustered. “Just good to know…I’m…you’re…I’ll just be on my way.”
Darlene smiled as he backed toward the door.
When she sat down to her lamb chop dinner that evening, notes of love from Mr. William’s apartment danced around her once again. “When the world is cold, I will feel a glow just thinking of you…”
That lyric got her thinking. Her world wasn’t cold. Just the opposite; her boys lived nearby so she always cooked extra in case they dropped in. Her three sons, five adorable grandchildren, and her volunteer work kept her life richly filled. But still, if she were honest, she wished for someone special in her life. She rested her fork on her plate and looked around with a sigh. Solitude was nice, but when it crossed over into loneliness, that was a different story.
Mr. Williams seemed friendly, but what if he preferred things as they used to be instead of being open to change and growth? Would they have anything in common other than his music and a shared wall? Maybe they were too different.
Darlene pondered a moment longer before abandoning her meal. She went to her closet, dug out a box and rifled through it until she located the one Sinatra album she had in her possession. It looked to be in good enough shape to be playable, but she no longer owned a stereo system with a turntable. Mr. Williams did.
She hurried to take it to him, but found him poised to tap on her door.
“Oh, hello, Mrs. Bishop. I wondered if you can help me,” he said, but she’d already said, “Oh, I have something for you,” so they spoke in stereo and laughed.
“Won’t you come in?” she asked.
“Thank you. You have something for me?”
She handed him the album. “I just wondered if you had this one.”
“Oh my. I did have this, but lost it to water damage at my last home.” Dragging his gaze away from the cover, he beamed at her.
“Take it, it’s yours,” she said.
“No, I couldn’t.”
“It’s been in a box for years. I want you to have it.”
“That’s incredibly kind of you. I was just coming to ask if you could possibly show me how to operate a CD player. I bought one of those rascals today and darned if I can figure it out.” He glanced inside her kitchen. “Oh, you’re in the middle of dinner. I’m interrupting.”
“You’re welcome to join me. There’s plenty.”
“Well, if you’re sure I’m not imposing, I’d like that. Perhaps I could bring over a portable record player and the two of us could dine with Old Blue Eyes. Would that be all right?”
He looked as hopeful as she felt.
“That would be perfect.”