The heat in my apartment building here in Covington has been out for almost a week. Thanks to a space heater my son gave me, I ‘m staying warm. Well, at least most of the time. When I run it too long, it blows a circuit breaker. That’s what happened early Wednesday morning.
It’s an odd setup in this apartment building where I live. In order to get to the basement, you have to go through my neighbor’s apartment. He lives in apartment two. I live in apartment one, right across the hall.
My neighbor, Ray, works third shift. Over the months I’ve lived here, I’ve noticed he usually gets home around eight. I looked at my watch. I had half an hour to kill. My apartment was old.
I drank bottled water and played around on my computer. Not all the electric was out and I was grateful for this small favor. I only wished that the lamp to the left of my keyboard was working.
Around eight o’clock, I heard Ray’s key unlock his apartment door. I wasted no time opening mine.
“I hate to bug you as soon as you get in,” I said, “but this space heater I’m using has blown a circuit breaker.”
“All your lights out?” he asked.
“No, just some,” I replied.
“I’ll go down to the basement right now,” he said. “Yell out when the lights come back on.”
He went to the basement, within seconds the lights were on and I yelled out to Ray the good news.
Hearing him come up the basement steps, he yelled out “You want a cup of coffee?”
I had given up coffee months earlier. After drinking it for decades, I got tired of how it made my heart race. Still, it was cold in the building and a cup of it would warm me up. I said yes to his cup of coffee.
After getting the coffee maker going, Ray turned on his own space heater. “The furnace was out a lot last winter,” he said. “I hope we’re not going to have a repeat of that.”
With the coffee made, Ray poured me a cup and one for himself. We sat down at his kitchen table.
And we talked—really for the first time since I’ve lives there, some five and a half months. Ray’s in his 60’s, probably about ten years older than me. He’s tall yet stocky with a bald head. His voice is low and deliberate.
He works at a parking lot over in Florence. He moved out there once but likes Covington better. Like me, he was born and raised in Indiana. Also like me, he was two grown children but unlike me seldom sees them.
“You still smoke?” he asked.
“Yeah, still doing it,” I said back.
“I sure could use one,” he replied, “but I don’t want to start. I just don’t smoke, I chain smoke.”
He offered me a piece of caké, a cake that he had baked himself and it tasted good. We talked about how sometimes we both go out on Sunday and purchase The New York Times. We both agreed it was too expensive to do it every Sunday.
Ray wanted to know if I wanted more coffee. I said no, had to get ready to go to work. I thanked him for the coffee, the cake and his help. I headed back over to my now warmer apartment.
I’m writing this a few days later. The heat in the building is still out but in a way it’s a blessing.
Without that circuit breaker problem, I probably never would have knocked on Ray’s door, would probably never know what a decent type person he is and how lucky I am to have him as a neighbor.
Over a cup of coffee, I made a new friend. Despite the cold, that kind of warms my heart.
(Photo found on Google)