The room had a double bed. Small, but so were we. The linens looked clean enough. There were a couple of chairs in the room, and a table, and a small kitchenette. We were lucky.
Luck seemed to follow Eve. That or she had a way of finding the light in every situation. She did not complain about the roughness of the blanket or the fact that the double bed dominated most of the room. She excitedly went to the small desk against the wall and opened the drawers. She sat at it and grinned at me, exclaiming, “It’s the perfect height!”
I went to the window first. Looked out onto the street. We had one of the apartments facing the street from which we came. The third floor. Far enough away to observe the street, to look out and see the other buildings, but still close enough to the ground that we never forgot what city we were in, never forgot that we were a part of this place. We were becoming a part of it.
We had arrived, and we had a room for a week, and we would become a part of this place. We had become a part of it already. It had become a part of us.
The lights glowed golden into the night. It had become completely dark. There were still figures standing outside. Mostly men smoking. I lifted up the glass and leaned out to catch the air. I looked down at the men and wondered what they thought of me, leaning out there that way. None of them noticed. They talked to each other over their cigarettes, looking mostly down or at passers-by.
Eve came to me and laid her hand against my neck in that way that always comforted me.
Her hands were always so warm. Impossibly warm. That fire inside her, always aflame. That warmth on the back of my neck soothed me. I stopped thinking about the men outside. I stopped thinking about danger while her hand was there.
We’re socialized to be afraid of each other, not only strangers, but everyone we see. And I worried about us, two young women in a room with a single bed, in a neighborhood filled with single men. That was all I could discern of the block we’d come to then. It was the only place we could afford and it was getting dark so it was better to just stop somewhere, anywhere.
If Eve was as fearful or worried as I was, she never let on. She was always ready to tell me that it would be alright. She never let me feel like there was anything but hope in her heart for us. And she never scolded me for being too afraid, for being worried too often, for being too anxious or too nervous or too negative or too pessimistic. She let me be. She let me feel whatever I felt while offering, gently, an alternative.
She had a gift for calming others, for comforting them. She was never angry, never unkind. It was so easy to be with her. So easy to slip into her inviting warmth, into her wild spirit, and just go. To slip and slide with her into whatever may lay at the base of the hill. She could have taken me anywhere.
It was so easy not to think of the ugly scent of the building. I noticed it, and I am certain that she did, too, but she never said a thing about it. She did not complain. Again we encountered the scent of chemical cleaners. The linens were rough, but clean. From the sidewalk below us emanated a summer’s worth of outdoor urination by people who were not lucky enough to have a place to go. People who were looked at with scorn in some establishments, with pity by many, with disgust by some.
Eve and I could never look at them without empathy. Without understanding. We were there and we knew that we were not so far off from where they were. That life had dealt us a certain amount of privilege though we were poor. We knew that our lives would not be so forever. And we had families that we could have returned to if we truly reached dire circumstances. We could have returned at the slightest difficulty. We could have turned around at the end of a week and decided that this was not for us, after all. We could choose.
Whatever hardships we faced, we never forgot the fact that we could choose. Once that fact is understood, it is easy not to complain. Eve taught me that, too. There was never a complaint because she knew the kind of life she was choosing. She had romantic notions, but they did not extend to luxury or comfort.
Her romance was in the learning of a new place. Of discovering. Her romance was in breathing a different city in. She found romance in the cracks in the sidewalk, the paint peeling on the fences, the missing bricks in the walls. She found romance in dented fenders and chain-link fences and strange alleyways. She found romance in cloudy skies, drenching rain, sweltering heat. There were few things that she could truly speak against.
People were disarmed by her at first. They did not think that her good humor could be real. They thought that, surely, it was an act. Surely, there was something that would show that she had the darkness that they had.
She had a darkness, but not the kind that most people expect. She had something inside her that was well-hidden, even from me. At least, it was hidden from me for a while. Eventually, we came to the point when she could no longer hide it.
Even when we arrived at that point, I could not let go of my awe. I was entranced by her until the very end. I did not need or want to let go of the Eve I saw.
What imperfections she may have had, she brought life to me, and I would never forget that fact. I would never forget her and her sweetness. I would never forget our first night together in a city unfamiliar to both of us which we were ready to embrace as our own.
It was hard to sleep that night. We took the stairs up to the top floor of the building. We found the door to the roof and found a sign that claimed an alarm would go off if we were to open it. Eve, of course, complete disregarded the sign. She was so certain that it was more threat than warning.
She pushed the door open and, of course, nothing happened. She smiled that smile at me. Her triumphant smile that could not be read as smug because it was so purely joyful. We smoked cigarettes for hours, sitting on the rooftop, back-to-back, leaning into each other.