It was a mystery how I had passed him daily on the stairs, yet did not know his name. Strange that we had never spoken. Stranger still, I was always coming downstairs and he was always going up. Being young, I was too full of myself to question; I was the sun of the universe.
Yet, when I had a moment between grabbing a sandwich or standing in queues, I thought about this stranger. His greyness, lack of both presence and emotions. He walked steadily upstairs wearing an old mac of indiscriminate colour and some kind of hat. Hot or cold, light shower or cats and dogs outburst, he always looked the same. The cycles of winter to autumn saw him unchanged. Daily I passed him on the stairs, but could never describe his facial features, height or build.
A grey fear came into my life when there were work layoffs. The sun violently went out when I was laid off. Listless, bored and dejected I stood at the window looking out trying to add a meager excitement to my life. The world no longer looked at me. Now that time spread in front of me endlessly, I thought about this stranger.
Spontaneously, I rushed downstairs. We met at the exact same spot below the third landing. Just passing him somehow lifted my spirit.
My feet danced down the stairs when I was rehired. Was the stranger in the hat and tired neutral look a tad more happy?
I chided myself to fly down the stairs as heavy feet thundered after me. Passing the stranger gave me such courage that I turned screaming at the abusive boyfriend, “Leave me alone! Go!”
Through ups and downs, struggles and joys, I passed the stranger without words or eye contact.
Then Mike came into my life; true love cuddled me like a warm fuzzy blanket. Floating surreally down the stairs, the stranger passed me, looking a little paler.
Everlasting happiness was entwined in my gold wedding ring. Passing the stranger on the stairs, he looked back at me, smiled and began to fade.