I sit on a decorative boulder in the landscaping in front of my building. Sitting with my back to the street would be weird, so I don’t, but I make sure to sit so that I can still see the building in my peripheral vision. Bob can’t get out, I know that. But this isn’t a place you turn your back on.
Carly shuffles up the path toward the building and incidentally also me. She wears a long patchwork coat and carries a Japanese-style parasol. “You coming in, honey?”
“Nah, don’t want to,” I say.
“You’ve got to come in sometime. Come on, let’s do it together,” she says.
I shake my head. “Don’t want to.”
She gives a little laugh. “But you have to.”
Do I though? Do I really have to? Every afternoon for the past couple of days I’ve considered just going to a hotel for the night. Maybe today I will.
“I might not. I might go to the Four Seasons, and sit in the hot tub.”
“I see,” says Carly. “And then what?”
“Stay? Maybe we should all do that.”
“We should all go to the Four Seasons and sit in the hot tub.”
There’s a big evergreen shrub growing near the sidewalk. I’ve noticed if you’re coming up the street, the shrub hides the rock I’m sitting on from view. It stands to reason, then, that for anyone coming up the street, it will look like Carly is talking to a shrub. Despite my pensive mood, I can’t help but smile a little at that.
“Yes we should,” I say. “Why don’t we? I mean people always ask that and I usually just think it’s a dumb question because reasons, but really. Why?”
“Well, I suppose by now everyone who is going to leave already has,” says Carly.
“But can you remember anyone leaving? You’ve lived here longer than me,” I say.
“Not much longer. I think I’d only lived here two years before you were born.”
“Sure, but I don’t remember much of the first several years,” I say. “Do you remember?”
It occurs to me that, sitting on the rock, I might be tall enough to be seen over the evergreen bush. So it might look like Carly is talking to a bush with a head, or someone standing in the bush.
“Well sure, there have been some,” says Carly. “Did that investigator lady put you up to this? Is that what all the questions are about? She’s not going to live here, apparently, she’s got a little son. So at least you won’t have to worry about that.”
“No, she certainly did not,” I say. “But in a way, it is because of her. This is weird, isn’t it? That we all still stay here?”
“Everyone’s got their problems. And it really isn’t so bad. No one’s actually been attacked by Bob in a long while,” says Carly. “Plus, have you noticed? We never get rats. Or mice. Not a one.”
“And most people have to pretend their lives are interesting by going to the movies or those escape room whats-it-thingees. We face death on a daily basis.” Carly twirled her parasol. “And we do it with style. Bob is not a monster, he’s a way of life.”
The more rational side of me stands to the side with its arms crossed, and opines that this is dumb and that Carly has clearly eaten too many raisin bran muffins. But while I don’t think Carly’s opinion is correct, it does appeal to me, and in that sense I agree. Perhaps I shouldn’t, but I do.
“Yeah,” I say.
I slide off the rock, and take Carly’s proffered arm. We stride up to the building where Bob awaits, somewhere.
Carly brandishes her parasol. “Onwards.”