“The Staircase”

Amaya shuts her laptop with a loud sound mumbling to herself. ‘Today feels dull like the morning of dry toast and a weak black coffee. Missing butter and creamer. And here I am with nothing to write. Not even a mundane event to weave into an interesting story. This is it. This is how I will lose my job. And will not even be able to afford bread or coffee.’ Her thoughts wandered out the window admiring the grey clouds with hues of pink. ‘At least it has stopped raining, maybe a long walk with Baadal will wriggle some ideas out of my muddled head’, she thinks to herself.

Amaya then picks up the long leash and Baadal promptly stands next to her ready to be detained. Because as much as he hates that leash, he loves the long walks with his human a lot more.

Amaya walks out of the apartment, past the old woman fighting over the late delivery of her early dinner. She pauses her argument to smile at Amaya and Baadal. Amaya returns the smile with a wave, but Baadal is too excited to be out to notice the old woman.

The building looks the same even after 12 years. It only smells different. And that too changes with every season. In summers it smells like a wet dog sprayed itself with ‘lily of the valley’ fragrance. But right now, there is a freshness and warmth in the air. It is early fall; the air is slightly sweeter with gushes of pumpkin and hot chocolate fuming up the hallway each time an apartment door opens. It gets too pumpkiny at times.

Baadal walks faster to the elevator waiting for Amaya to catch up, but she pulls him back saying, “Let’s take the staircase, Baadal. I am in search of inspiration.”

“You were supposed to me call last night, Dan. What do you think we are doing here? I am not your first wife for god’s sake. I am your girlfriend. And you better treat me like a queen..”

Amaya raises her eyebrows at Baadal with a toothy grin. In turn, Baadal looks at her disappointed at her slow pace walking down the stairs eavesdropping on others’ conversations.

“I am almost there, Mrs. Rudnick. I am only 5 minutes late. The restaurant just opened. The kitchen prepared your order before anyone else.” The delivery boy not older than 16 years rushes past Amaya and Baadal up the stairs holding a brown bag talking loudly into his phone. “And it does not help that the one elevator in your building is broken. I am running up the stairs with total disregard to my safety.”

“Yes, yes Mrs. Rudnick your food is safe. I won’t let anything happen to Chicken tikka masala and butter naan. They are most precious to me at the moment.”

“Yes, I will be careful.” His voice shuts down behind the door to the 12th floor.

Amaya smiles feeling proud of her heritage. Lately, her building smells a lot like her childhood home.  

Her eyes sheepishly look behind her up the stairs trying to see if she can find the girlfriend not being treated like a queen but like a sad old first wife. And to her despair, finds no one, just 5 more floors.

Baadal pulls on his leash. Amaya smiles pulling him closer to kiss his tiny little head. ‘You are so handsome, Baadal. I could just eat you.” Her love is reciprocated with a few licks and a wagging tail. Clearly, he loves her too but really wants that long walk.

The door to the 8th floor opens and a woman adjusting her top and checking behind her tries to walk down the stairs. Amaya notices her and so does she at the same moment, their eyes lock and they smile. Monica looks happy and Amaya makes a silent prayer for her and Darren. I hope they have a baby soon. They deserve to be parents. ‘They are the most stable couple I have ever met. Please let them make happy and healthy babies Lord.’ Amaya mumbles to herself yet again. “Stop eavesdropping Amaya.” Monica winks at her and rushes down the staircase carefully.   

An almost silent screeching sound forces Amaya to look up and stop yet again to Baadal’s complete disappointment. The 10th-floor door opens, and Amaya hears murmurs and hush voices. It is clear someone is trying to keep a secret from someone. But both parties are unable to stop talking about the private issue in a very public space. “Shhh.. you are too loud.”, a girl speaks. “No, I am not. You cannot do this.” The boy is angry. “You have to come clean to him or else I will.” “No, you will not do any such thing.” The girl’s voice sounds more determined. “I cannot do this anymore. Maybe we should just stop before anyone gets hurt.” The boy’s wounded voice makes Amaya sit down next to Baadal, who was now sitting resting his head on the floor. Most likely thinking of the long-wet roads and squirrels. Not the worms, he does not like worms.  

Amaya silently sighs at disappointed Baadal saving his energy for the long walk. “Love is crap.” She whispers to him. “But our love is real, Ok Baadal.” She clarifies to the now almost gloomy Baadal tired of waiting. And just for a minute, she lets her heart travel to those moments when there was another love in her life. The one that made her smile for no reason at all.

“I will tell him when I am ready. I don’t need you to do it for me.” Amaya’s thoughts are broken off by the determined girl. “But I cannot live without you anymore. “Neither can I.” “God, you are so hot.”

Amaya shrugs at the very squishy sounds of kissing and moaning gesturing Baadal to get up.

As they reach the 5th floor, the stairs began to smell of bleach and metal. Her eyes react by tearing up to the mix of smells. There is nothing familiar or homely about the smells on this floor. Her hands hold on to the railing for support since her eyes refuse to perform properly. Baadal barks twice and the very loud squishy kissing sound stops abruptly. Then the door bangs shut. And another one opens right behind Amaya.

“Sorry for the smell. My daughter just threw up all over the staircase. She has a stomach bug so could not keep it in.” The blurry man explains himself holding a roll of paper towel wiping the railing.

Amaya smiles yet again through her watery eyes, “Oh please no problem at all. Hope she feels better soon. And thanks so much for cleaning up. Take care”.

“Thanks”. The man busies himself wiping the railing thoroughly.

Baadal is now too eager to get out of the crowded staircase and into the muddy puddles with frogs, and so guides his very slow and blurry-eyed human towards the door only to be pulled back towards the elevator.

Baadal, come on up with me. I must write down my story before I lose it all. We will go for the walk afterward.”

The elevator door miraculously opens, clearly, all fixed and smelling of pinecones to the blurry-eyed writer and her very frustrated boxer. Stepping in Baadal looks up at Amaya and growls at her. Amaya bends down to kiss his forehead nuzzling her nose to his, “I don’t deserve your love Baadal, you are the best. My one true love.”

Baadal only licks her face in agreement. 

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