When I walked past Keith’s window last Thursday, just after sunset, he wasn’t doing what he usually did.
At that time of day, the light on the road was darker than the light inside his room, so anyone passing, and bothering to look in, could see what Keith was up to. He never closed the heavy curtain till well after sunset. His thinner, net curtain you could see through quite easily. Yellow with tobacco smoke and age, it was there, where it always was, behind the glass. It looked untouched. I’ve never seen it move. It’s like the painted scenery on a stage.
Keith seemed different, though. He wasn’t sitting with his face towards the window, eyes on the laptop, his features lit strangely by the light from the screen. He wasn’t standing with his profile to the road, going over something in his mind. He wasn’t in his kitchen space, touching the toaster. He was slumped in his chair. I thought he might be sleeping. But it didn’t look like sleep.
The door to our building was wide open. It happens now and then. I walked in. Keith’s door, the first on the left, was open too. A policeman was just inside, writing notes on a pad. He was standing by the toaster, with his profile to the door, and I knew that Keith was dead.
I turned away. Another man appeared and said sorry – just that word – mouthed it more than spoke. He was embarrassed. For the next two days, he came and went, emptying Keith’s room out, bit by bit, onto the back seat of a car. A woman helped. I’ve lived nine years at this address. When Keith was alive, I didn’t see them once.
He used to trim the bushes, and tidy the garden at the front. On one tree, which he pruned a few weeks ago, spring growth is tugging at the edges, swelling neatly, like bacteria on a slide.