Today I was walking out the door on my way to work, when I ran into Amara, who lives in the apartment below my boyfriend and I.

Amara is a social worker with great gleaming gold teeth inscribed with patterns and words. She has face piercings and a way to her walk that says don’t fuck with me.

“How are you? Did you get an animal?” Amara smiles big and looks at me. I have no idea what her smile means today, and never have.

I tell her, yes, we got a cat. Is he too loud? I apologize before I hear her answer.

“No, he’s not too loud. He’s just scary. It’s scary. I’ve never heard an animal make so much noise. How big is he? He must be BIG. It’s so scary…” she mumbles as she wanders off.

We know very little about Amara, but we’ve learned a few things. We know that she keeps her heat on high all winter, and we were very thankful for the secondhand heat. We know that she talks on the phone a lot, and her laughter carries easily up into our apartment at all times of day. We also know that when we get home from work in the evening, we walk up the staircase to an overpowering smell of weed which we have now come to associate with home. You can’t really smell the smoke in our apartment at all, except in our bathroom which is basically hotboxed from below and ready for someone to get high in.

Other than this, we know next to nothing about Amara, and so I wanted to imagine what it is that she knows about us.

Inside Amara’s Apartment

Amara comes home from work, and her two dogs that are no bigger than coffee mugs leap at her legs.

“Get off,” Amara complains in a joking manner. She smiles and rolls her eyes. She loves these dogs more than anything else in the world. She takes the two dogs out into the yard to pee, and then shoos them inside before any of the nosy neighbors can try to pet them.

Settling back into her apartment, she pops some leftovers into the microwave and settles down to watch a comedy movie while getting high. She laughs at the movie, and tosses her two dogs treats as well. Laughter and surprises, marijuana and dog treats. This is what tonight is about.

After the movie is over and the high is starting to wear off, Amara becomes worried that the neighbors will smell the weed. She sprays strong perfume out her front door and all over her apartment, to cover up the scent.

Amara then calls her sister in Alabama. Her sister tells her how warm it is back home, and Amara walks over to her thermostat and turns her heat up in memory of what she misses most about the South. Soon it’s pushing 80 degrees in her apartment in the middle of winter. Her sister makes her laugh, and laugh. Her sister makes her laugh so hard that the people upstairs have to listen closely to tell if she is screaming for help or simply having a good time.

She gets off the phone with her sister, and she lays down on the couch. This is the pose that her clients take in her office everyday. Where is her therapist to talk her through things, huh? Where is she?

This therapist is done working for the day, and no one else is coming to help her through the mazes of her mind. So she grabs her piece and takes another hit. Suddenly, the floorboards above her shake, and it sounds like a bear runs the length of the apartment above, destroying everything in its path.

“What the #$$@,” Amara says aloud, her body temperature having gone stone cold. She listens closely for screams, maybe calls for help from the tenants above. The, out of nowhere, the ground above her explodes in noise again. Amara grabs her two dogs, who are also shaking in terror. She’s ready to make a run for it if need be.

Things stay quiet after the second commotion, and she figures that whatever has happened is over. She tries to comfort herself with pretzels or soda, but they’re not working tonight. She finally ends up falling asleep in bed with her two dogs, and cursing the animal above. Maybe the next time she sees the girl from above she’ll ask about it.

Originally published at on March 30, 2017.

midwestern librarian, writer, activist. subscribe —