Has he come to say goodbye? I begin to wonder how he will say it as I ring the downstairs buzzer to let him in and throw the rod of the police lock, listening to his footsteps drag him up the stairs—unclear, indefinite thumps, muffled by a sliding sound as his shoes lag a little behind his forward momentum. Each step is followed by almost a second of silence before the sound of the next. In a moment the top of his head appears on the landing and a moment after that the upturned glint of his glasses is visible in the gloomy hallway. I stand behind the police lock, leaving the narrow opening of the door vacant so he can squeeze by. His body brushes mine awkwardly as he enters and automatically I pull back. His eyes swivel a little behind their heavy glass shields and recognize my face. He nods. “Hi, ” he says.
Over his right shoulder hangs the same damp yellow towel he always brings when he plans to ask if he can use my shower. He stands uncertainly in the center of the small room and squints around it as if to make sure he has reached the place he set out for. Giving me another perfunctory nod, he plods the length of the room once, then plods back again, pausing halfway to stare fixedly at the orange couch, obviously deciding whether he should sit down. Little fragments of conversation, unconnected and without logic, sputter in the invisible region which toys with sounds before making them audible in the mouth. Finally I decide what to say; I notice my hands are cold and sweaty.