Not for the first time, Alison closed her apartment door behind her departing boyfriend with a sense of relief. He was a grand person, really, she knew, but she adored her privacy and dreaded the day he would bring up the idea of moving in together. They’d had a lovely time at her new neighbor’s dinner party, even if the pasta had been a bit gummy and the vegetables a touch over-seasoned. Alison’s wine had helped smooth over any flaws in the meal, and her boyfriend’s well-timed jokes and stories had helped smooth over any gaps in the conversation.
Still, the quiet of her own apartment felt heavenly after all the noise and bustle of the party next door. Normally Alison would end her day with some jazz on the radio, but tonight she determined to enjoy the silence. She brewed a cup of peppermint tea to help her digest the ice cream they’d ventured out for. Alison’s stomach and dairy products were not the best of friends, although so far the scoop of rich chocolate she’d eaten showed no signs of creating a digestive rebellion.
The peppermint tea was steaming hot, and Alison sipped it carefully, enjoying the aroma as she gazed out her window to the street below. Living in a historic building had its restrictions, but also its distinct benefits. One of those benefits was created by all the apartments being on a single floor – no footfalls above to disturb one’s sleep, and no concerns about disrupting the peace of neighbors below. The ground floor held shops that kept their heat on at night, another benefit in the cold winter, helping to keep Alison’s electric bill moderate.
Soon classes would start again, and Alison would renew her commitment to herself to finish her master’s thesis by the end of the spring term. If she were truly honest, Alison would have to admit she loved the simple life of a graduate student, days spent in libraries and seminars, and her delays in finishing her thesis were mostly about her comfort with the status quo. But tuition money would not last forever, and the time loomed when Alison would need to face the question of what comes after graduate school.
Franny, the new neighbor, seemed quite nice. The fact that she was twenty years older than Alison was the main obstacle to a deeper friendship – Alison did not possess any ageist impulses, she reassured herself, but it was discomfiting to see a vision of her own possible future in Franny’s life. “Reinventing myself,” Franny had laughed self-deprecatingly at one point in the conversation at the ice cream parlor, when someone (perhaps Alison’s boyfriend?) asked what had brought her to this little town. “Starting life over after a breakup. What could be more trite?”
Indeed, Alison thought, it’s so common as to very likely be in my future, too. She drank the last of the peppermint tea in her mug and prepared herself for bed.