Amelia looked back as the girl with the cell phone walked down Sandoval. Poor girl, she thought to herself. Amelia wondered what she could be going through, to be such a mess. Much worse than what I’m going through, that’s for sure. Amelia felt a tinge of unexplainable optimism after the encounter with the sad girl with a cell phone. Comparing your misfortune with someone else’s can do that.

Amelia walked by the front window of Lucky Chu’s. She looked in. Sitting at the counter was Abe, Mr. Chu’s 6-year-old autistic son. Amelia smiled at the sight of the boy, remembering how he’d sometimes come and sit with her and Lowell in a booth and line up chopsticks on the table. She walked around the side of the building to the wooden stairs that led to Lowell’s loft. Amelia’s optimism faded as the wooden steps creaked beneath her feet. Something was wrong. Something wasn’t right. She looked through the glass of the front door. She looked through the large front window into the living room. There were no lights on. There were no sofas or coffee tables. There were no posters on the walls. There were no CDs strewn about the floor. She could see through to the kitchen in the back. No dishes piled in the sink, no empty beer bottles on the counter.

Drops of rain began to fall into Amelia’s hair. “No,” she said to herself in near horror. No.

Panic-stricken, she shook the door handle. It was locked. She looked inside again, her face and hand pressed up against the glass. All that was left behind, lying on the floor, was a cardboard box that housed a plastic golfing trophy and an old pair of corduroy jeans.

In the span of five seconds, Amelia’s world crumbled. She didn’t know what to do. She didn’t know where to go. She just stood there alone at the doorstep, face in her hands, crying to herself. The sky opened up and rain pattered on the aluminum window awnings of the now-vacant loft.

Downstairs at the counter, Abe smiled as he quietly played with a paper sign that he’d taken out of the window which read Loft available, $500/mo., inquire inside.

( FIN. )