One morning, Kiana received an email from the building manager.
As you know, building occupancy has been low for the past several years, and many of you have been enjoying the quiet, along with free use of facilities such as the laundry room. However, that is all about to change. While we hope that the building remains a quiet and peaceful sanctuary in the city, we will no longer be permitting units to stand vacant. Starting this month, you can expect new neighbors, as we are actively recruiting residents. As such, we will be implementing laundry schedules as follows…
And attached was a complicated weekly schedule, determined by odd or even ending apartment numbers combined with vowel- or consonant-starting last names of tenants. It was a bit much to take in. Fortunately, there was a laundromat around the corner, and Kiana could put in a load before taking a jog, then return to plop in it the dryer, head out for a smoothie, and come back just as the drying cycle was finishing. This fit into her routine much better than trying to figure out the building manager’s complicated code.
“So, I hear you’re getting neighbors soon,” the mailman said when he ran into her in the hall.
“Yeah! It’ll be so different not to have this common area to ourselves. We’ve come to think of it as an extra room! Just imagine–I might actually run into somebody, besides you, when I come out to get the mail! How weird is that?”
“Kinda normal, actually. It’s called neighbors.“
She decided she’d better start getting into the habit of doing loud activities, like juggling the soccer ball, outdoors, where no one would mind if she jumped up and down or bounced the ball on the ground.
“Do we need to start doing yoga outside, too?” Jonah asked.
“No, no. Yoga is a quiet activity. It’s good to do in our Wellness Room.”
About a week later, the neighbors on her floor moved in, Brett and Sophie York. They didn’t seem too happy.
They had a son, Scott, who was about Jonah’s age. Kiana found him having a panic attack in the foyer.
“I can’t look down!” he said. “Is it safe up here? Is it… is the building moving in the wind? Are we blowing?”
Kiana tried to calm him down, but eventually, it seemed the best thing to do was to walk him to his apartment and let his parents help him relax.
“So, it looks like our new neighbors might need some help settling in,” Kiana told Jonah while they were working on their project. “Think we might find ways that we could be good neighbors?”
Jonah took some time to think about it. Before bed, he told Kiana everything he had thought up.
“We could play classical music for them, because everything is better with Bach!”
His list went on, including sharing fresh produce from the garden, inviting them over for tea, dance parties, and video games, painting pictures for them to hang on their new walls, and going on walks with them to help the get to know all the best places in the neighborhoods.
“You’re an amazing neighbor,” Kiana said. “The only thing I could think of was to smile and say hi whenever we saw them.”
“That’s nice, too,” Jonah affirmed.
After that, Kiana didn’t think about them too much. She was far too busy with her next gig, creating landscape designs for a sci-fi movie. “We want it to look far out,” the producer had said, “but also recognizable. Like it feels like the home you know is your true home, even if it’s on a different planet.”
It wasn’t hard to do, Kiana discovered, since that was how she always felt here–on a different planet than where she was from, but one that was her true home, nonetheless.
“We have the best plants.”
She turned around to find Jonah weeding and pruning the parsley and taro plants. It seemed like the plants grew greener and stronger with every bit of attention Jonah shared with them.
“You’re such an amazing person,” Kiana said, a bit in awe of this child who had become such a big part of her and her life.
“Not as much as you!” replied Jonah.