He was sitting down to dinner when the finder called. If you wanted to call it dinner. Two scrambled eggs with cheese and toast with peanut butter, which he planned to eat in front of the television. He’d plated his food and poured his beer, he was just now pulling the ottoman close and trying to recall where he’d left the remote—there it was between the picks for his gums a dental hygienist had given him that morning and some Sunday paper advertising circulars; probably he’d have to slap it a little because the batteries inside were loose. Should he answer or let his machine take the call? The eggs were warm, the beer was cold. He was ready to eat; he didn’t need a hassle. Answering the phone would mean a physical effort. He walked the six steps, though, to the caller ID box, and when it registered with him that the caller was his finder, he put down the beer and picked up. “Yes,” he said.
This finder—he hardly knew him—liked pleasantries before business. This finder was from the school of socially-correct throat-clearing and so, in a tone of droll commiseration, described the current weather—miserable, rainy—and the terrible traffic on Interstate 90 from Mercer Island to the 405 Interchange. According to him there were two good options—well-qualified people who checked out on every front—as a result of his professional efforts. He’d showed the apartment three times that afternoon, first to a woman who admired the re-model—the great room space, the light, the cork floors—but who didn’t want to move from her apartment down the corridor: “A voyeur,” said the finder. “Someone just looking.” Then to a nurse who wanted eagerly to rent it—a woman who “would make a perfectly good renter.” Then to a woman who was the broker’s top pick because of her references and “an off-the-charts credit score somewhere in the low-mid-eight hundreds.”
“Go with your top pick,” he told the finder.
The finder arranged matters. The renter, whose name was Williams, Lydia Williams, signed the Lease/Rental Agreement and initialed each page. Her signature was indecipherable—as it was on her check for the first and last months’ rent and a prorated eleven days, and on her check for the damage deposit—but her initials were, by contrast, stark and plain. Lydia Williams, renter, he thought, of a modest two-bedroom apartment with a garage. Lydia Williams, cryptic non-presence, intangible so far because he hadn’t seen her, but generator—faithfully and smoothly, he hoped—of perpetual rental income. He put a copy of their agreement in his “Apartment” file, along with her application and credit report, but not before confirming that it accurately portrayed their payment arrangement, namely, that Lydia Williams’s rent would henceforth flow from her bank account to his via electronic transfer on the fifteenth of each month; the fifteenth for tax purposes—he liked it for its symmetry. He also filed a letter from the finder, who therein reported providing Williams with two sets of keys to the front door, garage, mailbox, and garbage/recycling enclosure, and explaining parking regulations to her, and parceling out to her the right decal for her windshield and the right pass for her guests, and stressing to her the rules in force at the Blue Vista Condominium Complex, and leading her on a “walk-through” so she could list flaws she wouldn’t be responsible for at move-out. But she’d listed nothing, either because she didn’t want to or hadn’t looked closely, or maybe because he’d worked so diligently to render the apartment rentable, to put it in good order. He’d painted the inside of the front door, patched the drywall. There were new batteries in the smoke detectors.
Lydia Williams—as the finder put it in his final report before siphoning off his outlandish fee—moved in “without a hitch.” Invisible, an abstraction, RENTER—all caps—but indeed her rent got paid, expediently and electronically, on the fifteenth of month two—and with no trouble, no communication. It was as if Lydia Williams remained in the finder’s hands—she existed contractually but not in person; he could not have said what she looked like or how she sounded; now and again he stopped to wonder who Lydia Williams was, but his questions about her had to do with her reliability as a rent payer and with whether she could change a light bulb in figurative terms, i.e., whether she could save him time and money, by virtue of solid do-it-yourself skills, on repairs and maintenance. He wondered but made no move to find out about her, fearing that by asserting himself he might pave the way for a burdensome relationship, invite nuisance, regret his forwardness, ultimately end up with more trouble, work, and concern than if he’d stayed in the background.
Finally, he sent her a benign and innocent-enough e-mail. Or rather forwarded an attachment from the secretary of the Blue Vista Homeowner’s Association about mandatory chimney inspections; to this he added “FYI” and his initials. Nothing in reply from Lydia Williams, not even terse and perfunctory acknowledgment, no thank you for forwarding—maybe she didn’t get it? Should he re-send? No. He did nothing instead. He didn’t want to seem in any way, shape, or form urgent—the opposite; he wanted to seem distant. Yet here he’d closed in on her with the necessary chimney inspection message. From behind some pretty solid safeguarding layers, true, but he’d managed to communicate with—with whom? Was there someone on the other end? Another electronic transfer of rent money went smoothly, weeks passed, and then, goaded from within and by something he lacked a name for, he sent her a second communiqué in the form of an attachment—BVHA-provided information on “Smart Preparations for Power Outages”—once more with “FYI” and his initials, timing this safely purposeful missive to coincide with televised meteorological angst about an imminent snowstorm. Then the storm came, like vindication, or like justification. Because he’d only done what a landlord should do, correct? Normally in the course of a day, normally in the midafternoon—the bluest hours, when life felt . . . there was no right word—he would set out in his car to perform errands—plus on Saturdays make a good-son visit to his parents—but that was impossible given this crisis of bad weather: snow piling up through pallid hours. He stayed inside, looking out the window regularly to take the measure of the snow and monitoring television coverage of it. Midafternoon, his disheartening time, came, and lower temperatures to boot. He tried to nap—lay down, half-slept—but sometimes it was the case, strangely enough, that lying down made his right leg sciatica more buzzy. It did this time. He got up, checked the thermostat, sat in a Windsor chair—one with arms and a fairly plump cushion—and read The Week in a vexed state, then did something he often felt tempted to do but tried to control because it only made his feeling of blah-ness worse: online investment research. And now that he was, against his better judgment, online—he was online too much—should he contact his new tenant? The sense of rigor he depended on to keep from making social errors was eroded and finally sufficiently compromised by a day without errands, and by the pressure of feeling snowbound, to warrant . . . what exactly? Writing her an e-mail. He wrote one nervously. Subject heading, WATER TURN OFF. Now the hard part. Dear Tenant? Hi Lydia Williams? Eventually he thought of a clever expedient. Once again he wrote “FYI” and his initials. The rest he sent attached, as if, by extrapolation from his prior communiqués, she should assume it was from the secretary of the BVHA instead of from him—a strategy of minor but not innocent misdirection—to wit, “A reminder that if you are going to be away for an extended period of time, please turn off your main water valve. And it wouldn’t hurt to let one of your neighbors know how to reach you just in case there is a need to enter—you know, like for frozen pipes that burst and create havoc.” Conceivably this might just prompt Lydia Williams to divulge personal information—when she would be away, where she was going, though that was jumping the gun, he knew; there was no reason to believe she was about to take a trip. But if, for example, she was driving for the holidays to a hamlet in Montana, well then, this subtle ruse would give him fodder for an internet search; he could try “Lydia Williams Cutbank” and see what happened. Maybe answer the question, “Is that where she’s from?” Cutbank or another hypothetical destination? Because so far his surf-stalking had yielded about a goose egg; there were just too many Lydia Williamses; even when he’d plugged in her rental application data he’d come up with pretty much zilch. Yes, WATER TURN OFF was a foray with a covert secondary intention. Who knew where it might lead? Maybe they would end up discussing this matter of his entering her/his—it was still his—apartment in the case of burst pipes and havoc. The point was, he could be turning a corner with this potential new e-mail. Nerve-wracking. And then he hit on an even better stratagem. He wrote, after “FYI” but before his initials, “The main water valve is hidden behind the upper right corner of the washing machine.” Could he bring himself to click Send on that? It would be personal—outside of an attachment.
Poised over his trackpad, he looked out the window, where a very small bird was having difficulty finding a perch that was not too cold—it kept fluttering around in a snarl of small branches, raising puffs of powder. Not the kind of thing he took an interest in—nature. But right now, entertaining in its wintry, desperate way. Should he click on Send? He should not click on Send. He highlighted and deleted “The main water valve is hidden behind the upper right corner of the washing machine,” but sent the attachment ostensibly from the secretary of the BVHA along with “FYI” and his initials. So, no change in status. Safe.
She e-mailed back almost immediately with: “Hi, In case I need it—where’s the valve? Thanks—Lydia.” To which he replied, “Behind the upper right corner of the washing machine.” No initials.
There followed this exchange: “I don’t see it. L.” “It’s a little bit hidden, but it’s there. S.” “I still don’t see it.” “It’s a gate valve—red. Three feet or so off the ground. Right corner.” “Not there that I can tell.” “I am happy to come by the apartment on a day and at a time of your convenience so as to chase this down.” “You don’t need to do that.” “I have errands to do anyway.” “I’m here this coming Saturday morning.” “What about ten?” “See you at 10 on Saturday. L.” “Weather permitting. Roads being open.” “Maybe between now and then I’ll find it.” “Right back corner. Let me know.”
Saturday arrived. The temperature was much improved, the snow had melted almost entirely from the main roads—dirty water roiling toward drains—and sufficiently from side roads to allow for safe driving; there would be no excuse having to do with weather; he must go as promised to visit his parents, but first to the Blue Vista. So be it. What did they say—what was the expression? The saying, he remembered, was “time to man up.” He took along his faithful road companions—a stainless steel travel mug filled with Earl Grey tea, his glasses, their case, a fine lens cloth, and a spray bottle of lens cleaner—but decided, this morning, not to listen to his radio; he needed to think; what would he say? He would say Hello, I’m sorry you’ve had trouble locating the valve, it’s good to finally meet you, where did the time go, excuse me for failing to introduce myself earlier, I don’t want to be remiss or derelict in my duties as a landlord so if there’s anything you need, some way I can help you, please don’t hesitate to e-mail, text, or call, did I put both my home number and cell in the rental agreement, you might have one but not the other. Have both now. I’m at your disposal, of course, when it comes to maintenance, repairs, and questions about the condominium complex or about your apartment and garage, and also, before long it will be time for me to come through and lightly sand and then re-oil the butcher block counter, the process is intrusive, I know, but necessary unfortunately, because otherwise unsanitary food stains work their way into the wood and then you have to sand even more deeply to get them out again, plus proliferating mold; better to sand and oil on a regular basis, about every four months although the intervals lengthen as you build up a bit of a surface and get ahead. And while I’m there, every four months, I check the lint trap and maybe do a few other things, just make sure the drains are clear in the bathtub, shower, and sinks, one matter I’ve been meaning to talk to you about and that is that under the kitchen sink the plumbing is fragile, this is the name of the game these days—cheap materials—so it just helps to be a little bit delicate under there, not move things around too much and therefore cause the pipes to rotate, otherwise they eventually loosen and a drip starts; all of the pieces in that system relate to one another, so when you tighten one you loosen its neighbor, by which I mean the adjoining coupled piece; it can be frustrating; the next time we—you, or me—have or has a problem with those pipes I’m going to bite the bullet and just go ahead and replace everything with stainless steel and that should be the end of it, I can’t tell you how many times leaks from under the kitchen sink have caused the cork flooring to warp and buckle, cork was such an unfortunate choice for wet areas and it’s a mistake I’ll never make again—in this manner he got to the Blue Vista parking lot, where slush and debris—fallen branches, old snow—were heaped in his appointed slot. A pile of wet dross and slop was in the way, storm detritus, wrack, and wreckage of the sort that might exacerbate depression.
He knocked on her door at 10:01. At last: Lydia Williams.
Later, opening a little journal he kept sporadically—whole months were missing—where to start? With her or with what she’d done with his apartment? With her, of course, Lydia Williams, five foot five approximately, 115 or 120 pounds, age in the range of thirty-five to forty, black hair in a crocheted beanie skull cap, eyes about halfway between hazel and auburn but, a moment later, closer to green—he thought maybe green on the eerie order of honeydew melon flesh when she moved to her right so he could cross the threshold while they maintained the right culturally ordained distance. Dressed like, it was impossible to say, just that she was wearing baggy drab sweatpants underneath this, was it called a shirtdress? With buttons down the front. And a bold leather belt that drew it together in—he was taking a chance here using this word because he had so little clothing terminology—was it pleats? And down booties with hard soles. What was her look? Did it have a name? Mix and match? Potluck medley? Vintage anarchic? Intentional clash? She made him think of politically activated peasants from the era of Tolstoy—minus the tall boots—in this case a Tolstoyan with an air of only partial political zeal, a comrade with some poetry and whimsy and those parts of her stronger than her politics; either all of that or Maid Marian dressed for bow-pulling. Lydia Williams was a little bit pale, not on the side of faded or blanched, nor along the lines of ghostly and wan, more sort of north of Irish, or south of Icelandic, but maybe this vagrant ethereality of hers was just a trick of his canned lighting scheme coupled with the snaring of her hair in that clingy beanie, leaving a considerable forehead tract to catch not just the 40-watt recessed halogens but also what still seemed, to him, like snow light coming through the windows, even though snow was, for the most part, past. The staying in look—the staying in on Saturday a.m. to drink tea and read look, not PJs and a robe but not going out clothes; he added to this rapid, first impression assessment her “natural” approach when it came to makeup, she had something or other on, he didn’t know what to call it, but not very much of it, almost none, still, her skin had a layer of something or other which was meant to, he thought now, deepen her paleness, probably a contradiction in terms when he thought about it—a deeper paleness? The point was, after getting up this morning she’d put something on, the better to greet him, maybe feeling that without it, what—but now that they’d passed along the short entry hall and into the great room he wasn’t sure any longer; maybe she wore no makeup at all; light changed everything; in the great room, even though the light was cleaner and more telling, he decided Lydia Williams could be under thirty-five; after all, a cold, full, and naked light didn’t reveal more forehead furrows, laugh lines, crow’s feet, or other signatures of latethirtysomething aging, no, she didn’t have as many time-related skin flaws as he’d guessed, fleetingly, would be revealed here when, a few seconds before, he’d made some initial but not altogether perfunctory observations about her in the less well-lit foyer. Though he hardly had time to think about that now, overwhelmed as he was by her style of apartment decorating/furnishing in all its density, color, texture, and vivacity—he didn’t recognize the great room; was this really his apartment? It looked like a curio shop and an import emporium—a phantasmagoria or multicultural souk—paper lanterns, prayer flags, tapering vases, wicker baskets, lucky cats, mounded throw pillows, whatnots, gewgaws, knickknacks, tchotchkes, a naked mannequin, a sombrero, some gourds, a divan on wheels, strings of twinkling Christmas lights, it was all too much to take in with any depth in the context of this, his introductory visit, there were just so many horizontal and vertical planes of product and incident—streamers, pendants, hung crystals, strung beads—though it did occur to him to wonder how everything was attached, fixed, arrayed, pinned, to what extent his perfect surfaces were now compromised by tacks, tape, stains, and picture hooks, how much work it might be one day to repair this gaudy and shimmering bazaar, to put things back to how they’d been before—clean, unmarred, easy to maintain, four white walls and a ceiling. Plus the cork floor. A landlord-ish consideration—the sort of thing he had to think about. For example, these very large portraits on the most proximate, the east, wall, framed and hung—he hoped the drywall could handle them without fissuring. They were all of multi-armed goddesses derived from Hindu mythology, including Kali, blue and bloodthirsty, stepping as she was on the throat of a dead man and wearing as she was a belt of severed heads; this he would have liked to look at more closely—a girdle of amputated arms, a necklace of skulls, some cobras, some she-demons, a sickle, a sword—but right now, the thing was . . . Lydia Williams. Lydia Williams and the question between them of the apparently missing, or at least hard to find, water shut-off valve. Time to come to that. Especially because, throughout his observations—both of her and her created world—they’d been engaged in dialogue. She’d said—at the door—“Hi,” he’d answered, “Can I come in?”, there’d been the short few steps between the foyer and the great room during which he’d thought of the terms “shirtdress” and “pleats,” they’d reached the great room, she’d turned back toward him—a little ripple of the sub-belt, or was it midriff, “shirtdress” fabric—at which point he’d said, “The mysterious water valve,” this prompting from Lydia Williams no smile or laughter, as he’d thought it might—it sounded wry to his ear—but instead just the words “I’m Lydia.” “Shawn.” “Sorry you had to come here.” “I had to go to the store today anyway.” “Where do you shop?” “Different places.” “That’s Kali. You probably know that. That one’s Green Tara, the giver of prosperity.” “How are things working out for you here?” “Perfect.” “You like the apartment.” “I love the apartment.” “You’re the first renter I’ve had here, you know. Before you, I lived here myself.” “Where are you now?” “In a different place.” At which point he felt it had gone too far in the direction of intimacy. Not landlordly. So he didn’t tell her—he held back—about his parents moving out of their house—the house he’d grown up in, in Shoreline, two blocks from Interstate 5—and into an apartment, with him then returning to the house of his childhood—paid for but a terrible maintenance miasma—or that he owned two other apartments, both in this complex, with reliable, long-term renters installed, both male, who rarely bothered him about anything—that he was Mr. Modest Landlord and Mr. Good Son. “Well,” he said instead. “The water valve. I’ll let you lead.” All business.
She led the way to the guest bath/laundry center with its washer and dryer side-by-side on a counter at eye level—as opposed to stacked—which he explained to her now: “When I did the remodel I had every intention of stacking the machines—they were made to be stacked—but then it occurred to me there was a better way, something I could do to make the laundry work easier, that is, put them side by side, that way no one would have to bend over to load or empty the lower level machine. Option A was stacked machines with a full-size water heater upright in an adjoining closet, option B was two small in-line water heaters down below behind sliding doors—see?—and side-by-side machines above. Obviously I went with option B, but that’s just me, not everyone would choose to do it that way.” “Oh,” she answered. “Okay.” Not good.
Since the guest bath/laundry center foot traffic area was limited, she stood outside its door—culturally correct bodily distance protocol—while he stood in front of the side-by-side machines; this room was toned down but for a few touches probably meant to blend it into the loud great room scheme—incense burner, candelabra, beaten copper bowl of scented potpourri, a fringy or tasseled shroud of paisley tapestry hung above the mirror—maybe it was an old shawl converted to this purpose. With no further ado, he went to work. “I’m just going to jimmy this machine back and forth a little to bring it out and create some space between it and the wall, but not too much, because I don’t want to over-stretch or put pressure on the hot and cold water lines, causing them to leak; they’re old-style rubber, thin walled and with a limited service life; I haven’t replaced them yet with new and better, updated lines; there are washing machine supply lines now made of braided stainless steel with a PVC core—really good, super strong, with brass hex nuts and a 1500 psi burst strength.” He started his jimmying; he walked the machine out about nine inches; the front feet were now hanging off the counter; the machine had tilted just a little, but not enough so that a dime placed on top—even without lint-crusted soap stains in the way—would slide off onto the unfortunate and falsely-advertised-as-water-resistant cork flooring panels. “Now I need a chair,” he said, “so I can climb up there, look over the top, and locate that ever-mysterious water shut-off valve whose location it’s dire to ascertain in case of emergency.” Again he meant to make a little joke, this one via incongruous language; again Lydia Williams did not take his bait; they were of slightly different generations; his hair was gray at the temples and some new sensibility of humor was in play in the world that he wasn’t party to; he’d been left behind at forty-six. “I actually have a stepladder,” she said. “Would you want that instead of a chair?” “Either’s fine.” “I’ll grab the stepladder.” “Okay. I’ll wait here.” She took a half-step inside and seemed to mull for a moment, squeezing her chin between her left thumb and forefinger. “I think the stepladder might fit a little better,” she said. The beanie snaring her hair had slid a little to the left, so that the darkly netted chaos or the bird-nest of her tresses was no longer on top but on the side, beside her neck, and something else—available to his eye now given the fluorescent light of the guest bath/laundry center—she had a few light freckles, a little umber mottling, that complemented her communist cell peasant/artist look, or maybe it was a hip volunteer soup-line ladler in a hairnet look, a ladler with a social conscience who had retained an artistic flair.
She went for the ladder. This gave him time to notice that the toilet bowl had one of those blue deodorizers in it—good—and that beside the incense burner was a packet of Pondicherry frankincense cones. With one hand he kept a little pressure on the tipped washing machine, lest it decide of its own accord to fall over—that would be a real disaster, potentially injurious to him or to the toilet bowl—while with the other he picked up the Pondicherry packet and read its promotional and informational material—made at Sri Aurobindo Ashram . . . hand-mixed . . . friendly to the environment . . . packed in woodfree cotton and banana pulp hand-made paper . . . he could hear Lydia Williams returning with the stepladder—the padding of her down booties across the cork floor—so he put the incense packet back and just stood there as if—for her benefit—he was content to do nothing but hold up the machine. “Great,” he said, when she showed him the stepladder and began unfolding it. “A three-step kitchen model. That looks like a good one.” “Be careful, though. Don’t get hurt.” “I’m always careful. Safety first.” “I did what you’re doing. But I didn’t see the valve.” “You pulled the machine out?” “No, but I used the ladder.” “I probably should have told you to pull the machine out.” “I got a pretty good look. I even used a flashlight.” “The deep, abiding mystery of the water valve,” he said. This time, finally, she smiled: he’d worn her down.
He took the ladder. “You’re sure you’re okay?” she said. “I’m okay.” “It’s just that you have to climb the ladder and keep the machine from tipping any further now that its front is off of the counter. That’s two things at once.” “I think I can do it, though.” “Maybe I should help.” “Tight quarters here.” “Yes, but, like this”—she came in, braced herself against the drop-in sink console, and pressed her right hand—bulbous finger pads, he noticed—strongly into the face of the slightly tilted washing machine—“I can hold it in place while you climb up and take a look.” “You don’t mind?” “No. It’s fine.” “Well, if you don’t mind then, thank you, that’s helpful.” Whereas actually he was thinking that suddenly the two of them were jammed into this little room together and that the culturally correct distance protocol had been abrogated to the point that he thought maybe he could smell her hair inside its beanie skull cap; after all, having risen already to step two of her ladder, he was above her now; the closest part of her to his nose was her hair; on the other hand, she would be aware, potentially, of the smells emanating from the nether portions of his body—what would that be like for her? Most of us have little awareness of our own smells, this was something he knew because of a cousin who due to his restaurant work often smelled like cumin but didn’t know it; clothing heavily impregnated or infused with sweat and spice was not an impression he wanted to make right now, so how fortunate that this room was in his favor due to its hygienic blue deodorizer scent and effluvium of concealing Pondicherry frankincense. Something else: generally he was too slothful and depressed to do laundry, but by a stroke of fortune—or due to exploitation of a snowbound, errand-less, in-home window of late Wednesday morning domestic energy—his clothes were right now washed, happily so, given the rarity of the current circumstance: proximity to a woman of child-bearing age; for that matter, proximity to anybody. And yet, rising to the third and final ladder step, he lacked confidence in his odors. It seemed to him he had to be—surely he was—an olfactory offense to Lydia Williams, and probably an offense in his other particulars. How could this not be the case?
Now he bent across the machine, draped himself over it and looked down its back side. There were dust and cobwebs, there were hot and cold water lines, there was a power cord, but—no shut-off valve. “You’re right,” he said. “Huh.” “Come down now,” she replied. “The machine might fall over.”
Failure. Failure at the moment of expected triumph. Abysmal, and proof of his worthlessness.
He came down, she took the ladder away, he walked the machine back into place; by the time he was done she was back and he said, “Do you mind if I wash my hands?” “No.” And she gave him privacy to do it—she fled to the great room. Afterward he folded her hand towel to perfection. Then he came out and, standing beside her mannequin, said, “What’s wrong with me? Suddenly I remember where it is.” He went back and drew open the left-hand sliding door providing access to the dual water tank compartment. “Duh,” he said. “Shut-off valve. Stupid. I can’t believe it. Dumb. Moved it when I remodeled—there it is. Duh.” “Great!” “God, I’m stupid.” “Mystery solved—all’s well that ends well.”
He knew what that was—that was a dismissal. Adios, amigo, auf Wiedersehen, pal. Their business was done; she wanted him to go; he would not get a deeper, more thorough look at Kali, or for that matter, at any of the other goddesses on her wall. “All’s well that ends well,” meaning, the end. He would leave and she would straighten the hair inside her beanie, reinforce her makeup scheme—if there was one—remove the sweatpants, down booties, and shirtdress and replace them with things outdoorsy, warm, and casual, find her reusable shopping bags, and go outside with a scarf around her neck and her phone on to join her peers at the winter farmers’ market with its displays of expensive cheeses and organic nuts—all this while he went to visit his parents in New Holly, where they lived not far from the light-rail line and in walking distance of a place that sold chapatis because his mother no longer cared to make her own, plus—he’d counted—their neighborhood had six pho shops. “All’s well that ends well,” except, first, she wanted to know about his last name, Ghemawat, which, she said, she’d seen on the rental agreement—and which she now mispronounced. Was that her fault? Why set her straight? Why do anything? The whole business was impossible. “From India,” he explained—meaning the name, not him, but certainly his answer could be taken to mean him—even though he’d been born three quarters of a mile from where they stood right now and had never lived anywhere else, just Seattle. “Indian,” he told the fair-skinned Lydia Williams, without knowing what that meant about himself, or to what extent it was true, and feeling it was something he couldn’t explain anyway, nor did he want to explain it. Besides, it was time to let this tenant live her life, time to leave so she could get on with her Saturday. It would be wrong of him to stay another minute. Sure, he owned the place, but what difference did it make? The two of them had no more business together. “I’m going to get out of your way now,” he said. “Thank you,” answered Lydia Williams.