Their calls out to the homeowner remain unanswered. There is no grumbling up there. Not a face to stick out, nor even a flounce of the ball back onto the street.
Quon tells them she may fetch their ball if they watch over her parasol. The boy who sips by the drink canisters promises her this. He tells her his name is Victor. A lock of brown hair dangles over his eye and freckled, plumy cheek.
She keeps in mind it is the eighth dwelling from the right side, where it had landed. Minute portions of jazzy music entertain her ears, before the elevator doors slide open and she is greeted with the sanguine walls of the hallway; a few dark stains and crumbs relieve the carpet from its monotonous tan. It looks slightly more messier than her floor. The M. Mouse Cleaner of this floor has spent too much time lounging in his cubby hole.
A potted plant rests by this lobby's nearby dim corner – its droopy, wrinkled leaves yearning for the waters and the wild. It makes her a little glum inside to see a life deprived of its necessities, only sustained by the indirect, flourescent lighting and the occasional feeding of the janitor's soapy washwater.
Quon overhears the strife, an argument of a desperate husband and a loyal, concerned, anxious wife. Weighty words about money, their lack of it, their yearning for it.
"Why should I declare our family impoverished?" he goes. "We are not rats! I still can feed all three of us!"
"Then what!" she shrieks. "Your employer'll make you more his slave! You'll sit, wasting away at your desk longer while we get poorer? He took two hundred.. two hundred dollars
off your salary! Who knows, he's going to cheat you more! At least get a safety net under! Welfare pays fine even if you slip up!"
"Can it! I won't slip! I won't
! We'll just have to live more frugal— And you see these vagrants rotting by the dumpsters? Guess what, I heard they tried welfare too! What good that did 'em. Oh, do you want to see me peddling money wearing a sign? I can do that..! Look at me, I am the Abbot of Workplace Sins! Pray to me, oh ye followers and I absolve thee! I shall lead you through the Red Sea of pent-up bosses to the promised land! Yaaargh!"
Quon cannot bear listening any more; it is utterly draining for her spirits. The least she does for them is wish them well, passing by.
She strides through the hall, and spots a little child playing his train set out in the open. He vrooms his blue engine, hauling its tiny passengers, pausing only to extend the tracks out of a pile of closeby pieces. "Chugga-chugga-chugga.." Quon gives him her smile when he glances momentarily out of his play. He blubbers, "Brurururu!" suddenly giving the train some magical flying powers.
Finding room no. 512, she pauses a pace from the dull green door. She closes her eyes to her immediate surroundings and nudges awake her extranormal sense. Sounds dim and blur to her like they're filtered through obstructing walls and instead of the hum of the air conditioners or the voices or the boy's playing, she hears a flowing waterfall in her inner ear. A light blossoming in her heart.
She takes this light of her consciousness outward, seeping beyond the barrier of the door, and she wanders past the entrance, searching for a living soul who would answer her call. The balcony window lies open to the outside, she learns, and the linen curtains breeze with the push of the air. A pot of paprika sauce rests on the kitchen counter, beside the pepperball cruncher and a jar of ripening smide. She grasps a sense of an ongoing dream nearby, with as much certainty as she would of creating a tasty dish or the wind taking the kite out of her reach. O ari rai, O?
At last Quon finds the dreamer who sleeps in the bed, whose dream is like climbing the spiralling staircase to a floating field of strawberry hedges as the sun crawls behind the clouds. When the strawberries loose into the wind, they ruffle into little red chips that go amongst the fluttering jays in the stratosphere. It carries a strong nostalgia; there awaits the dreamer's beloved, resting against the thick tree trunk in the midst of the field. He holds a bouquet of pink lillies under his arm as he rubs the aged dandelion head in his two fingers to free its seeds to the air. He will make the dreamer very happy, for he will kiss her and hug her when she arrives, and share with her the diamond ring to propose his love.
Quon feels sorry she has to interrupt, it makes her blush too; but she has the football to get. The children will grumble without it. She opens her eyes, and rings the bell. At first she hears nothing. Ringing again, the bedsheets rustle, and then gentle footsteps which come and peek out to see her standing here. Her, a stranger to this home. Her, with her hands folded at front. The door creaks open.
"Hello?" The face, over many years, has become worn with the texture of dried tofu. The full lips pout. But the blue eyes still carry a young eagerness, and they look back at Quon with much regard.
"A ball had landed over your balcony," Quon says. "I would like to have it back."
"Oh? I don't suppose I've heard anything.. you caught me while I was asleep, and I'm kind of a heavy sleeper. If you'd clapped beside my ear, I'd mumble out random gibberish. But I wouldn't bore you with meaningless trivia about me. What's your name, miss?"
"It's a delightful name. Why don't you come inside for a while? I can make you some tea while I fetch your ball for you."
The woman swings the door inwards. Quon notices the green vines which grow to border the doorframe within. Their effect, although the aesthetic is striking, is fully appreciated once you cross the threshold. When she steps inside, she can sense it all over herself; her skin tingles like it had been touched by a charged wand, her stomach loosens, and her head opens to a calm, relaxed bliss.