In the city of K—, every building is a mountain; stairs of stone lead up their facades to steel-gated doors. It rains often, so the steps are furred with moss. Like monks in caves, like bee larvae in honeycomb, we live in our apartments, light only coming in through arrow-slit windows and the balconies secreted in rock. I know mountains, and these do not pass muster. But it’s true, I chose these mountains over other ones.
My view overlooks a twisted pine tree that sometimes holds pigeons and, far below, an intersection hiding a subway station underneath. It is a city of peaks and roads and stairs. Even the shops and restaurants are set within mountains, are lucky enough to get the first or second floor. In my building, there is a noodle soup shop and that is all they sell. I live on the fourteenth floor.
I don’t know anyone in this city. I don’t care to. Each shop is run by one person. Each apartment holds one person. We are one and one, always separate, and I like it that way. Every man an island. I assume we are all running away from something—our criminal pasts, our problems, our husbands and wives and families—so we chose a place where we could be without being anything other than a human-shaped body. A respite from society. A respite from all the problems other people bring. But these are just assumptions.
The sky is often gray with cloud; we slide past each other in the damp of the streets, pass each other on the steps without greeting. I don’t recognize my neighbors, my eyes shifting past their faces as theirs shift past mine. In the square where I sweep, no one looks at me and I don’t look at them. In the noodle shop, a bowl of noodles is placed before me. No money changes hands; I get what I get.